Miami and Notre Dame each had at least four losses on their records and were struggling to find consistency when they faced off in October 2016.
What a difference a year makes.
Now, the Hurricanes are ranked No. 7 in the country, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 3 and the two historic programs are playing in a primetime matchup that will have major implications on the College Football Playoffs.
“We like it when we’re competing in games like this late in the year that are that meaningful,” UM head coach Mark Richt said. “It’s what you hope for. It’s what you work towards. It just so happens this Saturday night is going to be very meaningful to both teams.”
Both teams have made strides in the rankings since the season opener. Miami started at No. 18 and Notre Dame was unranked. The Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 ACC) are undefeated and have won 13-straight games dating back to last season. The Fighting Irish (8-1) have won seven straight, and their only loss was a one-point defeat to the Georgia Bulldogs, who are now ranked No. 1 in the country.
UM and Notre Dame are two of the hottest teams in college football and will be meeting in Miami Gardens for the first time in 28 years.
“I feel like the atmosphere is going to be a lot more amped up and electrifying,” Miami starting quarterback Malik Rosier said after practice Nov. 8. “I have people all over hitting me up for tickets, and I don’t have any. I feel like the crowd is going to be into it. I know our defense is going to be pumped up.”
Defense has been the claim to fame for the Canes, ranking No. 12 nationally in yards per play allowed at 4.4 yards and No. 1 in the country in tackles for loss with nearly nine a game.
They will have to keep it up and then some when going up against an Irish squad that hasn’t scored fewer than 30 points since week two. Not only are they ranked No. 7 in points per game, but they also place No. 11 in yards per game.
Notre Dame gets up and down the field with ease.
“We handle it the same way we handle every attack,” Hurricanes sophomore linebacker Shaq Quarterman said about the Notre Dame offense. “The main objective is to run the ball. If you can’t run the ball, very few teams can win with just passing the ball. That’s our M.O. If you stop the run, then you stop the team.”
The Hurricanes will have their hands full on Saturday.
The Fighting Irish have one of the best running backs in the country in junior Josh Adams, who has rushed for nearly 1200 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, including 446 yards and four touchdowns against AP Top 25 opponents. He ranks No. 9 in the FBS in rushing yards.
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush does damage on the ground, too. Despite throwing for just 1287 passing yards so far this season, he has racked up 639 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground – fifth most for a quarterback in the country.
“Of course, you want to stop the run and then stop the pass, but they have a great quarterback,” junior safety Jaquan Johnson said. “He’s very elusive, with a strong arm. We’re going to have to try and contain him as best as we can.”
Last weekend, Miami held No. 13 Virginia Tech to just 10 points, and it is looking for a repeat performance in its biggest game in years.
“It’s huge – it’s a rivalry game,” sophomore linebacker Zach McCloud said. “They are a team that a lot of people in the country see as one of the better teams. It’s us against them, and we have to man up and do what we have to do.”
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Nov. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium.