Notre Dame has crushed every ACC team it has played this season, beating Boston College, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest by an average score of 41-20, but maybe that’s not the way to measure Miami’s chances of knocking off the Fighting Irish on Saturday night.
If you want to believe that the Hurricanes are candidates to win their way all the way into the four-team College Football Playoff, it’s more encouraging to look at what Notre Dame did against another team in that elite class.
We’re talking about the Georgia Bulldogs, the only real threat to Alabama in the SEC and a team loved by the CFP ranking committee. In September Georgia went to South Bend and built a 20-19 signature win on swarming defense.
Mark Richt is right to talk about the muscle that Notre Dame packs on the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively, yet Georgia did just fine.
The same Notre Dame team that rushed for 515 yards and seven touchdowns against Boston College managed just 55 rushing yards against the Dawgs.
On the other side of the ball, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel each averaged around 5 yards per carry against the Irish. It can be done, and it will have to be done by Miami if Malik Rosier is going to have time to hit some of his favorite passes way downfield to Ahmmon Richards and Braxton Berrios and Darrell Langham.
Overall, Georgia and Notre Dame were an excellent match, and it’s conceivable that they might meet again in the playoffs depending on the dozens of things that still must play out. Miami can either prove on Saturday night that it belongs in that same class or settle back onto the other good path that’s available to them, the path to a first-ever ACC title.
To me, the Hurricanes have a defensive front seven that plays and produces like Georgia’s does. The bonus is Richt’s playcalling on offense and a willingness to trust Malik Rosier in ways that Georgia coach Kirby Smart can’t quite do with his freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm.
There even were a few gadget plays early in last week’s 28-10 dismissal of Virginia Tech. That steals some of the confidence from a physical defense when it comes to teeing off on basic handoffs and conventional dropbacks. It slows down every reaction just a bit and keeps the strongest players slightly off balance, even when those gadget plays, throwbacks to the quarterback and such, don’t quite work to perfection.
Bottom line, I’m not so worried about the 710 yards in total offense that Notre Dame ran up on Wake Forest, a 2-3 team in the ACC. Same goes for the way that the Irish limited North Carolina State to 50 yards rushing.
Miami is supposed to be the cream of the ACC now and would be expected to muscle up on those conference rivals if they met them right now.
Instead it will be the Irish on Saturday night, a team that has pushed everybody around except Georgia, and should find the Hurricanes pretty tough to bowl over, too.