Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly now knows the correct wording: The most popular piece of jewelry in Miami right now is called the Turnover Chain, not Takeaway Chain as he called it earlier this week.
Kelly doesn’t care what it’s named.
He just doesn’t want to see the thing.
Part of the reason why No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1, No. 3 CFP) is in the national championship race is that it has turned the ball over only seven times this season. And part of why No. 7 Miami (8-0, No. 7 CFP) is in the title chase is because the Hurricanes have been among the best at getting takeaways — and handing out their infamous chain as the prize to the player who gets that turnover.
That’s just one of countless subplots that will be part of the Irish-Hurricanes matchup on Saturday night, a game where the winner might emerge looking like a true contender for the national championship. And if the Turnover Chain stays in its case on the Miami sideline, that’s going to be a plus for Notre Dame.
“Listen, in big games like this defense wins the game,” Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “So whoever plays better defense on Saturday is going to win the game.”
This is the fourth time in the last seven seasons that Notre Dame and Miami have played, though none of the last three meetings carried any of the significance of this matchup. Miami is looking to extend the nation’s longest current winning streak to 14 games — its last loss was to the Irish last season — and this game is the most difficult that Notre Dame has left on its regular-season schedule.
It’s not a national quarterfinal, since no such thing exists. But only the winner on Saturday will keep realistic hopes of making that four-team CFP field.
“It’s really cool,” Notre Dame offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey said. “This week is kind of like, it’s old-fashioned. It’s both where these programs should be. It’s what college football wants and in some ways it’s what it needs.”
This is the first time the teams will play with both ranked since 1990 — and has awakened tons of memories of great games from the past. And this season, replete with Notre Dame erasing the sting of last year’s 4-8 mark and Miami energizing its fan base with both the winning and the swagger that comes from things like turnover chains, has given both programs reason to celebrate again.
“It means a ton,” Hurricanes wide receiver Braxton Berrios said. “Miami might not be exactly where we want it to be yet, but we’re on that path. Especially as seniors who’ve been here and been through a lot of these things. It feels great to start this path, and start this tradition, and lay this foundation for all the generations to come.”
Not everyone is blown away by rivalry talk.
Notre Dame running back Josh Adams seemed more than a little underwhelmed when he faced the Hurricanes last season.
“They say it was a rivalry but just felt like another game,” Adams said. “Maybe it’s because I’m young. I was born in `96 so I don’t know much about the whole rivalry thing. But I don’t know, it just felt like another game.”
Here’s some of what to know going into Saturday:
ELITE MATCHUP: The teams are a combined 16-1 this season. Only three other Notre Dame-Miami matchups have happened where the teams entered with better combined marks — they were 7-0 in 1980 (Miami 4-0, Notre Dame 3-0), 9-0 in 1988 (Notre Dame 5-0, Miami 4-0) and 20-1 in 1989 (Notre Dame 11-0, Miami 9-1). It’s also the fourth time the teams will square off with both ranked No. 7 or better, joining games in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
THE COACHES: Among active FBS coaches, Miami coach Mark Richt’s career winning percentage (.747) ranks seventh, and Kelly’s (.726) ranks ninth. Against AP Top 25 teams, Kelly’s percentage (.548) is seventh and Richt’s (.526) is ninth.
ADAMS WATCH: Adams is 41 yards from becoming the sixth Notre Dame back to run for 3,000 yards. He’s averaging 8.7 yards per carry, which would smash a Notre Dame single-season record that has stood for nearly a century. George Gipp averaged 8.1 per carry for the Irish in 1920.
BALLHAWKERS: Miami has more players with an interception this year (eight players, 13 picks) than it had interceptions last year (seven, by six players).
RIVALRY HALTS: Unless they meet in a bowl game, this is the last Miami-Notre Dame matchup until the Hurricanes go to South Bend in 2024.