ESPN College Football Thursday Primetime wouldn't be the same without the epic chapters the Miami Hurricanes have written in the network's storied history.
Since the turn of the century, UM has participated in 13 of ESPN's nationally televised Thursday night games and has gone 11-2 in the process. This week's showdown at North Carolina marks the eighth straight season Miami has been tabbed by ESPN, as the network knows the Canes are prone to shine under Thursday Night Lights.
In ESPN's annals, its third most-watched regular season college football game was Florida State at Miami in 2006. Three years later, the annual Hurricanes vs. Seminoles showdown overtook the No. 4 spot.
Love or hate "The U," college football fans seem to tune in.
Miami's last Thursday night action came in 2012 against Virginia Tech. Riding a three-game losing streak, the Hurricanes were in search of a season-saving win. A berth in the ACC Championship was still in play, but at 2-2 in the conference, a swing in momentum was needed as much as the victory itself.
Miami topped Virginia Tech, 30-12 and broke a three-game losing streak to the Hokies. The Hurricanes went 3-1 in the month of November and earned a share of the Coastal Division crown but self-imposed a second straight postseason ban and chose to sit out the title game, courtesy of an ongoing NCAA investigation.
In 2009, another streak was broken as Miami used the Thursday night spotlight to take Georgia Tech behind the woodshed. The Yellow Jackets had topped the Hurricanes in four straight—including a 14-10 upset of a third-ranked UM squad in 2005 and a Thursday night shellacking in Atlanta, where the Miami defense surrendered 472 rushing yards in a 41-23 loss in late 2008.
Flying high after a season-opening win over Florida State, the Hurricanes shut down the 14th-ranked Yellow Jackets immediately in front of a packed Thursday night crowd at Sun Life Stadium. Miami found redemption and was both fast and furious in the convincing 33-17 upset.
There have also been a handful of come-from-behind moments for Miami where the Hurricanes shook off slow Thursday night starts and feisty opponents, in the end stepping up and closing strong.
In 2003, with Florida State looming, No. 2 Miami struggled against unranked West Virginia. Down 20-19 in the final two minutes, Brock Berlin found Kellen Winslow II for an 18-yard pickup on 4th-and-13. Four plays later, Jon Peattie kicked his fifth field goal of the night, and the Hurricanes escaped.
Fifty-three weeks later, another Thursday night hole followed by a miracle comeback as No. 3 Miami trailed No. 17 Louisville 24-7 at the half but pulled out the 41-38 victory, fueled by a late 78-yard punt return courtesy of the electrifying Devin Hester.
Thursday night mojo has swung in the underdog's favor in the past. The most colossal upset in recent memory came in 2007 when unranked Rutgers topped No. 2 South Florida 30-27, while the biggest ESPN Thursday night underdog takedown occurred in 1995 when Virginia knocked off No. 1 Florida State in Charlottesville.
The Seminoles were 29-0 lifetime in the ACC but fell to the Cavaliers, 33-28. Running back Warrick Dunn was stonewalled at the goal line after taking a direct snap on what proved to be the game's final play.
Despite No. 10 Miami sitting at 5-0, North Carolina 1-4 and the Hurricanes a 9.5-point favorite, head coach Al Golden isn't buying into his team's hype.
"I don't think we've achieved anything yet," Golden stated during last week's ACC coaches' teleconference, via the Miami Herald.
Miami upset No. 12 Florida early in September and delivered a 15-point win over rival Georgia Tech weeks back, so Golden's sentiment that the Hurricanes haven't achieved anything is a stretch. Still, his motivation tactic is heard loud and clear. Especially for a program that entered this season 13-11 on the third-year coach's watch.
While the Hurricanes answered a four-game losing streak to the Yellow Jackets with five straight wins, the Tar Heels have remained a thorn in UM's side. Miami is 4-5 overall against North Carolina since joining the ACC.
North Carolina topped Miami 18-14 last October in South Florida. The year prior, the Hurricanes almost blew a 27-10 halftime lead, hanging on for the 30-24 win at Kenan Stadium, where Miami is 1-4 since joining the ACC.
Much like that inaugural conference matchup in 2004, Miami again looks to stay undefeated while North Carolina enters in search of a season-saving win. The third-ranked Hurricanes were 6-0 nine years back while the Tar Heels were 3-4 and unraveling.
Four quarters and 545 yards later, the unthinkable 31-28 upset was in the books, and a rivalry was born.
Come Thursday, it will be renewed in ESPN late-week prime-time fashion.
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog