And it wasn't Miami.
Notre Dame's 33-17 Sun Bowl rout of the Hurricanes left little doubt of the big-picture direction of the Irish program.
Notre Dame's offense was effective. The defense was dominant. And, at times, its special teams were ... special.
"Offensively and defensively we played a complete game, especially in the first half," said Notre Dame first-year head coach Brian Kelly. "Our guys, they prepared so well for this game. It was not like other bowl games I've prepared for, where you have to push your guys to perform."
The Irish building process just took a significant step forward.
Notre Dame used a 27-3 halftime lead to ease into the victory. An offense used to quick strikes and short drives held the ball for more than 37 minutes.
The passing game was flashy in spots, but the Irish set the tempo on the ground.
"The running game had taken on an identity," said Kelly, whose ground assault generated 196 net yards and a 34-yard TD run by Cierre Wood. Wood and Robert Hughes each rushed for 81 yards and ND moved to 27-0 since 2005 when outrushing its opponent.
"We were going to continue to feed off the confidence that our defensive group has," Kelly said. "It was really going to come down to our quarterback's ability to make some plays and get the ball to our playmakers. Tommy (Rees) did a great job."
Rees was remarkable. He was not the same guy who threw three interceptions and had a fumble against Southern Cal in the regular-season finale on Nov. 27. Despite being hindered by a hyperextended left kneecap, the freshman was flawless where it counted: 15-of-29, 201 yards and two early TD strikes to Michael Floyd. No turnovers.
"Those 15 practices from USC to now helped a lot," Rees said. "Take some of those mistakes out. Miami and Southern Cal are two different teams. Miami did a lot of blitzes. They played man coverage, where USC was playing zone.
"I tried to not make the same mistakes as the last game. That's what I focused on the last 15 practices."
He couldn't dodge the pressure. Kelly wanted more than just game management out of his QB.
"You want to go out there and make plays," Rees said. "Having that one-on-one time with coach Kelly and (offensive coordinator) coach (Charley) Molnar, and having 15 practices to look at Miami, helps an inordinate amount."
There were special moments in the Notre Dame win: