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.