NCF Nation: 2010 Sun Bowl preview

Here’s a quick preview of Miami’s game against Notre Dame in the Hyundai Sun Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. While he hasn’t been ruled out, it’s hard to believe quarterback Stephen Morris, who was on crutches this week after injuring his left ankle in practice, will see any significant playing time. Harris has had a roller coaster of a season, but he’ll need to be at his best against a Notre Dame defense that is allowing just 20.5 points per game. Harris has thrown 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this year, and also missed time with a concussion.

WHAT TO WATCH: Miami’s defensive line against Notre Dame’s offensive line. The Canes will be looking to pressure true freshman quarterback Tommy Rees into some mistakes, and Miami’s front four has done a good job this year of getting to quarterbacks. Rees will have to get rid of the ball quickly, as Miami’s defensive ends bring speed off the edge.

WHY TO WATCH: Regardless of the current state of both programs, the history between them is enough alone to make this game interesting. There are plenty of interesting subplots, though, as Miami is under the direction of interim head coach Jeff Stoutland, who took over when Randy Shannon was fired, and coach Al Golden, who was recently hired, will be watching. It will be interesting to see how focused Miami is considering the coaching transition it has gone through.

PREDICTION: Miami 31, Notre Dame 28. The biggest question for Miami is not talent in this game, it’s focus. The Canes have the speed and athleticism to win the game, but will they have the emotion they've lacked so many other times this season?
Is there a more anticipated matchup between 7-5 teams this bowl season then Notre Dame vs. Miami? These two programs have the name, but do they still have the game? We'll find out Friday in El Paso, Texas.

WHO TO WATCH: The Notre Dame offensive line. The Irish front played pretty well down the stretch, including against a talent-laden USC defense. They'll be facing another batch of future pros in the Hurricanes, who are led by fearsome defensive end Allen Bailey. Left tackle Zack Martin has been the team's most consistent blocker, while right tackle Taylor Dever has shown great improvement. They will be challenged on the edges to create time for freshman quarterback Tommy Rees. The last thing Notre Dame wants is for Rees to be hurried and force throws that the athletic Hurricanes can go after.

WHAT TO WATCH: The secondaries for each team. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris throws to opposing defensive backs almost as much as he does his own receivers, so Gary Gray and Darrin Walls could get their hands on some balls in this game. On the flip side, star Irish receiver Michael Floyd could be playing his last game in college, and if so, this will be a great audition for NFL scouts against standout Hurricanes cornerback Brandon Harris. If Rees has time, he'll likely look to Floyd as much as possible.

WHY TO WATCH: Nostalgia, if nothing else. Neither of these teams are vintage editions of themselves, but the uniforms still conjure up memories of Catholics vs. Convicts. Notre Dame can write a terrific ending to Brian Kelly's first season after winning their final three regular-season games. Bowl-game victories are overrated as boosts into the following season, but the Irish can use all the positive momentum they can find.

PREDICTION: It's debatable whether or not regular-season finishes carry over into the postseason, but Notre Dame certainly has a lot better vibes than Miami. The Hurricanes faltered down the stretch, fired Randy Shannon and went to El Paso with an interim coach and questions at quarterback. They probably have more top-shelf talent than Notre Dame, but that hasn't helped Miami much in the recent past. The Irish are more stable at this point, and that's enough for a close 24-21 win.

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