The Miami Hurricanes are staring down their first ever ACC Championship berth. Since joining the conference in 2004, the Canes have been more of a past-tense powerhouse than a present-day menace.
The thorn in the side of the Hurricane season, however, has been the naysayers: the ne’er-do-wellers who are quick to point out the flaws despite the fact that they keep winning.
For ACC fans, the Hurricanes’ 2017 struggles should feel eerily reminiscent of a season past: their cross-conference rivals, 2014 Florida State Seminoles.
A year after clinching the final BCS title, the Seminoles were winning—at first confidently,, and then by quickly shrinking margins in games that grew closer and closer. It started with a 23-17 overtime win against Clemson, picked up four weeks later with a 31-27 win over fifth-ranked Notre Dame, and continued from there. In the second half of their season, the Seminoles won five games by five points or less.
The biggest difference between the 2014 Noles and the 2017 Canes?
One year removed from their BCS championship, the media declared legally-embattled Jameis Winston and his teammates a steel fortress that “found ways to win, period.” To be certain, naysayers protested in the beginning—so much so that the Marching Chiefs and Florida State faithful adopted Taylor Swift’s “Haters Gonna Hate” as the season’s theme song. Naysayers cried foul, claiming there was no logical explanation for why Florida Sate was undefeated, as if Jimbo Fisher was pulling wins out of a black tophat like rabbits.
But as October rolled into November, the poster-children of luck somehow morphed into an indomitable force. The tune changed; a rally cry of praise arose.
Mark Richt and his band of gridiron gang have had no such favor so far in 2017. With a win over Virginia Tech (and a Virginia loss to Georgia Tech), the Hurricanes will clinch the Coastal and presumably be on their way to facing Clemson in Charlotte come December. Despite being one of five undefeated teams in the country, it’s entirely possible that the conversation will again find its way back to Miami’s luck at evading a loss they surely deserved.
Miami has weaknesses, to be sure. To put the protests to bed, the Hurricanes must shore up their inconsistent offense and make great strides on defense, especially against the run. In the meantime, Head Coach Mark Richt should put the trash talk to good use — because as Jimbo Fisher and the 2014 Seminoles will tell you, if haters are gonna hate, you might as well ride the tide as far as it will take you.