The College Football Playoff Top-25 rankings will be released for the first time this season on Tuesday night, but Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt will be focused on what his team can control – and possibly, with a little help from Georgia Tech, achieve on Saturday night.
The Coastal Division conquest is on the line for No. 9 Miami (7-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, where the No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies (7-1, 3-1) will visit as 2 1/2-point favorites.
If UM defeats Virginia Tech and the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2) defeat Virginia (5-3, 2-2) at 3:30 p.m., UM would clinch its first Coastal Division title for a berth in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2 in Charlotte.
And judging by what Richt said Sunday evening during his weekly game-follow teleconference, it sounds as if UM will have ailing starting quarterback Malik Rosier leading the charge.
“He did get his shoulder banged up and it’s still sore today,’’ Richt said of Rosier’s injury sustained in the first quarter during UM’s 24-19 victory at North Carolina. “He probably won’t throw today. We’ll probably get him going on Tuesday.’’
Richt will be reminding the Hurricanes all week about the Coastal Division goal, he said, just as he has all season.
“That’s the one thing you can control in college football, whether or not you win your division or whether or not you win your league,’’ he said. “After that it’s kind of up to voters and things of that nature.
“I tell the guys, ‘One day the Miami team will win the Coastal and represent in Charlotte. Are you the team?’
“I don’t know. That’s what we’re fighting for. So, we’re not running away from the importance of the game and how it relates to the Coastal championship.’’
The Hokies’ only loss this season came against defending national champion Clemson, a 31-17 defeat in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 30.
And after another fourth-quarter scare Saturday, the Canes, who fell one spot from No. 8 in the AP poll and rose to No. 6 in the coaches poll, will have all they can handle against Virginia Tech.
“They’ve been underrated from the preseason,’’ Richt said of the Hokies. “I think they are one of the better teams in America and it’s going to be a great challenge for us.’’
UM fans, at least on social media and over the airwaves, are frustrated about the Canes making games unnecessarily too tight and struggling in several areas, such as third-down conversions (118th of 129 FBS teams nationally) and run-blocking.
“It’s when you lose a game and those same issues pop up, and I’m talking about fans and even the media at times,’’ Richt said. “We as coaches, win or lose, we’re always trying to correct mistakes. In the end if you win that’s the bottom line.
“Some third-down issues we’ve had, no doubt. But we also had three touchdown passes and more than a few explosive plays. We got our offense mostly in big spurts and big chunk rather than the types of drives that maybe are more comforting to me as a coach and even to our fan base or even our defense.
“The bottom line is we are making those plays, we are scoring touchdowns and we are finding a way to win. That’s what’s most important.’’
·▪ Richt said freshman right guard Navaughn Donaldson (ankle sprain) “played a good bit’’ Saturday and is expected “to be fine’’ for Virginia Tech. He said UM’s offensive line has had “some great moments and not so great moments,’’ but that the Canes have “really struggled, quite frankly,’’ in the run game. “That’s offensive line, tight end, wide receiver blocking. We did not run-block very well at all in this last game. And we certainly better get better in a hurry.’’