How does a team go from an underachieving also ran with their coach on the hot seat, to conference contender and talented team to watch going forward in 2015 and beyond?
Defeat Heisman contender Deshaun Watson and the Top 10 Clemson Tigers, that's how.
It will be no easy task when the Tigers come roaring into Sun Life Stadium at high noon tomorrow.
Dabo Swinney's club is one of the most complete, balanced, and talented groups in the country.
Led by their do it all QB and a ferocious D, 6-0 Clemson has high hopes for a spot in the College Football Final Four.
To get there, they need to take care of the 'Canes, defeat FSU on 11/7, finish the regular season undefeated, and win the ACC Title Game in Charlotte.
There's simply no room for error for the team from Death Valley, because the SEC will be pushing hard to get two teams College Football's playoff, Ohio State remains unbeaten, and so on and so on.
Long story short, expect a focused and determined Clemson team tomorrow.
For Miami, the stakes are not quite as high from a 2015 perspective.
But in terms of the perception of the program both internally and externally, and the potential status of their head coach's tenure in Coral Gables beyond this season, the game may be even more important to them than the Tigers.
Everyone knows Al Golden is on the hot seat.
He has yet to beat a team that finished ranked at season's end in his 5 years with the Hurricanes.
A win over Clemson would surely change that.
Not to mention put UM in the driver's seat to win the ACC Coastal.
Beyond those goals, it would likely (though this is debatable) earn AG at least another season (also barring a major collapse going forward) in Miami.
And perhaps even more significantly, it might be the building block toward bigger things this program has been starved for.
Let's break down what needs to happen on the gridiron itself for the 'Canes to get the win.
When Miami has the football: UM's offensive line has been anything but stellar this season. They really need a big time step up performance from Trevor Darling, Nick Linder, Joe Brown, Danny Isidora, and Alex Gall (the likely 5 to get the most snaps). Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson (combined 18 TFLs and 8 sacks) and two downright nasty bookends. And Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson are solid LBs who make a lot of plays behind them. No disrespect to FSU, but this is the best front 7 the Hurricanes will face all year. Miami needs to try and find some offensive balance and get Joe Yearby going in the running game. If they can, it will help prevent the Tigers from teeing off on Brad Kaaya. The UM QB has been spectacular this year, despite facing tons of pressure. I expect him to still find some success getting the ball to Rashawn Scott and Stacy Coley over the middle. Those guys need to keep their head on a swivel, because SS Jayron Kearse (a one time Miami verbal) will level you if you don't account for him. The Tigers secondary as a whole does a very good job covering receivers. Kaaya needs to be accurate and make good decisions against them. I do not see the 'Canes being able to light up the scoreboard against this very talented D.
When Clemson has the football: Watson loves to probe a defense with both his legs and his very strong arm. Clemson also loves to soften up the middle of a D by pounding steady TB Wayne Gallman. If the Hurricanes can not do at least a decent job stopping the run, it's going to be a very long day. Juwon Young, who is stepping in for injured MLB Raphael Kirby, has loads of talent. UM will need him to be very active tomorrow afternoon. DE's Al-Quadin Muhammad and Chad Thomas have really stepped up the past two weeks as well. Miami needs them to help contain Watson when he calls his own number. When the talented sophomore does drop back to pass, he loves to throw to speedy WR Artavis Scott, and massive TE Jordan Leggett. These are both players with futures at the next level, so if Artie Burns/Corn Elder/Deon Bush are not at the top of their games, the 'Canes secondary could get embarrassed. This Tigers offense is one that is very diverse, and also very comfortable with their roles. They will be tough to slow down.
Prediction: The Hurricanes are at home, and have a ton on the line. But so do the Tigers. Player for player UM can compete, but the big difference in the teams is consistency. Clemson is just more comfortable in their own collective skin, and they play to their potential week in and week out. Kaaya is one cool customer, but this may be the one time all season he faces a signal caller opposite him who is just as good if not better. I think Miami plays a spirited game but comes up just short. Clemson wins 28-24.