The Rivalry Resumes: Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Soldier Field on Oct. 6

UM and Notre Dame Are Perpetually on the Verge

Two storied programs are trying to return to glory, having come up short in recent attempts

By David Hill
|  Saturday, Sep 29, 2012  |  Updated 9:15 AM EDT
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Photos: 2010 Sun Bowl Revisited

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It's been a long time since either UM or Notre Dame were atop the college football world.

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The Miami Hurricanes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish have both had a quiet decade. After winning a championship in 2001, and coming within one play of winning another in 2002, the Canes have not sniffed the top 5 since 2005.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, has not finished a season in the top 5 since 1993, when they were runners up to national champion Florida State.

But despite their recent struggles, two programs with the storied pasts of the Canes and Irish are constantly given the benefit of the doubt by pollsters and the media, even if they have not really earned it.

In 2009, Miami won 3 out of 4 games against ranked opponents to start the season, including a dramatic win at rival Florida State and home upset against Oklahoma. They were rewarded with the school's first berth in the top 10 since 2005, and the world began to wonder if the U was back.

But that early success yielded to malaise, as a midseason loss to unranked Clemson (at home) and road loss to North Carolina (also unranked) derailed Miami's hopes for a conference title and BCS bowl berth. Miami hasn't even sniffed the top 10 since, with the school in its second rebuilding effort since the end of the Larry Coker era.

Notre Dame has an even more infamous history of getting rated too high by pollsters. Since 1993, the Irish have risen into the top 10 in 8 of the ensuing 18 seasons. They finished those seasons unranked as many times as they have in the top ten (one each).

Most recently, the Irish entered the 2006 season ranked second in the nation, after going 9-3 in Charlie Weis' first season as head coach. A September loss to Michigan, followed by back-to-back losses to USC and LSU to close the season, dashed any hopes of a return to glory in South Bend.

That cycle could be repeating itself once again at Notre Dame. The Irish are 4-0, and ranked in the top ten for the first time since that 2006 season. Star LB Manti Te'O graced the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, which bears the subtitle, "Future pro Manti Te'O has restored the shine to the Golden Dome."

Will this time be different? Or will Notre Dame once again fail to live up to early promise? Even if they get through Miami, the Irish still have dates with three ranked opponents in the second half of the season (Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC).

Miami, meanwhile, remains unranked, but a win against Notre Dame on October 6 could restart the U's own return to glory hype cycle. Even if they do beat the Irish, the Canes still have to get through conference foes Florida State and Virginia Tech to get into the top ten.

Notre Dame may be closer to glory, but both programs still face an uphill battle if they want to say they are "back."

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