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We’re not going to say it. We’re not going to say they’re back. They’re not.

We’re not going to say that would be good for college football, either. That’s up to any given fan base.

So, what will we say about Miami heading into October? “The U” has our attention, and the Hurricanes’ next game at top-ranked Clemson on Oct. 10 will answer those first questions. Perhaps no program gained more credibility on the national stage than Miami in September.

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No. 12 Miami flexed on the primetime stage in consecutive weeks, capped with a 52-10 blowout of rival Florida State on Saturday. It was the most points scored by either team in the history of the rivalry.

Consider where the program was at the end of 2019. Miami had 227 total yards in a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. The Hurricanes finished 6-7 in Manny Diaz’s first season. The makeover is eye-opening: Diaz hired SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee this offseason, and Houston quarterback D’Eriq King has been as good as advertised. That Texas two-step has swung the fortunes of the program back in the right direction.

Not that there wasn’t reason for doubt in the first three games: Sporting News preseason All-American defensive end Greg Rousseau opted out, COVID-19 limited offseason preparation and the unknown factor was high for a program that had more losing seasons than 10-win campaigns in the last decade.

UAB was the next upstart Conference USA team that was supposed to give Miami a run. The Hurricanes won 31-14. Louisville had a chance to derail Miami in Week 3. Miami won 47-34.

Perhaps FSU could rally to give its in-state rival a game. The Hurricanes instead handed the Seminoles their worst loss in the rivalry since a 47-0 shutout in 1976. Florida State’s rebuild under Mike Norvell is going to take a lot more time. The Hurricanes are in a much more comfortable place in the present.

Lashlee’s attack hammered the Blazers and Cardinals the first two weeks with a run-first philosophy in the form of 101 attempts for 546 yards.

He switched that up in the first half against Florida State, with King hitting 22 of 29 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. King finished with 267 passing yards and 65 rushing yards, which continued a strong three-game start. Running back Cam’Ron Harris (12 carries, 43 yards, two touchdowns) had a lighter workload as a result.

Miami’s defense, even without Rousseau, looks fast. The “Turnover Chain” continues to be a thing and made three more appearances, but there is more substance with this unit. They pile up tackles for loss. They get off the field on third down (13 of 42 through three games).

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“The U” has balance, and that could mean a top-10 ranking heading into the test of all tests against Clemson. They failed the last two exams against the premier program in the ACC.

In 2015, the Tigers effectively ended the Al Golden era with a 58-0 blowout in Coral Gables, Fla. Two years later, Clemson routed Miami 38-3 in the ACC championship game. Mark Richt retired after the following season.

That two-game, 93-point gap showed how far the Hurricanes were from the national stage, where they produced five national championships from 1983-2001. Clemson has made five College Football Playoff appearances and won a pair of national titles since that first blowout.

At least we get to see if anything changed. We’ll get the answers to those questions Oct. 10.

It’s best not to say a thing until then.

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September 27, 2020
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