When the Miami Hurricanes earned a berth in the Orange Bowl last year for the first time since the 2003 season, it provided a sense that UM was trending toward competing for a national championship again.
An appearance in the hometown bowl game again this year would all but confirm that notion.
That’s because the Orange Bowl serves as one of the two College Football Playoff Semifinal sites for the 2018-19 season, with the other being the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Both games will take place on Dec. 29 with the winners meeting up for the national championship on Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
If it were to happen, UM would be the first team in the five-year history of the College Football Playoff to play a semifinal or championship game in its home stadium.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
However, the possibility of it becoming reality will be driven by two factors.
The first, simply enough, is actually being ranked as one of the top-four teams in the 13-member CFP committee’s final poll on Dec. 2. The Hurricanes are on the outside looking in at the moment after dropping their season opener against LSU, now ranked No. 5 in the AP poll. That doesn’t completely eliminate Miami from the playoff conversation, but it makes the road tougher.
In the most realistic sense, the Hurricanes will have to sweep through Atlantic Coast Conference play and win the conference championship game to land one of those four coveted playoff spots.
“If they earned it, they’d be in the playoff,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium before No. 16 Miami’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener against North Carolina. “It’s as simple as that. If they earn it they’ll be in there.”
The second would depend on how the four teams are seeded.
In simplest terms, Hancock said, “It’s driven by No. 1.”
The top-ranked team will play wherever it could theoretically have the largest home-field advantage, so if the Hurricanes end up as the No. 4 seed, Hancock said “there’s a pretty good chance that ... the game would go somewhere else.”
So in essence, UM would either need to head into the playoffs as the No. 1 team to secure the home-field advantage or end as No. 2 or 3 with a No. 1 team that would benefit more by playing in Texas than Miami.
“The committee seeds the teams just based on how they seed them with no thought to what the pairings might be,” Hancock added. “That’s the way it goes with the committee.”
Regardless, this season marks the second time Hard Rock Stadium will serve as a semifinal site. The first came in 2015, when Clemson defeated Oklahoma 37-17 before falling to Alabama in the title game.
Hard Rock Stadium, which finished a nearly $500 million renovation in 2016, will also serve as the site of the 2021 college football national championship game.
“This place is remarkable,” Hancock said. “Y’all may be immune to it. You may be spoiled by it, but don’t take it for granted. It is one of the most remarkable stadiums in our country. We’ve built some great new stadiums in America in the last few years. You can go down the list. ... This place is awesome. It really is.”
This and that
▪ Scouts from 12 NFL teams were in attendance on Thursday: Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and New York Jets.
▪ UM great Ed Reed has been named to the 2018 ACC Football Legends class. The rest of the 14-member class includes Boston College’s Mathias Kiwanuka, Clemson’s Brian Dawkins, Duke’s Steve Spurrier, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt, Louisville’s Roman Oben,North Carolina’s Ron Rusnak, NC State’s Mario Williams, Pitt’s Mark May, Syracuse’s Don McPherson, Virginia’s Herman Moore, Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal and Wake Forest’s Steve Justice. The class will be honored on Nov. 30 ahead of the ACC Championship Game.