University of Miami fans who believe the Hurricanes got no respect in the final regular-season major polls and College Football Playoff rankings, can get some off-season relief if the Canes can notch their seventh consecutive victory over former Big-East rival West Virginia on Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
The Canes got plenty of respect when they rose to No. 10 after starting the season 4-0, but they didn’t make the CFP rankings and are not among the Top 25 in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches rankings.
However, one highly respected coach – that would be UM’s Mark Richt – voted Miami No. 20 on his final regular-season ballot, revealed on Sunday.
“I think we’re a quality team that deserves to be ranked,’’ Richt said Sunday night. “That ranking will probably be proven right or wrong, I guess, after this bowl game.’’
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Vegas Insider, interestingly enough, had Miami (8-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) as a one-point favorite over West Virginia (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) on Monday. The Mountaineers were ranked 14th by the AP, 16th by the CFP folks and 12th by the coaches.
Before the bowl matchups were announced, Richt voted West Virginia No. 13.
Richt’s Top 25: 1. Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Ohio State, 4. Washington, 5. Michigan, 6. Penn State, 7. Oklahoma, 8. Wisconsin, 9. Southern Cal, 10. Florida State, 11. Oklahoma State, 12. Colorado, 13. West Virginia, 14. Stanford, 15. Louisville, 16. Virginia Tech, 17. Florida, 18. Auburn, 19. North Carolina, 20. Miami, 21. LSU, 22. Texas A&M, 23. Tennessee, 24. Pittsburgh, 25. Western Michigan.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who also voted FSU 10th, did not have Miami on his ballot and voted West Virginia 11th (He voted Florida 19th).
The other three coaches who beat Miami – North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly – also did not include the Hurricanes in their Top 25 of the Amway Coaches Poll.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose Blue Devils lost 40-21 to the Canes in the Nov. 26 regular-season finale, voted the Canes No. 18.
No other Miami opponents’ coaches were listed as voters.
Richt said his players have been lifting and running while the coaches were out recruiting. “This week will be more of the same,’’ he said. “Just making sure we finish strong academically. All the focus is on that. There will be times when they’ll be able to slip out and get a workout in.”
Regarding finishing strong academically, the Hurricanes earned a coveted honor on Monday when they learned they will receive the American Football Coaches Association’s 2016 Academic Achievement Award on Jan. 9 at the AFCA convention in Nashville.
The Hurricanes shared the award with Northwestern and Stanford, two of the best academic institutions in the nation, after members from Miami’s freshman football student-athlete class of 2009 recorded a 100-percent graduation rate.
Richt said on Sunday that his players won’t begin bowl practices “until our final exams are over.’’ He said he may have “a very short and sweet practice on Saturday.” If not, UM will start Dec. 15.
“We’ll be practicing on campus and then we’ll have a day of travel and then we’ll have the ability to have four practices and kind of a walk-through day before the game,’’ Richt said. “We’ll definitely be in Orlando on Christmas Day.’’
▪ Cornerback Corn Elder, safety Rayshawn Jenkins and offensive guard Danny Isidora have accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl.