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Why Miami’s Matchup With Clemson Is So Important to the Program

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The Tigers offer Miami their highest-stake regular season game since Notre Dame in 2017.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 02 ACC Championship Game Photo by Brian Utesch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A victory against the Tigers would bring a monumental shift in attitude and expectation surrounding the program. It’d show the college football world that Miami isn’t just smoke and mirrors, that it isn’t a team that barely squeaked-by inferior opponents, that the hype is real.

Thus far, the ‘Canes have shown us everything fans had hoped for in the offseason. The promises made by head coach Manny Diaz have been held up, and the improvements Miami needed are being executed on the field. Led by offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and Heisman-candidate quarterback D’Eriq King, the efficiency on offense in 2020 is what elevates Miami to a higher-tier of teams.

In 2017, the 10-and-1 Hurricanes took on Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. While many expected a better game than 2015’s obliteration of Miami, the disparity between the teams was obvious. Clemson dominated on both sides of the ball, proving that Miami wasn’t ready to play with the ‘big boys,’ despite the successful regular season. The Tigers took that game by a score of 38-3, meaning that Clemson had outscored Miami 96-3 in their last 2 meetings.

With that in mind, we can see why this Miami team is far different than the last 2 Clemson faced. In 2017 especially, Miami squeaked-by inferior opponents almost on a weekly basis. It was still the highest mark for the program in over a decade—dominating Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium lives on as one of the greatest Hurricanes games ever. In games against Georgia Tech, Florida State, and North Carolina, however, we can see how the ‘Canes needed a little luck to come out on top. The levy finally broke against Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale, extinguishing all College Football Playoff hopes.

In 2020 though, the Hurricanes are finally proving everything on the field. The factor that sets this Miami team apart from even a year ago, is the offense. Now, Miami should be in every game they play. No longer will fans see a dominant defense be constantly let down by an inept offense, no longer will fans see stubborn and blind play-calling.

More importantly, head coach Manny Diaz and athletic director Blake James know that if or when Rhett Lashlee takes another job (head coach or NFL coordinator, presumably), inventive and creative offense needs to stay as part of Miami’s brand. Hence why Saturday’s matchup is so pivotal for the program. Win, and a new mindset surrounding the program is birthed. It’d undoubtedly be a signature win for Diaz, who’s having a successful bounce-back second-year campaign as a head coach thus far. Ultimately, people will return to expecting Miami to be solid, to prove the doubters wrong, to reload instead of rebuild.