Miami players say they aren’t thinking about a bowl game. They’re only thinking about their next game, which is Saturday against Pittsburgh.
But in the locker room after last week’s loss at Notre Dame, which dropped Miami to 4-4 (1-3 ACC) with four games to play, the topic was brought up. For good reason.
Miami needs a split in its last four games to get to six wins and become eligible to play in a bowl. The opponents are Pitt (5-2, 2-2), two road games left on the slate (at Virginia and North Carolina State) and a finale against an opponent (Duke) which hasn’t won an ACC game (0-4, 3-5 overall) but has a win over Notre Dame and nearly upset No. 7 Louisville on the road.
At this point, it’s fair to ask if — not where — Miami will play in a bowl. Maybe players don’t say the “b” word, but they’re thinking about it. If they can’t be ACC champions, they want a fun bowl experience.
“It’s just to win the games,” junior defensive end Chad Thomas said Tuesday when asked if bowl eligibility is a team goal. “It’d be nice to go to a bowl, but really we’re trying to win these games.”
Breaking down Miami’s bowl hopes
With three conference losses, Miami is all but eliminated from the ACC Coastal race. It would need to win out and have Virginia Tech and North Carolina (both 4-1) lose twice to have a hope at winning a tiebreaker, but “head-to-head” is the first tiebreaker, and the Hurricanes lost to both teams.
Miami is all but eliminated from:
- The playoff bowls (Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl)
- The Cotton Bowl
- The Orange Bowl, which gets the top ACC team that did not make the playoff
Unless it wins out, Miami would not seem to be a fit for the:
- Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando), which has its pick of ACC teams after the Orange
The first tier bowls with ACC ties are:
- Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. SEC
- Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas) vs. Pac-12
- Pinstripe Bowl (New York City) vs. Big Ten
- Music City Bowl (Nashville) vs. SEC
- TaxSlayer Bowl (Jacksonville) vs. SEC
After the Orange and Russell Athletic pick their teams, the bowls in Tier I pick their teams together. Miami played in the Sun Bowl last year, so it seems unlikely to go back there this year. Belk usually has its pick of North Carolina-area teams. That leaves Pinstripe (Miami hasn’t played there and has a big NYC fanbase) and Taxslayer, which would draw Canes fans from the South and northerners looking for a warm vacation. Taxslayer and Music City pick either ACC or Big Ten (they must have three of each in a six-year agreement). Last year, ACC played in Music City, so Taxslayer is likely to go ACC this year.
After those bowls choose, these Tier II bowls pick from the ACC’s remaining eligible teams:
- Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.) vs. SEC
- Military Bowl (Annapolis, Md.) vs. AAC
- Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit) vs. Big Ten
- St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl vs. AAC
Miami has a national brand and some recognizable faces (Mark Richt, Brad Kaaya) so it’s hard to see the Hurricanes falling to this slot unless they limp in with a 6-6 record. They went to Shreveport two years ago, so a return seems unlikely.
If other conferences can’t fill their bowl slots, and the ACC has an extra team, it will send it to:
- Birmingham (Ala.) Bowl vs. American or SEC
All 14 ACC teams have played eight games, and have four games remaining. If the ACC gets one team in the playoff, it will have nine other slots for bowl-eligible teams. If other conferences can’t fill their slots, it could have 10.
- Clemson (8-0), Louisville (7-1), Virginia Tech (6-2) and North Carolina (6-2) are bowl-eligible.
- Florida State (5-3), Wake Forest (5-3), Pittsburgh (5-3), Georgia Tech (5-3) are one win away.
- Miami (4-4), Syracuse (4-4), North Carolina State (4-4) and Boston College (4-4) need two.
- Duke (3-5) needs three.
- Virginia (2-6) needs to win out.
The latest national projections for Miami:
Athlon Sports (Steven Lassan): Pinstripe Bowl vs. Maryland, Dec. 28 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
Campus Insiders (Dave Miller): Russell Athletic Bowl vs. West Virginia, Dec. 28 at Camping World Stadium, Orlando
CBS Sports (Jerry Palm): Belk Bowl vs. LSU, Dec. 29 at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
College Football News: TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Mississippi, Dec. 31 at EverBank Field, Jacksonville
College Sports Madness: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Indiana, Dec. 26 at Ford Field, Detroit
ESPN (Mark Schlabach): TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Florida, Dec. 31 at EverBank Field, Jacksonville
ESPN (Brett McMurphy): Independence Bowl vs. Georgia, Dec. 26 at Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
ESPN (David Hale): St. Petersburg Bowl vs. AAC team, Dec. 26 at Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg
Fox Sports (Stewart Mandel): Pinstripe Bowl vs. Maryland, Dec. 28 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
SB Nation (Jason Kirk): TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Kentucky, Dec. 31 at EverBank Field, Jacksonville
Sports Illustrated (Colin Becht): Pinstripe Bowl vs. Maryland, Dec. 28 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
Sporting News (Bill Bender): Music City Bowl vs. Mississippi, Dec. 30 at Nissan Stadium, Nashville
USA Today (Erick Smith): Belk Bowl vs. Kentucky, Dec. 29 at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
*Sports on Earth (Matt Brown): TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Arkansas, Dec. 31 at EverBank Field, Jacksonville
* not updated since preseason