CORAL GABLES, Fla. - There will be no mystery for Miami. After the season's first four games, the Hurricanes will know if they have turned the corner.
Florida State. Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech. Oklahoma.
The stakes really could not be higher for the Hurricanes, who know that by the time that month is over, they will either be back in the spotlight or destined for another mediocre year.
Given that this is Miami, the Hurricanes are loving the challenge.
"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 is what some Hurricanes were saying in 2008, when they finished 7-6 and stumbled late in the ACC race.
And in 2007, when they closed the 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 Larry Coker his job, despite the fact that he lost 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 lost 13 games in two years. He is 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 will be positioned to break the bank.
If his team starts 0-4 ... it won't be good.
Shannon does not 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.
"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."
That will be quarterback Jacory Harris' primary assignment this year. Harris has added about 12 pounds to his long, lean frame, getting up to about 190 pounds on his 6-foot-3 build.
"It's time for us to win the ACC," Harris said. "We've been in it for, I don't know how many years, five, six years? It's time for an ACC championship."
Miami has not even won a Coastal Division title yet, has spent much of the past three seasons out of the national polls and was picked to finish fourth in the division race.