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UM-Notre Dame Sun Bowl appears set

The stars needed to align -- and it appears they have.

Barring a major surprise, it looks like the University of Miami will get to play Notre Dame for the first time since 1990 in the Dec. 31 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

Brian Kelly Sun Bowl officials said earlier this week it would love to have a Canes-Irish showdown, but needed a few things to fall into place.

For starters, no Pac-10 teams had to be available. That basically happened Saturday when Oregon knocked off Oregon State (making the Beavers 5-7 and ineligible for the post-season). Now, with Oregon (BCS Championship) and Stanford (Orange) headed to BCS Bowl games, only two other Pac-10 teams (Arizona and Washington) are bowl eligible. The Alamo Bowl and Holiday Bowl will take them, leaving the door open for the Sun Bowl to take a Big East team or Notre Dame (if the Irish are available).

But for the Irish to become available to the Sun Bowl, a few other things needed to happen Saturday. West Virginia had to beat Rutgers to finish 9-3, and UConn had to knock off South Florida to win the Big East title and earn a BCS birth. The Mountaineers rolled and UConn rallied to beat USF. The Champs Sports Bowl has first crack at the Irish. But having just signed a four year contract with the Big East to replace the Big Ten, bowl officials might be hard pressed to skip over a 9-3 West Virginia for 7-5 Notre Dame.

Champs Sports officials met Saturday night to vote, with their intention of keeping their team selections a secret until 8:30 p.m. on Sunday. But for all intent and purposes, it looks like the dream matchup between UM-Notre Dame will take place on the outskirts of a US-Mexican border.

The Hurricanes (7-5) were already scheduled to renew their rivalry with the Irish in 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago with two other games (at South Bend in 2016 and in Miami in 2017) to follow. This will only whet the appetite.

The question is: Will UM win? The Hurricanes are still looking for their next coach having fired Randy Shannon a week ago. Players have said its been tough getting over it. Will UM be mentally ready for a showdown with an old-time rival?

First year coach Brian Kelly has the Irish playing good football of late. They finished the month of November with three straight wins over Utah, Army and USC. The 28-3 win over Utah was especially impressive. And the 20-16 win was at USC was as well. Offensively, Notre Dame ranks 97th in rushing, 63rd in total offense and 73rd in scoring. Defensively, their run defense ranks 57th, but they rank 29th in scoring defense and 26th in pass efficiency defense.

Numbers aside, there is plenty of great history between the Canes and Irish. Miami and Notre Dame met 19 times from 1971 to 1990. The Hurricanes won six of the last nine meetings from 1981 to 1990 when the teams were both in the national championship hunt. After the Hurricanes won a national title in 1991, only UM has played for a title again, winning in 2001 and losing to Ohio State in 2002. The Hurricanes haven't been to the BCS since 2003. Notre Dame played in the Sugar Bowl in 2006 and the Fiesta Bowl in 2005.

Notre Dame won the last meeting in South Bend, Ind. 29-20. The teams have never faced each other in a bowl game. 

Here are links to a few UM-Notre Dame videos on YouTube.

> The 1988 meeting between No. 1 UM and No. 4 Notre Dame in South Bend.

> Watch the Canes convert a 3rd and 43 in the 1989 meeting at the Orange Bowl. You can also watch the entire CBS broadcast of the game.

> The last meeting between UM and Notre Dame in 1990.

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