3 takeaways from Miami-Notre Dame: Turnover Chain takes center stage

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – With every tipped ball, wobbly pass and collapsed pocket, a palpable inhale of anticipation swallowed Hard Rock Stadium. Sure, fans of No. 7 Miami cheered for first downs, touchdowns and sacks against No. 3 Notre Dame on a throwback Saturday night for the ages. But there was a different vibe that accompanied each of Notre Dame’s four turnovers, as collective yearning burst into a delirious din that reverberated longer and louder than any other cheers on this raucous Saturday night.

That communal giddiness came from Miami’s eagerness to showcase the talisman that links its glorious present with its swaggery past, a 36-inch and 5.5-pound pound mass of glorious golden ostentatiousness. In Miami’s 41-8 blowout of Notre Dame on Saturday night, four Miami players earned the Turnover Chain that’s become the viral sensation of the 2017 season. Junior safety Jaquan Johnson, sophomore corner Malek Young, and freshman cornerback Trajan Bandy all returned to the sidelines for mosh-pit greetings of giddiness after interceptions. Lineman Jonathan Garvin got a strip-sack in the fourth quarter for the final chain coronation.

How has the chain come to symbolize this Miami revival? An airplane did a prophetic trash-talk flyby before the game: Gold Chains > Gold Helmets. Everyone from toddlers to senior citizens wore some version of the Turnover Chain on the JumboTron on Saturday night, be it a on a T-Shirt or replica gold bling. Hurricane legend Ed Reed wore a turnover chain on the sideline pre-game, another link to Miami’s gilded past and its precocious present.

Miami looked like Miami of old on Saturday, flying to the ball on defense, sprinting away from defenders on offense and dominating the line of scrimmage. They held Notre Dame to 261 total yards, including a dismal night that saw Brandon Wimbush (10-for-21 passing) pulled for general ineffectiveness.

But the dominant takeaway from this night will be the feeling among the 65,303 fans at Hard Rock Stadium. Did they create an environment of a night club masquerading as a football game? Or was it a football game masquerading as a night club? That’s the type of debate they haven’t held around here in a long time.

Miami defensive back Jaquan Johnson (4) wears the Turnover Chain after intercepting the football against Notre Dame on Saturday. (AP)
Miami defensive back Jaquan Johnson (4) wears the Turnover Chain after intercepting the football against Notre Dame on Saturday. (AP)

2. It will be a fascinating week in the College Football Playoff rankings for Miami, as three teams ranked ahead of them lost on Saturday night – No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Notre Dame (obviously) and No. 6 TCU. With No. 1 Alabama needing a touchdown drive in the final minute to win at Mississippi State, a compelling question emerged as Miami dumptrucked Notre Dame: Could Miami be the No. 1 team when the College Football Playoff rankings are released later this week?

Probably not, as it would be difficult to leapfrog that far ahead, even with this dominating performance. But with back-to-back demolitions of teams ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings, it would be a surprise if Miami wasn’t among the top four teams next week. Miami will be the second-highest ranked undefeated team behind Alabama, as there’s no chance that No. 8 Wisconsin jumps them.

The scenario for the ACC for the College Football Playoff appears fairly simple. With Miami and Clemson having clinched a spot in the ACC title game, the winner will almost assuredly go to the College Football Playoff. Certainly other scenarios and upsets could arise, but it would be surprising if that wasn’t the case.

3. For the Notre Dame fans that traveled to South Beach on Saturday night, the feeling had to be similar to the last time they ventured here. That would have been for the BCS title game following the 2012 season. Alabama wiped the field with Notre Dame that day, punishing the Irish 42-14.

Few would have predicted that this could have unfolded worse for Notre Dame, but the 41-8 loss actually ended up more lopsided than that snoozer of a national title game. That means Notre Dame’s last two games here ended with an 83-22 differential.

Notre Dame was exposed as one-dimensional on Saturday, as the Irish entered the game running the ball more than 62 percent of the time. When that failed on Saturday – which began with Josh Adams getting stuffed on the first play behind Notre Dame’s stout left side of the offensive line – the Irish ended impotent and hopeless. Adams finished with just 40 yards on 16 carries, his Heisman hopes likely wilting in South Beach. (Miami sophomore Travis Homer stole the tailback spotlight, rushing for 146 yards on 18 carries.)

The most disappointing effort for Notre Dame came from Wimbush, who threw two interceptions and consistently misfired on open receivers. He was replaced by Ian Book late in the second quarter in an attempt to give the Irish a spark, but just before the half Bandy snared an ugly Book throw and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. That ended the game and officially kicked off the celebration of Miami’s revival. And it formally ended Notre Dame’s College Football Playoff chances, hopes dashed in a glorious celebration of the Turnover Chain.

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