Five keys to the Notre Dame-Miami (Ohio) game

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

KEEP ON ROLLING

Running the ball is the strength of Notre Dame’s offense. That should remain true against Miami. There’s little reason to expect the Irish can’t surpass 300 rushing yards Saturday. Regardless of which running back is getting the bulk of the work, Notre Dame has to pound the rock and rely on its offensive line to dominate the RedHawks. It’s a low-risk, high-reward game plan.

WRANGLE RAGLAND

If the Miami offense is going to find any success, it will involve quarterback Gus Ragland. The redshirt junior ignited last season's six-game winning streak for the RedHawks. Miami will try to run the ball, but the best chance of keeping pace with the Irish will be big plays in the passing game. Notre Dame’s defensive line must keep the pressure on Ragland and off its secondary to limit those opportunities. Ragland has accounted for 10 of Miami's 13 touchdowns on offense in the first four games of the season.

LET WIMBUSH THRIVE

Notre Dame revealed the best blueprint for quarterback Brandon Wimbush in last week’s victory over Michigan State. Let the redshirt sophomore ease into the game with confidence-building throws. Short passes from Wimbush to his receivers can keep drives alive and open up the secondary for bigger passing lanes later. In a game that shouldn’t require Wimbush to win it with his arm, Notre Dame should put him a position to minimize mistakes. Consecutive games without turnovers would be meaningful in Wimbush’s development.

STAY HEALTHY

Brian Kelly already deemed running back Dexter Williams a game-time decision with an ankle injury. The decision should be pretty easy: save him for North Carolina. Using Williams shouldn’t be a requirement to have success running the ball against Miami. But Williams shouldn’t be Notre Dame’s only concern. Any player entering the game banged up should have the opportunity to exit early in a blowout. Wimbush doesn’t need to take unnecessary hits. Cornerback Shaun Crawford shouldn’t have to chase around receivers in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame needs to get an early lead to protect its players.

OPEN THE BOOK

It wasn’t that long ago that some fans were clamoring for Ian Book to replace Wimbush at quarterback. A dominant win at Michigan State seems to have squashed most of that chatter. Yet the need for Book to be ready as a backup still exists, and the redshirt freshman has yet to complete a pass for the Irish. Notre Dame let Book operate a normal offense at the end of the Boston College victory, but all three of his passes fell incomplete. A chance for Book to receive more game reps Saturday is another reason the Irish need to put away Miami early.

Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush (7) hands off to Dexter Williams (2) during the Notre Dame at Michigan State NCAA football game Saturday, 23, 2017 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA