University of Miami

UM rises in College Football Playoff rankings, waits on Notre Dame showdown

Miami Hurricanes tight end Christopher Herndon IV scores against Virginia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, November 4, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes tight end Christopher Herndon IV scores against Virginia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, November 4, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Mark Richt had it right.

“If you win you move up. If you lose you move down,” the Miami Hurricanes coach reiterated Tuesday afternoon about the College Football Playoff rankings. “It’s really pretty simple right now.”

After Miami’s eight consecutive victories this season, that’s exactly what happened Tuesday night when The Associated Press’ No. 7 Hurricanes leaped from No. 10 to 7 in the CFP rankings that ultimately will determine the four teams in the playoff to decide the national champion.

Consider Miami’s 8 p.m. Saturday home showdown against AP and College Football Playoff No. 3 Notre Dame a de facto play-in that would likely result in Miami replacing Notre Dame in the top four next Tuesday night should the Hurricanes — a three-point underdog — pull off the upset.

The top four teams remained the same Tuesday: No. 1 Georgia (9-0), No. 2 Alabama (9-0), No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1) and No. 4 Clemson (8-1).

Above the Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who soundly defeated No. 13 Virginia Tech last Saturday, were No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 TCU.

Virginia Tech dropped to No. 17 on Tuesday.

“I’m thankful to be seventh,’’ Richt told host Rece Davis during the ESPN rankings show. “Like I said before, if we win we’ll move up.”

Then the coach twice noted that UM has “four more games’’ to play, though that will only happen if UM wins its Coastal Division and gets into the ACC Championship Game.

“We’ve got four more games to go — hopefully four,’’ Richt said. “We have three for sure, and we’re shooting for a fourth. … So, those are four huge games to be played. And if we win I think we’ll be fine. We’re just focused on trying to beat Notre Dame right now.”

UM, Wisconsin, Georgia and Alabama are the only four Power 5 conference teams to remain undefeated, but the Canes leapfrogged former No. 9 Wisconsin, a program considered to have a weaker schedule. The Badgers (9-0) moved up to No. 8, while Washington and Auburn rounded out the top 10.

UCF (8-0), the nation’s other undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision team, stayed at CFP No. 18 on Tuesday.

Should Miami lose to Notre Dame, the Canes would have a tough time getting into the top four — though they still could win the ACC Coastal Division (remaining ACC games are Virginia at home on Nov. 18 and at Pittsburgh the day after Thanksgiving) and go on to defeat their ACC title-game opponent, which likely would be defending champion Clemson.

If that should happen, UM would become one of several one-loss teams to have the playoff committee dissecting the merits of each program and why it belongs or doesn’t belong in the top four.

“I don’t even look at the rankings,’’ Miami linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said Tuesday after practice. “I don’t. The rankings are important when it comes down to the end of the season, but as of right now, I don’t expect us to get any of the notoriety that we should get.

“What’s important to me is winning every game that comes up every week and preparing the way we should. Everything else falls in place when we take care of our business.”

The Hurricanes, buoyed in this week’s rankings by Big Ten teams Penn State falling to Michigan State and Ohio State falling to Iowa last weekend, already were bypassed by six one-loss teams in the initial rankings last week. Penn State fell to No. 14 and Ohio State to No. 13.

The committee considers strength of schedule, head-to-head meetings, the outcome of games involving common opponents, “other relevant factors’’ and in a few weeks, the result of conference championship games.

Richt said winning close games this season has been “a little bit of cardiac kid kind of stuff.”

“Not really good for my heart,” the coach said, “but it was fine in the end when we won ’em. You gain trust in each other, you gain faith that the offense can score when we have to or the defense can get a stop when we need it the most. We know we need each other. It’s worked out well.”

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