Thursday December 30th, 2010

Miami (7-5) vs. Notre Dame (7-5) Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET (CBS)

Reason to watch: Nostalgia will rule the day, as the one-time rivals meet for the first time since 1990. In their most famous showdown in 1988, No. 4 Notre Dame beat No. 1 Miami en route to a national championship. Twenty-two years later, the Irish are completing a turbulent but ultimately promising first season under coach Brian Kelly, which ended with their first win in eight years over rival USC. Miami, which fired coach Randy Shannon last month, will be playing under interim coach Jeff Stoutland before beginning the Al Golden era.

Keep an eye on: While the overall talent level may be down, both teams boast a handful of future high-round draft picks. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (126 tackles) delivered an All-American sophomore season, while receiver Michael Floyd (73 catches, 916 yards) is a constant big-play threat. So, too, is Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson (1,085 yards, 12 TDs), while defensive tackle Allen Bailey and corner Brandon Harris dominate defensively.

Did you know: Notre Dame's presence usually means big business for bowls, and the Sun Bowl is proof: This year's game sold out within 21 hours of its announced pairing, beating its previous record by 15 days. Despite a disappointing season and coaching change, Miami sold out its 8,000-seat allotment in 36 hours. Here's guessing that wouldn't have been the case had the opponent been Cal or Oregon State.

Final analysis: While Miami didn't know who would be starting at quarterback until an ankle injury to Stephen Morris this week gave the job back to Jacory Harris, the Irish seemed to gel down the stretch under freshman Tommy Rees. Meanwhile, Notre Dame's much-improved defense allowed just one touchdown and 22 points in November wins over Utah (28-3), Army (27-3) and USC (20-16). That momentum should continue against the 'Canes.

The pick: Notre Dame 27, Miami 24

SI.com NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline shares his thoughts on the top pro prospects in this matchup:

Miami: DL Allen Bailey -- Bailey has been a consistent force for the Miami defense and is one of the most underrated defensive line prospects in the nation. He's a solid pass rusher who also effectively stops the run or holds the point of attack against blocks, allowing teammates to make plays on the ball. Bailey projects to a number of positions on the defensive line, which only enhances his next level value. Grade: First-round prospect.

Notre Dame: WR Michael Floyd* -- Floyd is a big, game-controlling possession receiver who's tough to stop. He offers the quarterback a tremendous target and can be lethal on third down or in the red zone. Floyd is expected to enter the draft and projects as a second wideout on the NFL level. Grade: Second-round prospect.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.