Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET (CBS)
Notre Dame take by Fighting Irish blogger Brian Bennett: At the end of October, it didn't look like Notre Dame would be playing in any bowl. The Irish stood 4-5 after dispiriting losses to Navy and Tulsa. But then came the November to remember.
Almost as if Brian Kelly flipped a switch, the team suddenly came together for one of its most encouraging stretches in years. After blowout wins over Utah and Army, Notre Dame went on the road and used a fourth-quarter comeback to finally slay USC after eight years of misery.
The winning streak was all the more remarkable given the slew of injuries that struck South Bend. Starting quarterback Dayne Crist, leading rusher Armando Allen, star tight end Kyle Rudolph and standout nose tackle Ian Williams were just a few of the walking wounded unavailable to play.
But Kelly stitched the leftover parts together, and true freshman quarterback Tommy Rees won all three of his starts. The defense shockingly turned into a force, going more than 12 quarters without allowing a touchdown.
So now there's newfound enthusiasm for these Irish, and a Hyundai Sun Bowl name-brand matchup with Miami serves as a nice reward. Given that the Hurricanes limped to the finish and fired their head coach, Notre Dame should have an excellent chance to make it a December to remember, too.
Miami take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Expectations for Miami were soaring in Randy Shannon’s fourth season, but an inexplicable loss at Virginia and an overtime home loss to South Florida were too much for university officials to ignore. The Hurricanes’ season came unraveled in the season finale against the Bulls and the firing of Shannon followed hours later.
That didn’t deter Hyundai Sun Bowl officials from choosing Miami against Notre Dame in a series rich with tradition. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has taken over as interim head coach and said the bowl practices will determine who his quarterback will be against the Irish. Both Jacory Harris, who played for the first time since suffering a concussion at Virginia on Oct. 30, and freshman Stephen Morris, threw interceptions against the Bulls. Miami finished 3-3 at home this year, its worst record since 1997, and that includes an embarrassing loss to rival Florida State. Miami’s strength has been its defense, as the Canes rank No. 2 nationally in pass defense, No. 6 in sacks and No. 1 in tackles for loss.
Stoutland said he has tried to convince his players that a bowl win is worth working for because it will give them positive momentum heading into the offseason regardless of who their next coach is.