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Notre Dame and Miami will square off at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday night in a game that can be seen live on NBC-TV starting at 7:30 pm est. The Irish are a hefty -13 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook but most of the early betting action at sportsbook.ag, according to their betting trends feature, is on the Hurricanes to the tune of 79%.
How good can the Notre Dame defense be? They currently rank third in the country allowing nine points per game. But again, how much can we put into their wins over the Big Ten which doesn't look like a very powerful conference at this point. Miami (FL) will be a new challenge for the Fighting Irish. The Hurricanes are coming off 42 and 44 point performances over two ACC opponents. Will that offense keep churning or will the one that scored 13 points against Kansas State make a showing?
The last time these team's played was two years ago in the Sun Bowl when Stephen Morris tossed for 282 yards and two TDs. Miami (FL) was only able to score 17 points in their home state as Notre Dame won 33-17 as 2.5-point underdogs. That was a long a long time ago for both teams as neither of them was considered much on the national level in 2010.
Morris is currently in the middle of the best season of his college career after throwing for a school record 566 yards and five TDs against NC State last weekend. He now has 1,636 yards and nine TDs on the year. You could say he's a better passing QB than Andrew Maxwell and Denard Robinson of the two Michigan schools Notre Dame already shut down, so this will be a little different task for the Fighting Irish. Morris's main target is Phillip Dorsett who has 28 receptions for 464 yards and three TDs. On the ground Duke Johnson (52 carries, 359 yards, five TDs) and Mike James (60 carries, 278 yards, three TDs) will carry the load and try to break through the wall that is the Fighting Irish led by linebacker Manti Te'o who has 36 tackles and three interceptions through four games.
Notre Dame's offense is another story as they didn't score over 20 points against any of their Big 10 opponents. That happens to be the Hurricanes weak link giving up over 33 points per game. One of the Irish QBs will have to get the offense going. Everett Golson will get the start, but that's not set in stone. He started against Michigan to only be overtaken by Tommy Rees. To help out the QBs, running back Theo Riddick will have to find more holes. He has 242 yards on the year with 63 carries and in his last two games only has 82 yards to go with a 2.8 yards per carry average. Miami (FL) has a below average pass and rush defense, so at least one part of their game will have to step up for the Fighting Irish if they want to cover this game.
This is a game where our numerical handicapping and our gut disagree. Typically, in a spot like this, we'd be all over the +13 point dog. Here you have a neutral field game, and a Miami Hurricane squad that is 4-1 on the year. 4-1 is no accident. There's some talent here, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Would anyone be "shocked" to see the Hurricanes win straight up? We wouldn't be.
The problem, and it's a big one, is that Hurricane defense. They have faced 4 legitimate opponents. In those 4 games, they gave up 32, 52, 36 and 37 points. To their credit, they won 3 of those games by outscoring their opponents in shootouts. But can they do that against what appears to be one of the top defenses in the nation?
The Irish defense has been fantastic. They have given up 10, 17, 3 and 6 points. The 17 they gave up was to Purdue. The jury is still out on Purdue, but keep in mind that the Boilermakers are currently the #11 team in the nation offensively in terms of yards per point (10.9) and an average of 43 points per game. Notre Dame is #2 defensively with a ypp number of 32.3.
The Notre Dame offense is in question. We thought this offense would be prolific this year and after the Navy game to open the year, we thought we were right. Since then they have managed 20 points twice and 13 points once. But keep in mind, two of those games were against teams that had top 10 defenses a year ago, Michigan State and Michigan.
Our score prediction model says Notre Dame easy, 36-9 which would go along with everything else we look at that tells us Notre Dame is better on both sides of the ball. But our gut says that getting +13 with a team as explosive as the Hurricanes offensively is a gift. That "backdoor" is always open when Miami takes the field.
It will be interesting to see whether our gut, or our numbers our correct here. But from a betting standpoint, we have to pass this game.
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