Jeff Baumhower (Co-Publisher/Recruiting Analyst): While the talk leading up to the Sun Bowl is about renewing the rivalry between Notre Dame and Miami, these teams don't resemble those powerhouse programs of 20 years ago. Notre Dame is coming off three straight wins and a win against Miami is more important for public perception than it is for the direction of the program. That doesn't mean that this game isn't important to the Notre Dame players. In fact, I believe that they are extremely motivated entering this contest.
The question will be, how motivated are the Hurricanes?
On the field the teams are probably more similar than different….inconsistent offenses and potentially very good defenses. Both offenses will need to show that they can run the ball in order to limit the mistakes of their quarterbacks. The team that runs the ball the best (or opts to commit to the run) will have a decided edge. You have to be motivated to run the football. Notre Dame 23 Miami 16
Dave Berk (Scout.com/Irish Eyes staff): Miami enters the game knowing a new head coach is waiting to take over a program many feel has underachieved. Still, the Hurricanes have athletic skill players and if Jacory Harris is under center, things can happen. However, Brian Kelly did not take this team to Texas to go back to South Bend with a loss. A bowl win pushes the program one more step forward and Kelly will have the offense and defense ready to win.
Look for a few new wrinkles to the offense and a defense looking to hit something wearing a different color jersey. Irish win 30-17 and finish the season at 8-5 with even brighter days ahead.
Morrissey79 (Moderator): While the Sun Bowl is certainly not what the coaching staff and team had envisioned from Day 1, the matchup putting the Irish against the Hurricanes is certainly better than the recent (non-BCS) bowl games for ND.
Miami is a very athletic, talented football team - that's why they are favored by at least 3 points. They have a strong defensive line, very active players in the secondary, and tremendous speed at the RB and WR positions.
ND has its fair share of athletes to despite what most in the media might say (I'm talking to you Kirk Herbstreit and Todd McShay). The defense has been tremendous the last month of November, arguably the best performance I've seen since Willingham's miracle opening month where our defense had more TDs than our offense the first 3 games of the year.
Tommy Rees has filled in nicely since Dayne Crist has gone out, and the coaching staff has done a tremendous job of putting all of our players in the best position to win. While some seem to think this game favors Miami (even with the missing head coach), I see this as all ND. ND 27 Miami 17
SeattleND (Moderator): The most ironic item from this bowl season so far is that the Champs Sports Bowl is having problems selling tickets and are not seeing the expected strong showing from West Virginia fans. They rolled the dice by not selecting ND and the result will be the most successful Sun Bowl from the bowl committee's standpoint in their history.
As for the game itself, first time bowl game head coaches often have a tough time, though only Tim would know the actual stat. Because of this, I frankly would not like Notre Dame's chances against a veteran coach in Tom O'Brien and North Carolina State, one of the few Division I teams undefeated against ND all-time, if they had been picked for the Champs Bowl, as opposed to a first time, interim head coach with Miami. As it is, going to the Sun Bowl instead has to potential to work out to have been a little luck of the Irish.
I see Miami getting off to a slow start, and if ND can take advantage of that and hit them in the mouth, they could well pack it in early. Their defense is fast and athletic and their offense is inconsistent while ND's defense appears to be coming into its own. That's a formula for a relatively low scoring game. ND 22 (5 field goals for Ruffer) Miami, FL 9
BNolan (Moderator): Both programs are a shadow of their former selves, the heavyweights that rumbled in the past. While the perceived 'rivalry' still lives, it's not of the same magnitude. Speaking of magnitude, that is where both teams can hang their helmets – the quest to regain some national respect and prominence.
This game, with no implications at the big table, can do a lot to serve as a stepping stone within the respective program, and to those on the outside looking in (fans, players, media, recruits...).
Despite being 'down', and without their new HC on the field, Miami has talent, and speed. While ND shot themselves in the foot with some inexplicable losses, Miami did too.
I think ND has the talent, and momentum, and desire to win this contest. With the usual caveats – don't beat yourselves. Mental mistakes, penalties, turnovers... make a team like Miami more dangerous. We need to play physical, from the first snap, on both sides of the ball. Be wary of the big play.
Preparation and motivation, understandably, will play an important role. Who is ready? Who wants it more?
If ND plays with the same intensity we saw down the stretch, ND wins. ND 23 UM 20
Weisass (Moderator): I'm reminded of the battle of National Powers. Catholics vs. Convicts; Holtz vs. Johnson. Now its the battle of two programs trying to rebuild. We all know the Sun Bowl was not on our Christmas wish list, however, will be a huge ratings draw. In the 77 years of the Sun Bowl the quickest sell out was fifteen days. This year's matchup took all of 21 hours! If the ND defense can continue its dominance look for the Irish to roll the Canes. ND 27 UM 17
KurzND (Moderator): We have an early preview for games for the future and review of games past. However neither of these two teams are playing for a title. The Irish are flying high after wining three straight November contests thanks to a dominating defense. Miami's QBs are known to throw plenty of INTs the Irish Secondary needs to be ready to make the play, but to respect Miami's speed on the outside.
As for the Irish offensively, Miami's pass ranks top notch and ND will need to win the battle up front, hit Miami hard and quick, and the Irish MUST rush to win. If the ND D keeps up its stellar play, and Wood/Hughes take care of the ball on the ground, ND wins this one. Notre Dame 23 Miami 17
GaviND (Moderator): This one makes me nervous. I have gone into games this season fully expecting ND to win and others where I did not like the matchup at all. This Friday, I have NO idea what to expect.
This is not one of the great University of Miami teams fm the late 80's or early 90's but what they are is fast and athletic. At times the Hurricanes have looked like an unstoppable force that was ready to reclaim their spot among college football's elite programs...and then, the next week, they would lay an egg against Virginia, or South Florida or some other program that had no business sharing the field with them.
This Miami team is loaded with future NFL players (many of which will be first rounders), but the big question -- and perhaps the only one that matters -- is will they be ready to play on Friday? In the midst of a coaching change and at the end of a five loss season in which they were expected to challenge for an ACC title and a spot in the BCS, this Miami team must be motivated to have any chance of winning.
The key to this game for the Irish will be the play of their offensive line as they need to create balance up front. Not only will they need to open up space for Cierre Wood and company, but they will also need to slow down Miami's edge pass rushers. From what I have seen this season, much of Miami's success in pass coverage can be directly attributed to the pass rush they create. If our offensive line can slow them down, I expect Michael Floyd to Tyler Eifert to have big days.
With Stephen Morris out of the game due to injury, the reins of the offense have once again been handed over to Jacory Harris. While his career has been as up and down, he is still a dangerous presence -- especially with the weapons he has at his disposal. The Miami offense is loaded with speed, so the Irish will be tested unlike any other week this season. Leonard Hankerson, Travis Benjamin and LaRon Byrd will keep Darrin Walls, Robert Blanton and Gary Gray plenty busy all day. Also, keep an eye on Hurricane running back Lamar Miller. The red shirt freshman has been underused greatly this year, but when he does get the ball, he is a SCARY player. Let's hope OC Mark Whipple continues to keep this resource untapped.
In my opinion, Miami has too many distractions to be the competitive team that they should be and at this point in the season, Notre Dame's defense is too strong to be beaten by anything less than a great effort. I expect it to be close...but in ND's favor.
ND 27 UM 21