Here’s why UM moving up to No. 2 in the CFP poll was important, for reasons that extend beyond Canes fans feeling good about themselves:
It shows the committee is starting to respect UM, which could potentially help Miami if it wins at Pittsburgh on Friday but loses narrowly to Clemson in the ACC championship.
So this much we all know: The Hurricanes will be in the College Football Playoff if they beat Pittsburgh and Clemson.
But under what circumstances would UM make it if the Canes lose?
There are several complicated scenarios in which UM likely would make the playoffs if it beats Pittsburgh and loses narrowly to Clemson. Here are the simplest:
1. Alabama beats Auburn and Georgia AND Wisconsin beats Ohio State AND Oklahoma loses to West Virginia or TCU. (TCU will clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma if it beats one-win Baylor this weekend.)
In this scenario, Alabama, Wisconsin (presuming it also beats Minnesota) and Clemson (assuming it beats South Carolina) would undoubtedly be in, and a one-loss UM that lost narrowly to Clemson would seemingly have an edge for the final playoff spot over a one-loss Wisconsin team; an Oklahoma team that lost both to Iowa State and (in this scenario) either TCU or West Virginia; and a Georgia team that lost twice. Auburn and Ohio State would have three losses in this scenario.
2. Alabama beats Auburn and Georgia AND Ohio State loses to Michigan but beats Wisconsin and Oklahoma loses to West Virginia or TCU.
In this scenario, Alabama and Clemson (assuming it beats South Carolina) would be in and a one-loss UM that loses narrowly to Clemson would seemingly have the edge for one of the final two open spots over a two-loss Oklahoma team and two-loss Georgia team and a one-loss Wisconsin team. Ohio State, if it loses to Michigan but beats Wisconsin, would have three losses.
There are other scenarios, too, but we’ll stop here before all of our heads explode.
So here’s a look at what Canes fans should root for this weekend:
1. Georgia at Georgia Tech at noon Saturday: Root against the Bulldogs, because a second loss for them, with Alabama looming a week later, would make it difficult to envision Georgia beating out UM for a playoff berth.
2. Alabama at Auburn at 3:30 p.m. Saturday: Root for Alabama – as difficult as it is to root for Nick Saban – because Canes fans don’t need a two-loss Auburn to be in the mix for a playoff berth if UM loses to Clemson. In other words, hope Alabama gives Auburn a third loss to extinguish the Tigers’ playoff hopes.
3. Ohio State at Michigan at noon Saturday. Root for Michigan, to give Ohio State a third loss that would extinguish the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes.
4. Wisconsin at Minnesota at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Root for the Golden Gophers so that Wisconsin realistically cannot beat out UM for a playoff berth if Miami beats Pittsburgh but loses to Clemson.
5. West Virginia at Oklahoma at 3:45 Saturday. Root against Oklahoma as much as you root against anybody this weekend, because the committee clearly thinks highly of the Sooners, putting a one-UM loss at risk of losing out on a playoff spot to Oklahoma unless the one-loss Sooners lose another game.
6. Clemson at South Carolina at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. A case could be made to root for South Carolina, but here’s why I wouldn’t: If Clemson loses to South Carolina, a UM loss to Clemson would be looked at less favorably by the committee if UM is competing with say, Ohio State or Georgia or Oklahoma or Auburn, for a playoff spot.
A COUPLE OTHER NOTES
Running back Mark Walton has an interesting decision this offseason whether to turn pro or return to UM for his senior season after ankle surgery. He’s considered a potential early third-day draft pick after this injury, possibly higher if he runs well in workouts.
"He’s doing well," Mark Richt said Wednesday. "He’s off crutches. It’s an injury he’ll do well with. He’s limping around, really…he’ll be fine."
"Even the day it happened, it wasn’t like it was the end of the world for him. You think it might be for a guy who you perceive to love the game so much, and know that he does. He said the words: ‘you know, that’s football.’ He knows that’s part of it, and injuries happen. He was thankful it wasn’t anything that would really hurt you for the long term, so that was good news."
• Talked to Dolphins receiver Rashawn Scott on Wednesday about Malik Rosier after Rosier mentioned Tuesday that they talk most days.
"He’s a little brother to me," Scott said. "He’s different. It’s hard to find a person like him, so down to earth. He always keeps it real. I always tell him to ignore the noise."
Scott said barely playing as a UM baseball player helped Rosier learn the importance of being patient.