Barry Jackson

Examining UM’s playoff scenarios; Thoughts, notes from Saturday’s win

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) throws in the first quarter as the University of Miami hosts Virginia Tech Hokies at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, November 4, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) throws in the first quarter as the University of Miami hosts Virginia Tech Hokies at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, November 4, 2017.

Thoughts, notes from UM’s 28-10 win against Virginia Tech:

• It’s obvious that Miami, at 8-0, is seriously underranked at No. 10 in the College Football Playoff ratings. (So, for that matter, is unbeaten Wisconsin at No. 9).

The Canes will move up to at least eighth after losses by two teams ahead of them: now two-loss Penn State and two-loss Ohio State.

But here’s a question: Why should Miami now be ranked behind any of the other one-loss teams ranked ahead of them? A case could be made for Notre Dame, whose only loss was a one-point defeat to unbeaten Georgia.

But after this convincing win, should UM really be behind a Clemson team that lost to a 4-5 Syracuse team, an Oklahoma team that lost to Iowa State and a TCU team that also lost to Iowa State, which has three losses. Why are their losses glossed over to the point that they’re rated ahead of an unbeaten Power 5 team (UM)?

You could make the case that it doesn’t matter, and that’s largely correct, because UM will be in the four-team college football playoff if it wins out.

But what if UM wins its final three regular season games but loses to Clemson in the ACC title game? Or what if UM loses narrowly to Notre Dame but then wins out (Virginia, at Pittsburgh) and beats Clemson in the ACC title game?

That’s where the CFP committee’s perception of UM comes into play.

Just for fun, let’s take the second scenario first - UM goes 3-1 down the stretch, winning the ACC title game but losing to Notre Dame. (UM hasn’t clinched the Coastal yet but has a sizable edge, with the closest teams - Virginia and Virginia Tech - each having two losses.)

You can eliminate the loser of the TCU-Oklahoma game next Saturday. So if Alabama and Wisconsin win out, any chance of UM getting a CFP bid in this “beat Clemson/lose to Notre Dame” scenario would hinge on perhaps two of these three things happening: Georgia losing twice or Notre Dame losing at Stanford or possibly the TCU/Oklahoma winner losing again, though I’m not sure that last one should matter.

Georgia, which is very good, will be underdogs against Alabama in the SEC title game. So that’s potentially one loss. Georgia also has to go to Auburn and Georgia Tech, so a second loss, while not likely, isn’t inconceivable.

And there’s no assurance by any means that Wisconsin will run the table. Wisconsin closes with Iowa, Michigan, at Minnesota and the Big 10 championship. It would be interesting to see how the committee would rate a one-loss Wisconsin compared with a one-loss Miami.

After playing Oklahoma, TCU closes with Texas Tech on the road and Baylor. After playing TCU, Oklahoma closes at Kansas and home against West Virginia.

What about UM winning its last three regular season games and losing to Clemson? In that case, if Alabama and Wisconsin win out, then Clemson likely would be the third team and Miami would be an underdog against a one-loss Georgia team or the winner of the TCU/Oklahoma game for the final CFP berth.

That’s why a Georgia loss to Auburn or Georgia Tech (as well as a loss to Alabama) would be so helpful to Miami if the Hurricanes lose. And I certainly don’t want to rule out the possibility of Georgia beating Alabama in the SEC championship. But it’s hard to fathom Alabama losing twice; the Crimson Tide must also play at Mississippi State and at Auburn and home to Mercer.

• Let’s not understate what Jaquan Johnson is doing. Not only has he been exemplary as UM’s last line of defense the past five weeks, but he made two huge plays tonight - a forced fumble and an interception. There’s no safety in the country playing better than Johnson.

• This was the best game of the year for UM’s defense, which held Virginia Tech to 10 points, just 299 yards total offense, a 2.4 rushing average (43-102), 197 yards passing and made impressive Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson look ordinary, with two picks.

The Hokies were 3 for 14 on third down, 0 for 3 on fourth down. Tech averaged just 4 yards per play.

“If I don’t throw that third pick, I don’t think they score [a touchdown]” on a short field, Malik Rosier said.

• Michael Jackson made two great plays in coverage; he leads the ACC in passer rating against and ABC’s Kirk Herbstreit called him “one of the top corners in the country. He can cover but he’s physical... in run support.”

The defensive tackles were stout, and Richard McIntosh Jr. returned a fumble off the Johnson strip. Chad Thomas was very good, forcing an incompletion with pressure on one sequence and setting the edge effectively. Joe Jackson, who has shown flashes of improving as a run defender, made a couple stops for losses or no gain and also had a sack. Sheldrick Redwine ended Virginia Tech’s final drive with a pick.

Shaquille Quarterman was active and impactful, Trent Harris made his presence felt off the bench with a couple of sterling plays, and Trajan Bandy - starting as part of a five-defensive back package - wasn’t perfect but certainly held his own.

And freshman defensive end Jon Garvin, who’s going to be an excellent player, forced a fumble on a sack.

• Only nine quarterbacks who had thrown at least 200 passes entered with fewer interceptions than Malik Rosier’s four. He had three tonight, but compensated with his legs (13 carries, 84 yards, including a 36-yard TD) and touchdown throws to Braxton Berrios and Chris Herndon, who did most of his damage on his 51-yarder with yards after the catch.

“Offensive line did a really good job,” Rosier told WQAM.

• Herndon, a very good blocker, assuredly has impressed NFL scouts with 51-yard and 43-yard touchdown receptions the past two weeks.

• UM, which entered 119th in the country in third down conversion (30 percent), went to third down only eight times and converted three.

• A few personnel notes: Even though cornerback Dee Delaney is healthy, the Canes continued to stick with Jackson, Malek Young, Bandy and some Jhavonte Dean, who mistimed his leap on a long Tech completion... Navaughn Donaldson returned to the starting lineup at right guard.

• Good night for Travis Homer, who had 14 carries for 95 yards, including the 64-yard TD. UM worked in Deejay Dallas and he had six carries for 32 yards. Dallas wasn’t aggressive enough going for a first down on his one catch, coming up just short and earning a lecture from Mark Richt. But he came back with an impressive run for 19. Dallas has been explosive in practice, and UM coaches have wanted to get him involved.

• Ahmmon Richards had three catches for 57 yards, Berrios three for 50 and Homer one for 20.

Jeff Thomas went without a catch, with one pass to him intercepted and another drawing a defensive pass interference. Darrell Langham, Lawrence Cager and Dionte Mullins also didn’t make a catch, as Rosier completed just 10 passes (in 21 attempts) for 193 yards.

Berrios was involved in two interesting plays earlier -a reverse that gained nine on Miami’s first play and a pass to Rosier for 17 yards.

• Richt is now 17-4 at UM, with 13 consecutive wins, the nation’s longest win streak. Herbstreit said “it was getting a little stale” for Richt at Georgia. “The change of scenery, it’s almost like he’s got a youthful energy to him,” Herbstreit said.

Said Chris Fowler: “It gave Georgia a boost as well, some fresh energy.”

• Richt on WQAM: “Defensively obviously played beautiful. Offensive line, maybe the best game since I’ve been here. When you can slow a run game down without having to blitz, it’s huge. How many times has somebody had a deep shot against us for a touchdown? I don’t think there’s been one. That’s because the defensive line is able to get the job done without putting ourselves in position where we don’t [need to have] help on the back end.”

• Miami is 8-0 for the first time since 2002.

• ABC announced that College GameDay, ESPN’s popular pregame show, will originate from UM’s Coral Gables campus next Saturday morning. ABC will air the game at 8 p.m.

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