The Miami Hurricanes football team just did something pretty great.
Now they have to do something much greater — right now, no rest.
These are the demands, these are the stakes, when you believe the national championship is within reach.
That is what Saturday night meant to No. 10-ranked and still-unbeaten UM and its long-starved fans. In a decisive 28-10 triumph over No. 13 Virginia Tech. Before a jammed and jammin’ crowd of 63,932 at Hard Rock Stadium. Before a prime-time national television audience on ABC.
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It meant Miami is allowed to dream as big as it can now.
Because everything is within reach.
“It was a spectacular win,” coach Mark Richt described it. “It feels that way.”
Does it mean the Canes are “back”? Nope. But you can see it from here.
Are the odds still against Miami winning it all? Sure. But they are no longer impossible.
With this win over a ranked opponent and with losses Saturday by No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Penn State, Miami is sure to move up in the next College Football Playoff ranking — and make next week’s visit by No. 3 Notre Dame as big as games get.
It could be tantamount to a play-in game to get up into the CFP top four. That is how close UM now is from national relevance again. One win away. Next Saturday. Back in prime time. Against the Fighting Irish. With Miami hosting and starring on ESPN’s iconic College GameDay show for the first time since 2006.
“GameDay’s coming that means something good is happening at your school,” said Richt.
After the visit by Notre Dame it will be two much easier games to end the regular season, then what has begun to look like a very likely Atlantic Coast Conference championship-game matchup against Clemson.
We are getting way ahead of ourselves, of course.
Ain’t it great!?
This is what relevance feels like. This is what being in the conversation again sounds like.
There isn’t much broad belief in UM yet. Saturday night probably didn’t budge that perception much. UM will be a decided home underdog next week vs. Notre Dame, just as the Canes would be a clear underdog to Clemson in the ACC title game. (And then again in the CFP final four, if that happens).
Point is, Saturday night’s win over Virginia Tech gave all of that a chance to happen. Put it all in play.
The crowd was huge and sonic, loudest I have heard in a long time in this stadium. It was a crowd aware of the occasion, and rising to it.
“Magical,” linebacker Shaq Quarterman described the noise, and ambiance.
The crowd included Miami power couple Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez — sorry, A-Rod and J-Lo — up in a suite and cheering just like any other couple with a combined net worth estimated at $675 million. (He wore a replica Turnover Chain. She danced and put up an attempt at a thumbs-touching ‘U’ that could use a little work).
This was one of the great, merry nights for Canes football — even for a program that has had its share of those. And it was great primarily because it was one of the best in a long time, a team and its fans rising as one to do something special.
Oh, and UM’s defense rose up a little bit, too. Every time Malik Rosier tried to let Va-Tech back in the game with his three interceptions, Miami’s D slammed that door with four takeaways of its own. That gaudy sideline Turnover Chain was changing hands in a bling-y blur, surrounded by smiles. The Canes looked menacing in those black uniforms, and the defense played with menace.
In 81 seasons of UM football this marked only the ninth time a Canes team had taken the field with a 7-0 record. The previous two times, in 2003 and 2013, UM lost that eighth game to ranked opponents.
Not this time.
It was this stage on which the Canes would silence their skeptics for a bit, or fall flat and feed those skeptics anew.
“We proved we could do it,” said Richt, “and there’s no doubt in my mind our fan base helped us get it done. It was a great night of not flinching.”
Now all the Hurricanes and their fans have to do is prove they can do it all over again next week.