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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press photos Miami coach Mark Richt, left, and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly have turned their teams around from last season and are legitimate candidates for Coach of the Year honors.

Saturday, November 11, 2017 1:00 am

Old-fashioned rivalry back in spotlight

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame at Miami

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida


Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

Notre Dame-Miami battles became classic largely because of coaches Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson.

From 1987 to 1990, the Irish and Hurricanes squared off each year. In all four meetings, both teams were ranked in the top 10. Holtz, for Notre Dame, and Johnson and Erickson, for Miami, combined to win four national titles.

By now you have heard a dormant rivalry is back in the national spotlight. No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1) and No. 7 Miami (8-0) meet tonight at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, with the winner earning a real shot at the College Football Playoff with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

“It's old-fashioned,” Irish left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It's where these programs should be. It's what college football wants and in some ways it's what it needs.”

Many credit Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and Miami's Mark Richt for doing outstanding jobs setting the renovation in motion. These teams went a combined 13-12 last season. Now, Kelly and Richt are legitimate candidates for coach of the year honors.

Richt, in his second year at Miami after winning 145 games in a 15-year tenure at Georgia, has the Hurricanes 8-0 for the first time since 2002. Hard Rock Stadium was rocking like the glory days last week in Miami's 28-10 win over No. 17 Virginia Tech.

Some fans called for Kelly's firing after a 4-8 season. Tonight he'll coach his 100th game for Notre Dame in style. Holtz, Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian are the only men to coach more for the Irish.

Kelly (Brandon Wimbush) and Richt (Malik Rosier) are getting the most they can out of first-year starting quarterbacks. And with the forecast calling for a projected high temperature of 78 degrees and 80 percent humidity, the coaches will put players in the frame of mind to keep their characteristic cool.

“Our fans are going to be jacked,” Richt said. “We know it's a big deal.”

Big enough to be reminiscent of Oct. 15, 1988, when a top-ranked Miami team visited South Bend. There was a pregame brawl. A couple of Notre Dame students sold T-shirts that said, “Catholics vs. Convicts.” Those kinds of things were part of what made the rivalry captivating.

Tonight, there might not be tension in the stands or fistfights between the players. But those things don't have to happen for the latest edition of the rivalry to be a classic. There is so much on the line that old emotions are percolating.

“Notre Dame and Miami are tremendously historic programs,” McGlinchey said. “They've had an unbelievable amount of success and great players, and the rivalry we share with them is one of a lot of intensity and a lot of fire. I'm excited to finally be part of what looks to be a pretty classical Notre Dame-Miami game.”

Notes: Notre Dame's Drue Tranquill, a Carroll graduate, is one of nine semifinalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, awarded to the nation's top defender. IMPACT stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. ... Wimbush might wear a glove on his left non-throwing hand as added protection for a bruise.