CHICAGO — Gloomy gray skies greeted the Miami football team as it landed Friday afternoon in Chicago.
A bit of mixed precipitation fell.
The ‘Canes were a long way from home.
But, for a team with the no-excuse mentality, this dose of northern exposure shouldn't cause any issues, coach Al Golden said earlier this week. By the 7:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday with No. 9 Notre Dame, the temperatures could dip into the high 30s at Soldier Field.
“I think we'll be alight,” Golden said. “I hope we're not to the point where we got to huddle around a heater. I hope we're just tough enough to go out and play. I don't mean that facetiously, I mean that. We're there for three-and-a-half, four hours against a top-10 team. If we have a team that's thinking about heaters at that time or looking to get sweatshirts or stuff, that's on me.”
Notre Dame, of course, was Miami's opponent the last time the Hurricanes encountered cold weather. There was snow in the El Paso area for the 2010 Sun Bowl. Most Miami players experienced the frozen flakes for the first time before the 17-13 loss, but that wasn't necessarily to blame for the poor showing.
That experience, just after the firing of Randy Shannon and before Golden took over, is a motivating factor for the veterans.
“Nobody was really into the game,” junior fullback Maurice Hagens said. “We weren't really there to win. . . It was just a different vibe.”
Cornerback Brandon McGee said his memories of that game faded long ago.
“I don't remember much,” he said. “But I know we lost.”
There could be a little more on the line this time. Facing the Irish in the regular season for the first time in 22 years, Miami (4-1) is on the verge of its first four-game winning streak since 2008. The year was 2009 when Miami last beat a Top-10 opponent (No. 8 Oklahoma, 21-20).
But there's something special about this once-great rivalry. Miami beat Notre Dame during six of the nine legendary meetings in the 1980s. The Irish won in the last October meeting, 29-20 in South Bend.
Playing in primetime on NBC wasn't creeping into players' mind earlier this week. Sticking with the company line, cornerback Thomas Finnie said “It seemed like a normal week for us.”
Playing in cold weather, Miami will need another fast start to set the tone. It outscored Georgia Tech and North Carolina State a combined 52-7 in the open quarters of the past two wins. But in this one, the Hurricanes' offensive strength plays right into the Irish wheelhouse.
Notre Dame has the third-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just nine points a game. Neither Michigan nor Michigan State - Notre Dame's last two opponents - found the end zone and the Irish hasn't trailed all season.
Still, neither game was a blowout. Notre Dame's weakness falls in line with Miami's. The 95th-ranked offense will meet the Hurricanes No. 114th-best defense. Miami allowed 36.5 points in the last two games, while Notre Dame scored just 16.5.
Whichever team finds an edge when the Irish have the ball could hold the upper-hand. And the weather won't have anything to do with it, Miami players promised.
“I mean, everybody has to play in (it),” McGee said. “Teams have to come down here and play in the heat.”
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