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The College Football Notebook


December 31, 2010 7:48 AM

Is The Notre Dame-Miami Rivalry Overrated?

NDMiami.jpgWhen the bowl schedule was announced early this month, I was one of many who said "Wow" when I saw Notre Dame was pitted against Miami in today's Sun Bowl. It was a re-awakening of one of college football's great rivalries, the story went. We've seen commentary discussing how much both of these teams are trying to reclaim their glory days when their rivalry defined college football. But I have to wonder if all of us aren't guilty of making this rivalry more than it is--or was.

The heart of the Notre Dame-Miami rivalry took place from 1987-1990 when they played a home-and-home over those four years. I was in school at Indiana for the last couple years of that run, and it was a Golden Age for sports in the state. Lou Holtz has Notre Dame at the top of the college football world, Bob Knight had his last great teams at IU, Gene Keady was winning big at Purdue and baseball loyalties went to the Reds or Cubs, both of whom won division titles in 1989-90 and the Reds won a World Series. And no sporting event was bigger in all this than Notre Dame-Miami. Not even Indiana-Kentucky in hoops. But just as this post has become a form of personal nostalgia, I wonder if ND-Miami isn't as well. How much can you make of four games, two of which Miami won in a walk? It was super-intense for a short period of time, but it certainly doesn't match the old Miami-Florida State rivalry that was the best in all of sports through the early 1990s. It doesn't match Notre Dame-Michigan for meaningful games. And the games the Irish and 'Canes played with each other were no better than the last two installments of Alabama-Auburn. I've reached the conclusion that as much as this matchup conjures up sentimental thoughts for some of us about the real venom these schools had for each other over a few years, to call this a rivalry re-awakened is to date yourself. But I'm still more interested in this game than any other, and I may watch some of my DVDs of Cheers to keep the late 1980s/early 1990s nostalgia going.

Now on to some football. Notre Dame doesn't have the talent to keep up with Miami in this one, and the only question is going to be where Miami's focus is given the dismissal of coach Randy Shannon. I'm going to bet they'll be ready, in the interests of wanting to impress new boss Al Golden who'll be watching his new players closely. Jacory Harris and Leonard Hankerson is a combo ND can't keep up with and the 'Canes win 31-20.

The best game of the day goes in prime-time when Florida State plays South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (7:30 ET, ESPN). Both teams lost conference championship games, and a key issue with the Gamecocks is where their confidence is at after being battered by Auburn. If they see this game as a chance for redemption they have a few subtle edges--like coming from a much better conference, having better talent and having a better coach. Other than that, it's anybody's game. Look for a big night from Marcus Lattimore and Stephen Garcia to carve up the Seminole secondary as easy as Tyred Taylor did for Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. South Carolina, 37-17.

Other games going are South Florida-Clemson (Noon ET, ESPN). The first one's tough to call ,but I'm leaning South Florida because Clemson has been such a disappointment this year. And Central Florida plays Georgia (2 ET, ESPN). I've like the Bulldogs' freshman quarterback Aaron Murray all year long, even in the season's darkest days and I look for him to have a big day today as the SEC picks up a win.

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The main media story of yesterday's games was an absolutely absurd excessive celebration penalty on Kansas State. A simple salute to the crowd ended up requiring them to try and game-tying 2-point conversion from the 18-yard line. They lost 36-34 to Syracuse in the worst homer call Yankee Stadium has seen since 1996 when 10-year old Jeffrey Maier stole a home run out of the glove of Baltimore's Tony Tancredo in the American League Championship Series. But underneath the rightful bashing of that call, we should note that Kansas Sate was inexcusably battered on the ground, as Delone Carter ran for 198 yards. It was part of a trend that held yesterday and has been true in most of the bowls regarding the primacy of the running game. North Carolina shut down Tennessee's Tauren Poole, got a big game from Shaun Draughn and beat the Vols 30-27. And Washington's Chris Polk ran for 177 in a stunning 19-7 win over a Nebraska team that clearly mailed it in and should be ashamed. Championship teams don't treat a bowl as a walk-through and we saw last night why the Cornhuskers aren't a championship team.

Image from espn.com


Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in the NFL, coverage of college basketball.  and bowl commentary in college football. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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