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Sun Bowl blog: UM-Notre Dame

EL PASO -- Time to renew the rivalry. The Miami Hurricanes (7-5) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5) will meet for the first time in 20 years at the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on CBS. UM is a 2.5 point favorite.

> REWIND: In it's heyday, the rivalry was called Catholics vs. Convicts. UM is 7-15-1 all-time against the Irish, but won five of the last seven meetings. The series opened in 1955. Notre Dame won the last meeting 29-20 in South Bend in 1990.

> ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Irish, who played the nation's toughest schedule, enter Friday's game on a three-game winning streak. Those wins were pretty impressive -- at home versus a ranked Utah team, Army and at USC. Sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o leads the Irish, who run a 3-4 scheme, with 127 tackles, 17th most in the country. Notre Dame's pass defense (ranked 40th) can create problems. The Irish have produced 28 sacks this season and are giving up under 10 yards per completion, one of only eight teams nationally to do that. The Irish have also picked off 14 passes. Darrin Walls has returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns. The Irish are also very experienced at safety. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees was called into action after Dayne Crist went down against Tulsa with three games left. Rees has thrown at least two touchdown passes in three of his last four games. His favorite target, junior receiver Michael Floyd (73 rec., 916 yards, 10 TDs) ranks second all-time in touchdown catches at Notre Dame and needs only one more to tie Jeff Samardzija. Notre Dame kicker David Ruffer, a former walk-on, is 20 for 20 on field goal attempts since last year -- including a career-long 50-yarder this season.

THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON FOR THE U...

> How starting quarterback Jacory Harris plays...
Harris' play is an obvious key for the Hurricanes to win this game. But for his own future, he needs to have a good game. Harris has struggled with interceptions throughout his career and this game could go a long way toward deciding his future. New coach Al Golden, who will be watching the game from a box, will probably prefer to go with freshman Stephen Morris going forward anyway. But if Harris continues to struggle, he could make it easier for Golden to make that decision.

> The emotional life Mike James delivers... The sophomore has been dealing with the death of his mother, who passed away in a car accident Dec. 20. Her funeral is today and he's missing it to be with his teammates. Interim coach Jeff Stoutland said James would provide a huge lift to his teammates being with them. He also promised James would play in this game. Let's see if James and the players' motivation to play for former coach Randy Shannon play a factor.

> If the Canes look like a cold team standing on the sidelines... You remember last year's Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, right. UM players huddled up on the sidelines as temperatures dipped into the 40s. This game will be played in similar -- if not colder -- conditions. UM players came out for warmups wearing ski masks. I didn't notice any heaters on the sideline. Notre Dame? The Irish play in this weather all the time and brought their own special heated benches for the game.

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