ND's 2012 opponents, Week 5: Miami

Week 5: Oct. 6 vs. Miami (at Soldier Field in Chicago; following bye week Sept. 29)

Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Series: Notre Dame leads all-time, 16-7-1

2011 record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC; tied-fourth place, Coastal Division)

Head coach: Al Golden (6-6, one year)

Returning starters: Offense: 4; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

WR Allen Hurns, TE Clive Walford, RT Jon Feliciano, RG Brandon Linder, DE Anthony Chickillo, DT Darius Smith, LB James Gaines, LB Denzel Perryman, CB Brandon McGee, S Vaughn Telemaque

Key losses

QB Jacory Harris, RB Lamar Miller, WR Travis Benjamin, WR Tommy Streeter, LT Brandon Washington, LG Harland Gunn, C Tyler Horn, DE Marcus Robinson, DT Adewale Ojomo, LB Sean Spence, CB Mike Williams, S JoJo Nicolas, S Ray Ray Armstrong

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Lamar Miller (1,271 yards)

Passing: Jacory Harris (2,486 yards)

Receiving: Tommy Streeter (811 yards)

Tackles: Sean Spence (106)

Sacks: Anthony Chickillo*/Marcus Robinson (5)

Interceptions: JoJo Nicolas (2)

Three questions for ... ACC blogger Heather Dinich:

Quarterback Ryan Williams made the most of his spring. No one wants to see a guy lose his job because of injury, but will that happen to Stephen Morris this season?

Heather Dinich: I would be really surprised. Williams is good, and he got valuable snaps this spring, but Morris’ experience in the system will be difficult to replace. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch told me this spring that he is looking for Morris to take command of the offense, and said that “Stephen is going to have a great year for us, I really believe that.” The good news is that these quarterbacks are truly good friends. They’ve got history. They’re actually closer than Morris was with Jacory Harris. They’re taking the competition in stride and making each other better, but my prediction is that Morris is the starter this fall.

Miami lost 30 players this year, and the Canes face uncertainty at receiver, on the offensive line and in the secondary. Given Al Golden's strong recruiting class, who are the most likely newcomers to step right in and take advantage of the open opportunities?

HD: You have to start with running back Duke Johnson. He’s created quite a buzz in Coral Gables, and he’s not even on campus yet. Given the departure of Lamar Miller, Johnson will be given a chance to see immediate playing time. Fisch told me Johnson is an “electric player” who can “make every play.” He can make guys miss, run between the tackles, run outside the tackles, and really wants to be at Miami. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

How has Golden guided the program through the black cloud of the Nevin Shapiro scandal? When do you think the dust will settle on that, and how big of a relief do you think that may be for the current players and coaches, who are obviously tired of all the questions?

HD: Well, the first thing he did was somehow manage to win six games last year in the face of it all. Golden has a very business-like approach to the way he does things and he doesn’t worry about what he can’t control. He has said repeatedly that they weren’t responsible for that investigation, but that they’re responsible enough to clean it up and move forward. I don’t think it’s going to settle anytime soon, and I say that because the NCAA has been notoriously slow with these things. It was like two years before North Carolina got any closure. I don’t see why this case would be much different. It will be a huge relief for the program and the players and coaches, but you know what? I don’t get the vibe that those within it are too worried about it or wrapped up in it anyway. I think they’re more concerned about answering your first two questions.