It was announced on Sunday that Notre Dame has accepted the invitation to the Sun Bowl on December 31st in El Paso, Texas against a soon to be renewed rival in the Miami Hurricanes. It will be the 24th meeting between the Irish and Hurricanes and the first between the two high profile schools since 1990. The Irish hold a 15-7-1 series lead, winning two of the last three- both being in South Bend in 1988 and 1990.
"This is absolutely unbelievable," said Sun Bowl Association president Amen Ayoub Sunday in a teleconference announcing the pairing. "This is the greatest game that we've ever put together here in the 77-year history of the Sun Bowl and we're excited to have both universities come to El Paso later this month."
To Sun Bowl organizers, brand value alone, more than both teams' 7-5 records, made dollars and sense.
This is the second bowl appearance in the past three years for Notre Dame. The Irish didn’t accept any bids last year after finishing 6-6 and were dealing with the aftermath of the firing of then head coach Charlie Weis. Weis last led the Irish to a bowl victory in 2008 at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl against Hawaii in which they trounced the Warrior’s 49-21.
"The nice part of this, the University of Miami has got a tradition in the past and the present," Kelly said. "Certainly, when you talk about some of the great programs, Miami's going to be involved in that. ... Just walking around [ND's campus], there's a great buzz; our kids are excited about the matchup."
The Irish received some promising news Sunday regarding nose guard Ian Williams. Williams missed the final four games with an MCL injury is tapped to suit up and play New Year’s Eve in the Sun Bowl. During a news conference, Irish coach Brian Kelly confirmed that Williams returned to practice Saturday and “moved around quite well.”
"He's been cleared," Kelly said of the senior from Altamonte Springs, Fla. "We'll be careful with him and make sure we have the right, you know, amount of practice leading up to the game for him. We'll practice three times next week with weight training and conditioning. ... We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves."
Williams, a stout run-stopper who watched his teammates improve in his absence, made it clear he's more than ready to get back on the field. "I think it's going to be fun," Williams said. "I'll be glad to be back and the team is very excited. I'm thinking [I'm] about 100 percent right now. I feel great."