Why Miami is in surprisingly good position to make the College Football Playoff
Miami (Florida) is one of five undefeated FBS programs left in the country ... yet, they're ranked just 10th in the first CFP standings?
Correct. But don't panic yet, Canes fans. Miami will have its chance.
The Canes haven't exactly run through the gauntlet to get to an 7-0 record. But for a program that is just two wins away from its total wins from last year (9-4), Mark Richt and Co. have to be happy with this year's starting point — especially with two key opportunities to come.
With five more weeks until the final selections, and six spots to make up, here's how we see Miami making its first Playoff come December:
|No. 13 Virginia Tech||Nov. 4; Miami Gardens, Fla.|
|No. 3 Notre Dame||Nov. 11; Miami Gardens, Fla.|
|Virginia||Nov. 18; Miami Gardens, Fla.|
|Pittsburgh||Nov. 24; Pittsburgh, Pa.|
|ACC Championship *||Dec. 2; Charlotte, N.C.|
*Applicable if Miami wins ACC Coastal division
Miami must stay undefeated
This isn't a pure "must" but it's the undefeated scenario that makes Miami a likely addition, even at No. 10 in the initial poll. We love the College Football Playoff predictor poll over at FiveThirtyEight and it backs up this assumption with its data. The Hurricanes currently have a 15 percent chance to make the playoff according to their model, which judges everything from onfield likelihood of winning to past behavior of those voting. That number jumps to 98 percent if they win out. Here's a telling fact: Only Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma have 98 percent or better chance to make the playoff if they win out, accoring to this. Even Ohio State and Wisconsin (also undefeated) are more vulnerable to miss -- again, according to that model.
Why? Because winning out would mean Miami would beat No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 5 Notre Dame and presumably Clemson in the ACC Championship. That's two teams it would leapfrog.
So what Miami has going for it is opportunity and games against two teams in its way. Common sense would say that Wisconsin and either UGA or Alabama have more stable paths if they win out as undefeated teams based on where they are currently. The real question for Miami if it wins out will be how high they'd climb over four remaining 1-loss teams (we say four because Miami would have beaten two and others would face head-to-head).
Beat Clemson (or NC State) for the ACC title
Miami's biggest notch on its belt would be a victory over two-time defending ACC champion — and reigning national champ — Clemson in the conference championship game. Miami has never won an ACC title since joining the conference in 2004.
Not to be forgotten, NC State is also a darkhorse to win the Atlantic division. Clemson (7-1, 5-1) faces the Wolfpack (6-2, 4-0) this Saturday in a bout that will likely decide who Miami will square off against on Dec. 2 — assuming the Canes hold on to their 1.5-game division lead.
It'd be difficult, but not totally implausible, for the committee to leave a 11-1 ACC-champion Miami squad out of the final four when the final rankings are released on Dec. 3. But a 12-0 conference champ? Then Miami's Playoff ticket is all but punched.
It may not seem this way with a No. 10 debut ranking, but Miami ultimately controls its own CFP destiny. Since 2014 (first year of CFP), all three Power 5 teams who went undefeated and claimed a conference title were all given Playoff nods. The Canes would likely not be an exception this year.
Of course, finishing 12-0 is easier said than done.