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Will Manso: A Miami-Notre Dame classic awaits

In many ways, game is late-season College Football Playoff semifinal

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The biggest game the Miami football program has seen in well over a decade is finally here.

Some would argue it’s the biggest regular-season home game since UM's heyday in the 1980s and early '90s.

Whatever you want to call it, this Miami-Notre Dame game has become one of the biggest of the 2017 college football season.

The Fighting Irish come in ranked third in the latest college football rankings, despite one loss, while the 'Canes are just seventh, despite being undefeated.

The semantics of that can be argued all day, but like UM head coach Mark Richt said this week, it doesn't matter.

If the 'Canes win this game and close out the season undefeated with an Atlantic Coast Conference title, they'll play for a national championship. The same can be said if Notre Dame wins out.

In many ways, this game is a late-season College Football Playoff semifinal. The loser likely has no chance to be in the final four.

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How does Miami match up, and does the team have a shot at pulling off the upset? The answer, to me, is obviously yes.

I'm not sure I would have said that a couple of weeks ago, but UM's impressive dismantling of Virginia Tech has made me a believer.

I think after years of hoping for it, "the U" really is back.

But that doesn't mean this game will come easy for Miami. It's quite the contrary. The 'Canes haven't faced an opponent like this Irish team in a long time -- certainly not during their current 13-game winning streak.

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Notre Dame has a dominant offensive line that can help their offense run right over you.

Miami's defense is superb, but this offense can still move the ball on them if Miami doesn't have that same physical attitude from the start.

Yet, my concerns in this matchup are more surrounding the UM offense.

Despite a dominant win over Virginia Tech, Malik Rosier threw three interceptions -- and the offense had some very inconsistent drives. That simply can't happen against Notre Dame.

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The 'Canes are built to have a good balance on offense and let the defense wear down opponents. If the Irish get out to a lead, I'm not sure the Miami offense is capable of getting too one-dimensional and just throwing to catch up.

Miami needs good drives to win the battle of field position. And most importantly, the 'Canes must win the turnover battle.

The wild card in this game is the sold-out crowd expected to rock Hard Rock Stadium.

It was electric last Saturday, and it will be even more deafening and exciting this Saturday.

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There seems to be a magic about this team right now. It hasn't always been pretty, but Miami keeps finding ways to win.

At 8-0, I'm done questioning how good the 'Canes are.

They're in this spot because they belong. And now, against one of their historic rivals, it's time to force the rest of the country to believe, too.

Expect some old-school action and drama, and another classic between these two schools.

Prediction: Miami 31, Notre Dame 30


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