They’ve earned their first 10-win season since 2003.
Now all they need are two more victories for a chance to compete for their sixth national championship.
The Miami Hurricanes (10-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), one of only three undefeated teams among Power 5 conferences, rose from No. 3 to No. 2 on Tuesday night when the newest College Football Playoff rankings were revealed on ESPN.
The new CFP top four: No. 1 Alabama (11-0), No. 2 Miami, No. 3 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) and No. 4 Oklahoma (10-1).
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Why the sudden love from the CFP selection committee, when last week it had Clemson just ahead of the Canes?
“As we said last week, the separation between teams one through five was very narrow,” selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, a former UM athletic director, said during the ESPN broadcast. “And I would say this week the same remains true. We talked about a Miami team that has shown progress over the last three weeks. They have really strengthened their résumé in the last three weeks. The selection committee, as we talked about what we see on the field, we see characteristics of a championship-caliber team with Miami.
“They get down 14 early against their opponent [Virginia] this week; they came back. They got down 14 points in the second half, and they came back to win in a convincing manner. So the selection committee continues to be impressed with Miami as they continue to build their undefeated record, and they have the ever-slight margin ahead of No. 3 Clemson this week.”
Added Hocutt: “Not a lot of separation, but they did just enough this week following two impressive games to earn that No. 2 spot right over Clemson.”
The CFP scenario starts getting really interesting now, as there are two games left — including conference championship games — for Miami and most of the other teams fighting to advance to the playoff.
Or, as ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said Tuesday: “It’s going to get pretty spicy here the next two weeks.”
Should Miami win its final regular-season game at Pittsburgh (4-7, 2-5) on Friday, then defeat Clemson on Dec. 2 in the ACC Championship Game, it would earn a berth on Dec. 3 in the four-team playoff to decide the national champion.
Should the Hurricanes lose one, or even both, of their next two games, they would likely end up in the Capital One Orange Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 30 — though being No. 2 now makes it a possibility that the Canes could still lose a close game to Clemson and remain a playoff team.
On Tuesday afternoon after practice, before it was revealed that last week’s No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 UM would flip-flop in the CFP rankings, quarterback Malik Rosier was asked if he found it disrespectful that Clemson, with its lone loss to a 4-7 Syracuse team that UM already beat, was ranked ahead of the Canes.
“Not really,” Rosier said. “At the end of the day, we have to play them. So, if we’re better than them, then we’ll show it. That’s one thing I [stress] to the guys: ‘Don’t worry about the ranking because if we win every game, we’re gonna to be in the national championship game.’ ”
The 13-member CFP selection committee formerly said UM has not played a winning team on the road yet.
Neither has CFP No. 5 Wisconsin, which helped its cause by defeating then-No. 24 Michigan (8-3) last week. But the Badgers, who face a weak Minnesota team on the road Saturday, will face CFP No. 9 Ohio State (9-2) in the Big Ten title game and, like Miami, will be in the playoff should it win out.
The Oklahoma Sooners, whose only loss was to Iowa State (7-4), host West Virginia (7-4) on Saturday.
No. 1 Alabama faces CFP No. 6 Auburn (9-2) in the Iron Bowl on the road Saturday in a game that could shake up next week’s rankings even more.
UM coach Mark Richt has repeatedly said that he’s aware of the rankings, but if the Hurricanes keep winning they’ll be in the final four. On Tuesday afternoon, during his weekly news conference, Richt was asked again about the CFP and if he would worry should UM drop out of the latest rankings.
“No, I can’t control that,” he said. “I don’t know if it’ll happen. It could, certainly. There are some really good teams, but we all know we’ve got a great [team] this game. We’ve got Pitt. We’ve got an away game on a Friday. It seems like if you have an away game … that’s important.
“And then we’re playing for the ACC championship. We have a chance to be conference champion and play a team that is ranked very high — or has been.”
If the season ended today, the winner of Alabama-Oklahoma and Miami-Clemson would play for the national title on Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The CFP semifinal games will be at the Rose Bowl at 5:10 p.m. on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California; and at the Allstate Sugar Bowl at 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 1 in New Orleans.
▪ UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on Tuesday was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award that goes to the nation’s top assistant college football coach at season’s end.