HUR­RI­CANES’ HUR­RAH

UM slot­ted one spot be­hind one-loss Clem­son

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Christy Cabr­era Chiri­nos Staff writer

Mi­ami moves up to No. 3 in play­off rank­ings.

CO­RAL GABLES – All sea­son long, after ev­ery win, the Mi­ami Hur­ri­canes have stressed they aren’t pay­ing much at­ten­tion to their as­cent in the na­tional rank­ings. As long as they keep win­ning, they say, things will con­tinue tak­ing care of them­selves.

But it’d be hard to fault the Hur­ri­canes if they weren’t at least a lit­tle bit proud of their lat­est ac­com­plish­ment, an­other first for the surg­ing pro­gram. It would also be hard to fault them if they felt a lit­tle miffed, too.

After its dom­i­nat­ing 41-8 win over then third-ranked Notre Dame, UM rose four spots to No. 3 in the lat­est Col­lege Foot- ball Play­off rank­ings an­nounced Tues­day night. It’s the first time the Hur­ri­canes (9-0) have earned one of the cov­eted top four spots that would put them in a na­tional semi­fi­nal were the sea­son to end now.

But Mi­ami — which has won 14 straight and hasn’t lost this sea­son — was one spot be­hind one-loss Clem­son in the top four. Adding a lit­tle bit more po­ten­tial fuel to that fire? Clem­son’s loss was to a Syra­cuse team the Hur­ri­canes beat 27-19 in Oc­to­ber.

Round­ing out the top four were Alabama at No. 1 and Ok­la­homa at No. 4. Ge­or­gia and Notre Dame, both of whom were in the top four last week and lost, fell to No. 7 and No. 8, re­spec­tively.

“There was tremen­dous de­bate be­tween No. 2 Clem­son

and No. 3 Mi­ami,” said Col­lege Football Play­off Se­lec­tion Com­mit­tee Chair Kirby Ho­cutt, who briefly served as Mi­ami’s ath­letic di­rec­tor.

“They’re two teams that look very sim­i­lar. Both are play­ing elite de­fense. … Very close sep­a­ra­tion be­tween those two teams. I think what gave Clem­son the edge this week over a Mi­ami team that has re­ally im­pressed us the last two weeks was the [Tigers’] win against Auburn. [Clem­son] has two road vic­to­ries that are very im­pres­sive to the com­mit­tee. Mi­ami has not played a win­ning team on the road yet. And that’s some­thing that has given Clem­son a slight edge this week, their per­for­mance on the road. … Clem­son’s re­sume they put to­gether with six wins over teams with win­ning records is the most of any team in our top 25 rank­ings this week.”

As ex­cit­ing as it may be to think about the pos­si­bil­ity of Mi­ami play­ing for the sixth na­tional cham­pi­onship in pro­gram his­tory, the Hur­ri­canes un­der­stand there is still plenty of work to be done, start­ing Satur­day with their reg­u­larsea­son home fi­nale against Vir­ginia.

That’s one of the rea­sons more than a few of them — in­clud­ing coach Mark Richt — said they prob­a­bly weren’t go­ing to be watch­ing as the new rank­ings were un­veiled.

“I doubt I’m go­ing to watch the show,” Richt said ear­lier in the day. “But I will know what it is. I would have to say that we’ve moved up, like I fig­ured we would if we won. No mat­ter where we are, if we keep win­ning, we’ll stay up, maybe move up [higher]. Ob­vi­ously if we lose, we’ll go down. There’s at least three more games, I guess, be­fore ev­ery­thing is de­cided. We have a long way to go yet.”

Added de­fen­sive end Joe Jack­son, “Me, my­self per­son­ally, I re­ally don’t care. And as a de­fense, I think we don’t care at all. I can’t re­ally say for the whole team. We know we’re go­ing be top four or what­ever, but we’re just fo­cused on win­ning. We’re tak­ing it each game at a time and so when that hap­pens, it hap­pens. But we have to fin­ish the sea­son right so we can still have that chance in the end.”

For Mi­ami, things have changed a bit since their win over Notre Dame.

Many of the na­tional col­lege football pun­dits that crit­i­cized the Hur­ri­canes for win­ning four games in Oc­to­ber by a com­bined 18 points, have now started singing Mi­ami’s praises.

And after years of chas­ing some of the top teams in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence, the Hur­ri­canes — who clinched their first Coastal Divi­sion crown last week­end — un­der­stand they’re now a tar­get for up­set-minded teams like the Cava­liers (6-4) and Pitts­burgh, whom they’ll face on the Pan­thers’ home field on Nov. 24.

After that, the Hur­ri­canes will have to con­tend with Clem­son in the ACC Cham­pi­onship Game on Dec. 2 in Char­lotte.

If Mi­ami is to keep its play­off hopes alive, they’ll have to keep on win­ning. That’s why while Tues­day night’s CFP rank­ings may have made them proud for a mo­ment, there will be no dwelling on their lat­est ac­com­plish­ment.

There may, though, be some men­tion of the fact Hur­ri­canes — who have thrived on be­ing doubted this sea­son — were ranked be­hind Clem­son, who is al­ready the fa­vorite in the ACC Cham­pi­onship Game.

JOHN MCCALL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Univer­sity of Mi­ami play­ers have a rea­son to cel­e­brate as they moved up four spots and into the football play­off, for now. Alabama, Clem­son and Ok­la­homa round out the other three spots.

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