If the season ended today, the Hurricanes would be in the College Football Playoff.
The season, of course, does not end today.
Miami will gladly accept its spot, even though it’s a bit of a surprise who’s ranked ahead.
The Hurricanes (9-0, 6-0 ACC) were ranked No. 3 in Tuesday’s edition of the CFP rankings, the third released by the selection committee. It was a given Miami would move into the top four after whipping third-ranked Notre Dame 41-8 last week. It is the first time Miami is ranked in the top four since the playoff system began in 2014.
With former No. 1 Georgia losing in a rout to Auburn, Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC) moved up to No. 2, despite struggling on the road at Mississippi State.
The stunner was at No. 2, where Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) moved up from No. 4, despite needing needing a late fourth-quarter burst to beat a 3-6 Florida State squad at home.
While Miami is unbeaten and has a pair of top-13 wins, the Tigers lost to Syracuse, which is 4-6.
Yet, it appears the selection committee is giving the early edge to Clemson when the defending national champions meet the Hurricanes for the ACC Championship in three weeks.
CFP selection committee chair Kirby Hocutt, the former UM athletics director, said both Clemson and Miami are “playing elite defense,” and for levity, commented that one committee member, Tyrone Willingham, “wanted to wear the Turnover Chain.”
But what game Clemson the edge, Hocutt said, was its early-season win over Auburn (which looks better after AU manhandled former No. 1 Georgia), and a pair of “very impressive” road victories (ostensibly 6-4 Louisville and 7-3 Virginia Tech, neither of which are currently ranked). Both those wins were in September.
Hocutt said Miami “hasn’t played a good team on the road yet,” which is accurate — UM’s road opponents, Florida State, North Carolina and Duke, are a combined 9-20. Hocutt also said Clemson’s profile was boosted by “six wins over teams with winning records.”
He did not see fit to mention Clemson’s loss to a team Miami beat.
On ESPN’s broadcast, host Rece Davis said Clemson would be an early 5.5-point favorite over Miami.
The other top-four spot went to No. 4 Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1 Big 12).
The rest of the top 10: No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 6 Auburn, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 Notre Dame — down five spots after losing badly to Miami — No. 9 Ohio State and No. 10 Penn State.
Mark Richt, who was interviewed on last week’s show, didn’t plan to watch this week. He did say he expected Miami to climb.
“No matter where we are, if we keep winning, we’ll stay up, maybe move up and obviously if we lose, we’ll go down,” he said. “There’s at least three more games, I guess, before everything is decided. We have a long way to go yet.”
Miami, which is 9-0 for the first time since 2002 — when it lost the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl to Ohio State on a highly controversial pass-interference call — hosts Virginia this week (noon, ABC), travels to Pittsburgh the following Friday (noon, ABC) and faces Clemson for the ACC title on Dec. 2 (8 p.m., ABC).
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who called Miami’s last two games in a prime-time, sold-out Hard Rock Stadium, said he wants “to see how Miami plays without that atmosphere,” believing a noon game against Virginia is “not going to be what it’s been the last two weeks.”
UM’s Twitter account, @CanesFootball, responded to that by saying, “Just wait for Saturday…”
The Miami-Virginia game is close to a sellout. Richt commented in his Tuesday press conference that he “heard there’s just a thousand tickets left,” calling it “pretty spectacular for a noon game — and we’ve already won the Coastal.” A UM spokesperson said that number was closer to 500 as of Tuesday evening.