Mirer says Notre Dame- Mi­ami matchup has same type of ex­cite­ment as 1990

Chicago Sun-Times - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - STEVE GREENBERG Email: sgreen­berg@ sun­times. com

For­mer Notre Dame quar­ter­back Rick Mirer was in the house last week­end in South Bend as the Ir­ish beat up on Wake For­est. He watched them wail away with their run­ning game, hit a few big plays through the air and take care of the foot­ball as they built a 25- point third- quar­ter lead.

Mirer — who was vis­it­ing son Mor­ri­son, a fresh­man lacrosse player at the school — has wit­nessed many games at his alma mater since his big- man- on­cam­pus days. But watch­ing the cur­rent team, an 8- 1 play­off con- ten­der, took the 47- year- old back to the early ’ 90s, when the Ir­ish were 29- 7- 1 in his three sea­sons as a starter.

“I’m very im­pressed,” he said Thurs­day from his San Diego- area home. “It re­minds me of our teams — run­ning the ball well, not turn­ing the ball over, not flashy. They play a style that’ll work if it’s rainy, muddy, what­ever, be­cause com­ing down the stretch you don’t know what you’re go­ing to get.

“And ev­ery team’s dif­fer­ent, but this one feels like they’ve got a chip on their shoul­der. They’re qui­etly han­dling things like it used to hap­pen in [ my] era.”

No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Mi­ami ( 7 p. m., Ch. 7, 1000- AM) — one of three matchups of top- 10 teams in Week 11 — has had Mirer rem­i­nisc­ing about the 1990 game, when the sixth- ranked Ir­ish top­pled the sec­ond- ranked Hur­ri­canes 29- 20. The Ir­ish reached No. 1 in the polls in Septem­ber and again in Novem­ber, but it was that Oc­to­ber vic­tory at Notre Dame Sta­dium that Mirer re­mem­bers as the high point of the sea­son.

“The pure ex­cite­ment that hap­pened in South Bend that day, I was ex­cited to be a part of it,” he said. “We needed that sup­port and noise from our fans to win that game. I think it’ll be hos­tile down in Mi­ami on Satur­day, but our guys should be up to the task.”

We know the Ir­ish run­ning game, led by quar­ter­back Bran­don Wim­bush, ex­tra­or­di­nary tail­back Josh Adams and one of the school’s best of­fen­sive lines in a long time, is strong enough that it ought to work any­where, any time, against darn near any­body. Mi­ami’s run de­fense — al­low­ing nearly 200 yards per game in ACC play — isn’t par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive, though the ’ Canes ( 8- 0) have given up only four touch­downs on the ground.

In what’s be­ing billed as a play­off elim­i­na­tion game — even though Mi­ami might have a chance at go­ing 12- 1, with a per­fect ACC record — Notre Dame’s de­fense will have to try to con­tain quar­ter­back Ma­lik Rosier and a big- play pass­ing game. But the big­gest ob­sta­cle for the three- point- favorite Ir­ish could be play­ing this one away from the friendly con­fines of home.

“I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mat­ter,” line­backer Nyles Mor­gan said.

You’ve got to like that con­fi­dence. Ir­ish by — here’s look­ing at you, 1990 team — nine.

No. 1 Ge­or­gia at No. 10 Auburn ( 2: 30 p. m., Ch. 2) and No. 6 TCU at

No. 5 Ok­la­homa ( 7 p. m., Fox- 32) are the other two top - 10 matchups, with Ge­or­gia and Ok­la­homa fa­vored by 2 ½ and 6 ½ points, re­spec­tively. It isn’t a boom- or- bust sit­u­a­tion for the topranked Bull­dogs ( 9- 0) — who al­most cer­tainly would get into the play­off with a 12- 1 record and a vic­tory over Alabama in the SEC ti­tle game — but the Tigers, Horned Frogs and Soon­ers need to win Satur­day in the worst way

Jor­dan- Hare Sta­dium will be on fire, po­ten­tially putting what many con­sider the na­tion’s best two- loss team over the top. But give me Ge­or­gia and its su­pe­rior rush­ing of­fense

and rush­ing de­fense in this one. And give me TCU — the Big 12’ s most con­sis­tent team at the line of scrim­mage, on both sides of the ball — in an out­right up­set.

Five other high- stakes games, rapid fire: No. 9 Wash­ing­ton - 6 at Stan­ford ( Fri­day, 9: 30 p. m., FS1): Will a top- 10 team go down be­fore we even get to Satur­day? Neg­a­tive. Huskies’ fast, fu­ri­ous de­fense sends a mes­sage to the play­off com­mit­tee. No. 2 Alabama - 14 at No. 16 Mis­sis­sippi State ( 6 p. m., ESPN): The Bull­dogs have lost only twice, but those were ab­so­lute blowouts against Ge­or­gia and Auburn. Will the real No. 1 team in the coun­try please stand up? Ram­mer Jam­mer drops the ham­mer. Florida State + 16 at No. 4 Clem­son ( 2: 30 p. m., ESPN): Have a good thought for Semi­noles true fresh­man quar­ter­back James Black­man, will you? This spread seems about half as big as it should be. Tigers by 32. No. 20 Iowa + 12 ½ at No. 8 Wis

con­sin ( 2: 30 p. m., Ch. 7): As long as the Hawkeyes aren’t as flat as a giant pork ten­der­loin ( it’s an Iowa thing), they should fol­low up on their shock­ing blowout of Ohio State with an­other strong per­for­mance. But strong enough to win at Camp Ran­dall? Badgers in a close call.

No. 12 Michi­gan State + 17 at No. 13 Ohio State ( 11 a. m., Fox- 32): Word out of Colum­bus is that the Buck­eyes are mo­ti­vated like rarely be­fore. Scary? Only a bit, con­sid­er­ing the Spartans roll out of bed ready to rock. Buck­eyes by only seven.

My favorite favorite: Ari­zona - 20 ½ vs. Ore­gon State ( 9 p. m., ESPN2). Khalil Tate is the best quar­ter­back no one is talk­ing about. Wild­cats romp their way back into the Top 25. My favorite un­der­dog: Arkansas + 17 ½ at No. 24 LSU ( 11 a. m., ESPN). Tigers hang on to the Golden Boot, but they’re not good enough of­fen­sively to lay such a big num­ber to an op­po­nent that can score in bunches.

Last week: 7- 3 straight up, 5- 4- 1 vs. the spread. . Sea­son to date: 56- 22 straight up, 40- 37- 1 vs. the spread. Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ SLGreen­berg.

For­mer Notre Dame quar­ter­back Rick Mirer says beat­ing Mi­ami in 1990 was the high point of the sea­son. | AP

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