Traditions: The U swaggers back into relevance at Miami

Welcome back, Florida State-Miami. It's been a while.

When these two Florida rivals meet in Tallahassee on Saturday, they'll battle as top-10 teams for the first time since 2004.

FSU has been one of America's most dominant teams this fall, looking every bit the national contender fans hoped to see when Jimbo Fisher took over for Bobby Bowden in 2010.

Miami's journey has been a bit rougher. The Hurricanes' march to their first 7-0 start since 2003 has been filled with close calls. It has not always been pretty, but with an NCAA investigation now in the rear-view mirror, full attention can be turned toward making their future match their glorious past.

Some schools' best traditions are mascots, such as FSU's Chief Osceola. Or chants by marching bands; you know we're going to see plenty of Tomahawk Chops on Saturday. At Miami, there's a bit of that, sure, but the Hurricanes' best tradition is defined by wins on the ledger sheets, championship rings on their fingers and the iconic letter on their helmets.

The letter 'U' has only adorned Miami's helmets since the early 1970s. At first, no one much noticed. The program was regular homecoming fodder and interest in the program waned while the Miami Dolphins became one of the NFL's dynasties. It wasn't until a brash coach named Howard Schnellenberger arrived in the late 1970s that the Hurricanes did too.

Schnellenberger convinced top South Florida talent to stay home, and suddenly the U became the stuff of legend. A steady stream of future hall of famers -- both players and coaches -- helped Miami win five national titles between 1983 and 2001 and make "The U" a nationally recognized status symbol of pop culture, rap songs, documentaries and more.

Miami's tradition doesn't have the longevity of many of the others, but for sheer winning power, a flash of the 'U' sign represents a swagger that is the Hurricanes' brand. It's more than a helmet decal or a hand sign; it represents the Miami attitude that marked one of college football's greatest eras.

If they beat FSU on Saturday in Tallahassee, expect to see it flashed loudly, proudly and often once again.

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