It's time to call it: The U is back. For real this time. No hyperbole. No bullshit. Facts only.
After the Hurricanes' 28-10 undressing of the No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies Saturday night, the rest of the nation is finally in on the open secret that South Florida has known all season: The Hurricanes are true contenders, regardless of whether the talking heads respect the teams that UM has beaten.
Eight teams up; eight teams down. The Hurricanes remain undefeated, with their biggest test scheduled for this Saturday night, when the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to town for a throwback showdown at Hard Rock Stadium.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, though, what's done is done. The Canes are back on the map, back to being a problem for opponents, and back to being the Miami Hurricanes — the real ones. This is how we can tell:
1. The swagger is definitely back. Two words: turnover chain. One more word: swagger. That pretty much sums it up. What began as a fun, spur-of-the-moment idea to reward players for turnovers has spawned a marketing campaign that has everyone and their mother wearing some form of the gimmick on game day.
The Al Golden era had a plain white shirt and an orange tie. The 2017 version of the Hurricanes
2. Cocky Canes fans have resurfaced. If you have ever been at Hard Rock Stadium over the years after a Dolphins victory, you've seen fans circling the stadium concourse drain while chanting "Super Bowl! Super Bowl!" But it had been so long since Canes glory that fans had almost forgotten "It's great to be a Miami Hurricane" and "We got some Canes over here!" was the UM version of that cocky chant.
From Twitter to Facebook, from Hard Rock Stadium to your office on Monday morning, cocky Canes fans are back and ready to tell you all about it, whenever you asked or not.
3. Everybody is calling the Canes "thugs" again. In case you missed it, the haters are back and once again calling the Miami players "thugs." Why,
Though people insulting Canes players isn't a positive trend, it does bring back some memories of the '80s glory days, especially during a week when Notre Dame is in town.
4. The defense looks familiar. Forget the stats for a moment, even though they show this season's Hurricanes defense is putting a hurting on offenses through the team's first eight games. Use the good old-fashioned eye test to ask yourself if you recognize this sort of defense coming out of Coral Gables.
Hard-hitting secondary players such as Sheldrick Redwine are scaring the ever-loving shit out of wide receivers on a damn Wednesday because they see what he will do to them if they don't keep one eye on him in the game. NFL-ready linebackers such as Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney are toying with opponents. And a defensive line full of studs like Chad Thomas are in constant relentless pursuit of the quarterback.
Sound familiar? That's what all the great Miami teams were built on. All the offensive stars who came out of Miami get most of the attention, but guys like Ray Lewis, Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma, and Warren Sapp built this program on the defensive side of the ball.
You don't need stats to know the Canes defense is almost all the way back. You just need your eyes.
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5. ESPN's College GameDay is coming to Miami for the first time in ten years. College GameDay is coming to town, so you know the U is back. The pregame show will broadcast from Hard Rock Stadium not for Game 2, not for Game 6, but for Game 9. The Canes are 8-0. They will play 8-1 Notre Dame. The winner of this matchup will have the inside track on a shot at the national championship.
College football doesn't get much bigger than this. Miami may not be back in terms of the domination that Canes fans became accustomed to a couple of decades ago, but the program is certainly back in terms of competing for the biggest honors of 2017.
After all, the U is undefeated in November and competing for trophies.