There will be no mystery for Miami. After the season's first four games, the Hurricanes will know if they've truly turned a corner.
No. 18 Florida State. No. 15 Georgia Tech. No. 7 Virginia Tech. No. 3 Oklahoma.
That's the opening four matchups on Miami's schedule, a daunting series of tests against teams that will start the season ranked nationally and mentioned in some circles as championship contenders. The stakes really couldn't be higher for the Hurricanes, who know that by the time September is over they'll either be back in the spotlight or destined for another mediocre year.
Given that this is Miami, the Hurricanes are loving the challenge.
"I can tell you right now, I would be shocked if we didn't make it to a BCS game," left tackle Jason Fox said. "Shocked. This team is talented, we've got camaraderie, we're close. We have what you look for in a great team. Look at us and tell us what we don't have."
The thing is, that's what some Hurricanes were saying in 2008, when they finished 7-6 and stumbled late in the Atlantic Coast Conference race.
And in 2007, when they closed the fabled Orange Bowl with a 48-0 loss to Virginia on the way to a 5-7 record.
And in 2006, when a stormy year led to a 7-6 record and cost Coach Larry Coker his job, despite the fact that he lost just 15 games in six years.
"It's got to end here," offensive lineman A.J. Trump said. "It would be the ultimate to be the guys who turned this thing around at Miami. We're good. We're tough. We're smart. We can win football games and we can play with any team in the country. So it would be unbelievable to go show that."
Coker's replacement, Randy Shannon, has already lost 13 games in two years. He's halfway through a four-year contract and although Miami offered an extension at one point last season, Shannon's job security is oft-discussed these days around Coral Gables. If his team finds a way to start 3-1 or 4-0 this year, he'll be positioned to break the bank. If his team starts 0-4 ... it won't be good.
Shannon doesn't sound worried. Miami's GPA as a team is soaring, his players are staying out of trouble and two strong recruiting classes are starting to make an impact. It's time for the wins, he says.
"I was hired here to win football games, but I was also hired here to clean up the perceptions about this football team," Shannon said. "You've got to change the culture of the football team first. I think we've done that. The next step is now keeping that image up and starting to win games."