Where the College Football Playoff selection committee placed the Miami Hurricanes in its newest ranking Tuesday night might as well have come with a two-word note to UM coach Mark Richt:
The unbeaten Canes being ranked No. 3, after Alabama and — notably — right behind one-loss Clemson, was the best news Richt could possibly have gotten as he steers his team through the final two games of the regular season and then into the Dec. 2 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, against those same Clemson Tigers.
Perceived disrespect has been high-octane fuel for the Canes and a handy motivational tool for Richt, who is not shy to play the everybody-doubts-us-and-nobody-believes card to his players. That was the main theme of a video Richt showed his team prior to the Notre Dame game — a litany of national media types all picking the Fighting Irish, raving about the Irish offensive line, doubting Miami.
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You may have heard: The Canes won, 41-8, and, afterward, the driving force of disrespect was all UM players were talking about.
Now, presuming Miami and Clemson don’t stumble as big favorites in their final two games, chances are the Canes will have the motivation of being the better-record but lower-ranked team as they face Clemson for the ACC crown in a game that figures to send the winner into the CFP semifinals and likely knock the loser out of the top four.
Miami hosts Virginia on Saturday at noon and then plays at Pitt on Nov. 24. Clemson closes with The Citadel and South Carolina.
As of today UM figures to be the betting underdog in the conference title game as well as the lower-ranked team. ESPN’s Football Power Index estimates Clemson’s likelihood of beating Miami is 67.2 percent.
I was mildly surprised Clemson was ranked one spot ahead of Miami but (unlike some others in the local media with their comical outraged tweets) saw no cause for anger. It hardly qualifies as a snub, or an injustice. It’s one thing for a coach to understandably feed disrespect to his players, but it’s a bit unseemly for Your Friend The Media to pound that drum with such flimsy cause. Yes, the Tigers’ season blemish was a three-point road loss to Syracuse, a team UM beat at home 27-19. But it also is true Clemson has played one more ranked opponent than Miami. And, sorry, but if it was a close call, as I’m sure it was, shouldn’t the defending national champion sort of get the benefit of the doubt?
Besides, Clemson No. 2 to Miami’s No. 3 pretty much wrote Richt’s pregame speech for him.
“We’ll use whatever we need to motivate,” says the coach.
The CFP selection committee made it easy for him Tuesday night.