Of course an oversized gold chain has come to represent the resurgence of the University of Miami football program.
The 10-karat rope measures roughly three feet long and more than six inches in diameter. It’s adorned with an equally flashy charm in the shape and colors of the Hurricanes’ logo.
The “Turnover Chain” is making frequent appearances along the Miami sideline this season. An assistant coach places it around the neck of a defensive player after he intercepts a pass or forces a fumble. Then that player flaunts the bling often by standing on the team bench and imploring the Hurricanes faithful to join the celebration.
During this past Saturday’s 24-19 win at North Carolina, fans obliged by proudly displaying homemade chains following each of Miami’s four takeaways. Other Miami supporters flashed the ubiquitous sign affiliated with the program, touching the tips of their thumbs together and pointing the rest of their fingers toward the sky.
It’s all so unapologetically “The U.”
“Yeah, that’s Miami, you know. We’re trendsetters,” junior safety Jaquan Johnson said after leading the Hurricanes with 10 solo tackles against the Tar Heels. “With that chain, everybody wants to be in Miami, and when we brought that chain out, it just shows you how Miami is.”
The bravado associated with the Hurricanes’ most prosperous stretch during the 1980s and early ’90s is taking root again in South Florida thanks to a 7-0 start. The next step in reclaiming the dominance of that era, according to players and coaches, is contending for a national championship.
The Hurricanes were ranked 10th in the first College Football Playoff poll released Tuesday night. Their ranking, however, is the lowest among undefeated Power Five schools because of a weaker schedule to this point and the occasionally head-scratching degree of difficulty required to dispatch those inferior opponents.
Miami has won its last four games by a combined 18 points. Only one of those opponents, Georgia Tech, owns a winning record in the ACC. The other three teams are a combined 4-12 in conference.
The only conference game Miami (5-0 ACC) has won comfortably was its ACC opener against Duke, a 31-6 victory on Sept. 29. The Blue Devils are 1-5 in the ACC this season.
“I’ve done it too long to apologize for winning,” said Mark Richt, in his second season as the Hurricanes’ coach after 15 seasons at Georgia. “We’ve won 11 or 12 in a row. That’s a good thing, but you take pride in what you do, and when it’s not as clean as you want it to be, it’s bothersome.”
It’s a dozen consecutive victories to be exact, the longest active run in major college football. The winning streak is Miami’s longest in 15 years, and a triumph Saturday night at home against No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) combined with Georgia Tech beating Virginia would deliver the Hurricanes their first ACC Coastal division title.
Despite its slim margin of victory throughout last month, Miami would fortify its claim to one of the four slots in the College Football Playoff by winning its next two, regardless of the optics of the final score. In addition to the Hokies, whose only loss this season was to No. 4 Clemson, the reigning national champion, Miami will face No. 3 Notre Dame on Nov. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium.
The College Football Playoff selection committee considers a variety of factors in determining its rankings, including strength of schedule, head-to-head results, results among common opponents and winning a conference championship. Even though margin of victory is not officially a criterion, Miami players have indicated they still believe more convincing results would boost their profile significantly.
“That seems to be the story of the year, and it’s something that’s unacceptable, honestly,” Miami senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios said of the Hurricanes’ narrow wins. “We’ve got to start firing on all cylinders soon, or it’s really going to catch up to us. Luckily the defense is playing its tails off.”
The Hurricanes are ranked 20th among 129 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in scoring defense (18.7 points per game). Their 11 interceptions are tied for 12th most this season, and they have 16 turnovers gained, tied for 24th in the country.
Thus “Bring the Chain” has become the mantra for the defense after cornerback Malek Young donned the prized piece of hardware for the first time during a season-opening 41-13 win against Bethune-Cookman.
An image of Young wearing the “Turnover Chain” went viral on Twitter, with more than 4,500 retweets and 9,000 likes since it was posted on the official account of the five-time national champions.
“The chain makes us want to get more turnovers,” Johnson said. “It’s a reward for us after we go out there and make a play, so I think it was a great idea to get that on our sideline.”