University of Miami

Military Bowl is latest UM projection, but strong finish can provide boost

Brad Kaaya and the Miami Hurricanes have regular-season games remaining against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh before their bowl game.
Brad Kaaya and the Miami Hurricanes have regular-season games remaining against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh before their bowl game. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya knew right away what was worth fighting for after Miami lost 59-21 on Saturday at North Carolina, the goal of winning the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference snuffed out with the loss.

“We’ve just got to win the rest of our games and go to a good bowl game,” Kaaya said. “That’s the motivation. At the end of the year we can hopefully finish 9-4. That’s the goal right now. Finish strong.”

The Canes (6-4, 3-3 ACC) face Georgia Tech at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in their home finale, then travel to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers (7-3, 5-1) on Nov. 27 — the day after Thanksgiving — in a game that was announced Monday for a noon kickoff on ABC or ESPN2.

Miami has gone 0-5 in bowl games since defeating Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho, on Dec. 31, 2006. With two games to go, the newest bowl projection for the Hurricanes from ESPN.com analyst Mark Schlabach and CBSSports.com analyst Jerry Palm is the Military Bowl — vs. Navy — at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 28 in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Military, which pits the ACC vs. Navy or an American Athletic Conference team, is part of the ACC’s lowest tier of bowls that also includes the Independence (ACC vs. SEC) in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Dec. 26 and Quick Lane (ACC vs. Big Ten) in Detroit on Dec. 28.

But on Monday ACC senior associate commissioner of football operations Michael Strickland said UM’s remaining outcomes could also put it in a higher-tier bowl that includes the Belk in Charlotte, North Carolina (ACC vs. SEC) on Dec. 30; Sun in El Paso, Texas (ACC vs. Pac-12) on Dec. 26; Pinstripe in New York City (ACC vs. Big Ten) on Dec. 26; and either the Taxslayer in Jacksonville (ACC vs. SEC) on Jan. 2 or Music City in Nashville (ACC vs. SEC) on Dec. 30.

“Miami has two more games,’’ Strickland said by phone, “so its final win tally could be six, seven or eight — and that’s similar to Louisville (6-4, 5-2), N.C. State (6-4, 2-4) and Duke (6-4, 3-3), and it’s competitive with Pittsburgh (7-3, 5-1), which could get to nine wins. All those teams could be kind of jumbled in there together, which would mean Miami would certainly be in consideration by the four games above the Military, Independence and Quick Lane.”

One thing reasonably certain, according to Strickland, is that the Canes won’t return to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl (this year it’s sponsored by Camping World instead of Duck Commander), where they lost to South Carolina in what turned out to be coach Steve Spurrier’s final bowl game.

“Our institutions and bowl partners have agreed through our discussions and new contracts that all other things being equal, sending a team back to the same bowl destination in consecutive years is not desirable for anyone,’’ Strickland said. “It doesn’t mean it’s prohibited outright, but we would certainly like to avoid that if possible.”

Strickland said that once the College Football Playoff Selection Committee makes its selections on Dec. 6, “we start our non-CFP bowl selection process.”

The Russell Athletic Bowl (ACC vs. Big 12), which has “a free and clear selection,” Strickland said, picks first. Immediately after that, he said, officials from the Belk, Sun, Pinstripe and Taxslayer join ACC commissioner John Swofford and Strickland in a meeting to “work collectively” to “put together the best possible matchups” that “avoid repeat bowl trips.”

Strickland said “there is no contractual ability outright by the ACC” to force bowls to make certain selections. “It went very smoothly last season,” he said.

Once those four bowls pick, the ACC’s three second-tier bowls meet with Swofford and Strickland “to have that same type of discussion to see what works best for everyone.” However, in the case of those three bowls, if no one can agree on who they want, the process defaults to an ordered selection of the Military, followed by the Independence and Quick Lane.

Bottom line: “There’s still a lot of football to be played,” he said.

Susan Miller Degnan: 305-376-3366, @smillerdegnan

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