The stakes were high and the stage was set. Everything was on the line for both Miami and Notre Dame—though it’s no secret the Hurricanes needed this moment more; relevance dodging this program for well over a decade.

At home. Main stage. College GameDay lead-in. Digs all season from the eggheads on TV regarding close games and a lack of style points. It was all pointing to one of two things; everything coming together in perfect fashion, or utter disaster. This game was too big to live in the in-between.

For the first time in what’s felt like a lifetime, Miami was on the right side of history—everything seemingly going the orange and green way, from start to finish.

All those moments over the past dozen years where it all unraveled—Saturday night was somebody else’s turn to go head first into that buzzsaw; shell-shocked in the aftermath and left to pick up the pieces. It was time for a rival to get pantsed on a nationally-televised, prime-time showdown while the Canes soaked it all up and basked in a victorious glow.

Everything that’s taken place to date during this magical season; it lead to this—a massacre of Notre Dame in front of the sports world. The Irish were the Canes’ sacrificial lamb—an offering to the football gods—as Miami rightfully took back it’s place near the top. HardRock Stadium was packed and rowdy, in vintage Orange Bowl fashion, while GameDay’s on-campus takeover served as a three-hour infomercial for a program that’s been off the radar for way too long.

As expected; the topic of “back” versus “not quite yet back” was on the table—everyone with their own spin on the heavily-debated topic. During a GameDay package, former head coach Jimmy Johnson weighed-in—his bar set at an undefeated season and a sixth national title before declaring the Canes are back-back.

Others seem to keep moving the bar, despite in-season accomplishment. Beating Florida State was originally the benchmark for some. Due to the Noles’ backsliding this season, a new line in the dirt in the form of beating Virginia Tech and claiming the ACC Coastal. Once those were checked off; knocking off third-ranked Notre Dame—a bonafide Playoffs contender—proved to be the next, “is Miami really back” challenge.

Mission accomplished; though questions still remained days later when the Canes jumped to third in the latest College Football Playoffs poll—the win over Notre Dame in the rear view, cries of the Irish being overrated and questions regarding Miami playing in less-electric atmospheres with Virginia and Pittsburgh on deck to close out the regular season.

Potentially annoying for fans seeking late-season bragging rights—backed up after a disastrous decade of football—though from a motivational standpoint, it’s just the fuel the Canes’ fire needs.

It was mentioned somewhere in the course of last week that Miami isn’t a “sports town” and that the Magic City is an event-driven town. By that rationale, packing the house for an early-season home game against the likes of a Toledo—or even lesser ACC foes like Georgia Tech or Syracuse—isn’t going to move the needle in the 305. Never has, never will.

Virginia Tech with a primetime kickoff and a Coastal Division title on the line? Check. A match-up against hated Notre Dame for the first time in South Florida since 1989? Nothing bigger going on in Miami for those four hours—period, point-blank. Virginia? On an average Saturday in September, not so much—but at 9-0, riding a 13-game win-streak for a home finale on Senior Day?

Canes versus Cavaliers just became an “event” and no longer just a “game”. Translation; Miami will be ready. Motivation will not be an issue these next two weeks before Charlotte and gearing up for Clemson with an ACC Championship on the line.

So much of this season has a “perfect storm” feel to it—parallels to past Canes’ teams and serendipitous little moments and scenarios that are giving Miami that long-forgotten team-of-destiny vibe. Sound a bit far-fetched? Consider this.

Three decades back, Miami started its run at the 1987 national championship with a first-year quarterback under center. After knocking off No. 20 Florida in the season opener—a 21-day layoff for UM as Hurricane Floyd hit the state mid-October. The Canes travelled to Arkansas three weeks later and rolled up the Razorbacks.

Down in Tallahassee a week later—a come-from-behind victory against the Seminoles. Miami also went on to topple Virginia Tech—on homecoming, took on Toledo at home and waxed Notre Dame in a nationally-televised affair.

Sound familiar?

The road to ultimate success didn’t include a conference title game three decades back—but as an Independent, Miami took on it’s fourth Top 10 opponent of the season when eighth-ranked South Carolina trekked south. The Canes hung on, 20-16—earning a crack at No. 1 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl—en route to a 20-14 victory, a national title and The U’s first perfect season.

Virginia and Pittsburgh aren’t the same-level foe—though the Canes must guard against lethargy and looking ahead, leading up to that ACC Championship game against second-ranked Clemson on December 2nd. From there, a Playoffs system that will require two wins over formidable foes if a sixth championship is to be claimed.

Three wins punches the ticket to the dance—with two more needed for ultimate success.

Getting up for the likes of Virginia Tech and Notre Dame—both at home, during prime time—hardly a tough sell from the coaches. Pepper in a little “disrespect” chatter, as well as a packed house, and the Canes took the field with six-foot flames shooting out their asses.

A four-loss Virginia squad—hopefully Mark Richt and crew relied on recent history for this week’s pep-talk. The Cavaliers—similar to the Tar Heels—have had the Canes’ number since making the jump to the ACC.

A lackluster loss in Charlottesville two weeks after the murder of Bryan Pata in 2006. The unfathomable 48-0 beatdown Miami suffered a year later in the final game at the Orange Bowl. Three consecutive losses 2010-2012 before finally bouncing back at home in 2013. A brutal 30-13 road loss a year later—Miami fully deflated after falling to Florida State at home; dropping the final four games of the season from there.

The next two games for the Canes—familiar scenarios where average opponents’ seasons can be made by pulling off big time upsets. Squads with nothing to lose, doing all they can to derail Miami’s magical year. Guard against the upsets, bring it start to finish and deliver the goods.

Beyond that, continue playing with a collective chip on this program’s shoulder. It’s been the driving force thus far in a quirky, ahead-of-schedule season and the formula has worked. Zero reason to change it now. Rankings-schmankings. Keep winning and things will work themselves out, as the Canes are one of few undefeated squads left in the nation.

Miami 34, Virginia 19

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties and launched soon thereafter. After being poached away by BleacherReport as a featured columnist, Bello launched to scratch that orange and green itch. In his day-to-day Bello works with icon Bill Murray and humor website theCHIVE on the William Murray golf apparel line—but all free time is spent reminding the masses that it’s a Canes thing and they wouldn’t understand.

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