Takeaways from Miami’s blowout win vs. Notre Dame: Time to give the Hurricanes their due

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The turnover chain kept coming out, the Miami Hurricanes kept scoring and a traditional power that spent 15 years in the wilderness made its biggest statement yet Saturday night.


Though the final score was No. 6 Miami 41, No. 5 Notre Dame 8, it didn’t even seem that close. The Hurricanes (No. 7 CFP rankings) were charged up from the start, led 14-0 after the first quarter and punctuated a 27-0 half with a 65-yard interception return, its third takeaway of the half. 

Miami pretty much played the second half on cruise control and finished with a 374-261 edge in yards (plus four turnovers). 

Here are five takeaways from Miami’s victory. 

MORE: Notre Dame football got destroyed in the first half

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MORE: Auburn makes a major statement, exposing Georgia in the process

1. So, Miami’s back…for real this time? 

Let’s put it this way: After so many overwrought moments of hope over the years that quickly faded into embarrassment, this feels different. We can argue what “back” means at The U — winning a national title would be a good place to start — but the Hurricanes are here to stay as a factor in college football, this season and beyond. And that’s a good thing for the sport. Though Miami has some challenges as a program — it doesn’t have the biggest budget or best facilities and plays at a stadium 40 minutes from campus — the fundamentals are still pretty simple.

When Miami is run competently, great players from South Florida want to play there, and thus it’s not that hard to win. Under Mark Richt, Miami looks like a big-time program and it sure seemed like a lot of fun Saturday night to be part of it as the Hurricanes did pretty much whatever they pleased against Notre Dame (No. 3 CFP rankings). 

2. It still defies logic that Miami is 9-0

Make no mistake: This is happening at least a year early. Nobody expected this kind of run from a team that began fall camp with plenty of quarterback questions and lost star running back Mark Walton to injury midway through the year. Heck, just two weeks ago, Miami was in very real danger of losing to a bad North Carolina team, held on for dear life against Syracuse and needed consecutive last-possession touchdown drives to beat Georgia Tech and Florida State.

A team that wins four games in October by a combined 18 points over some mediocre competition isn’t supposed to roar into November and transform itself into a playoff contender.

But that’s exactly what seems to be happening with Miami. Even when the Hurricanes got to 7-0, the skin-of-their-teeth manner in which they were doing it every week seemed more likely to set up a fade back to Earth against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Instead, the Hurricanes have gotten better — a lot better — and are playing with incredible speed and confidence. 

3. It’s time to give the Hurricanes their due and rank them in the top four. 

Miami made its debut at No. 10 in the initial College Football Playoff selection committee poll and only ticked up to No. 7 last week. It’s finally time to give the Canes a boost — all the way to No. 2 behind Alabama. As one of only three undefeated teams left in a Power Five conference, Miami passed its tests for entry into the top four, both resumé and eye, against Notre Dame. Though the Hurricanes’ total resumé might not hold up to great scrutiny — with Virginia Tech losing Saturday, Notre Dame could be the only ranked team they’ve beaten thus far — it’s late enough in the year where you have to reward winning. And Miami didn’t just beat a Notre Dame team that came in 8-1, it was a total domination. 

4. The ACC title game is looking like a de facto quarterfinal

We now know that Clemson and Miami will play in Charlotte on Dec. 2 for the ACC championship. Incidentally, it’s the first time the Hurricanes have played in that game since joining the ACC in 2004. But something much, much bigger probably will be at stake. Assuming Miami takes care of business against Virginia and Pittsburgh, the Hurricanes will be 11-0 heading to Charlotte. If Clemson does what it’s supposed to do against the Citadel and South Carolina (which could be a tricky game, particularly in Columbia), the Tigers will be 11-1.

That makes the math pretty simple for the selection committee: The winner of that game will be in the playoff. Even in Miami fans’ wildest dreams, the idea of coming this close to a playoff bid just two years removed from the Al Golden ear seems too good to be true. 

5. Brian Kelly won’t have fond memories of Hard Rock Stadium

Though this place has undergone a $500 million renovation in the last couple of years, it probably would have taken twice that amount to remove the stench from Notre Dame’s last appearance here in the 2012 BCS championship game when it lost 42-14 to Alabama. And though the stakes weren’t as high as that night, the performance wasn’t any better. Though you have to give Miami full credit for taking charge from the outset and smothering the Irish’s ballyhooed running game, Notre Dame looked completely timid on the big stage.

The Irish seemed plodding and slow against Miami’s athletes and couldn’t do anything right as the score quickly got out of hand. What an embarrassing performance for a team that had been quite dominant in its eight wins this season and started to fashion itself a playoff contender. Now with its second loss, the country can ignore Notre Dame for the rest of the season and not worry about whether the Irish will take a spot in the semifinals away from a power conference. 

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