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College football week ahead: Miami expected to make a big leap in CFP rankings

College football week ahead: Miami expected to make a big leap in CFP rankings
Miami linebacker Shaquille Quarterman (55) reacts after a play against Notre Dame on Nov. 11. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

At least one person isn’t ready to proclaim that the Miami football program is officially back.

That would be the Hurricanes’ outspoken linebacker Shaquille Quarterman.

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“No, we’ve got to get the ring first,” he said.

But with the College Football Playoff picture changing drastically from week to week, as if some divine presence keeps punching the reset button, Miami figures to take a big jump in the CFP rankings on Tuesday.

If the Associated Press poll is any indicator — its voters lifted the Hurricanes five notches to No. 2 after Saturday’s convincing win over Notre Dame — Quarterman and his teammates should be smack dab in the middle of the national championship race.

Miami had faced a degree of skepticism through the early season, thanks mainly to close shaves against the likes of plummeting Florida State and two additional unranked opponents in Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

Winning by almost five touchdowns against a Fighting Irish team that was ranked third in the nation changes all that, especially with a CFP protocol that values quality wins.

The Hurricanes figure to get a break against underdog Virginia and Pittsburgh in the next two weeks, but then will get Clemson, ranked fourth by the CFP, in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

Maybe that’s why Quarterman insisted his team isn’t yet satisfied.

“We have to keep going,” he said.

Inching closer

AP No. 5 Wisconsin (CFP No. 8) also appears to be climbing the ranks despite a less-than-impressive schedule to date.

With so many highly ranked teams losing over the last few weeks, the undefeated Badgers are sneaking up on the CFP’s final four and could not have picked a better time to face Michigan, which rose a couple of spots to No. 19 in the AP poll on Sunday.

“We’re just going to do what we do,” offensive lineman Jason Erdmann said after his team cruised past Iowa, the CFP’s 20th-ranked team. “We’ll keep beating teams.”

A victory over Michigan at Camp Randall Stadium would give Wisconsin three wins over opponents currently ranked in the CFP’s Top 25, with a chance at four in the Big Ten Conference championship game.

West Coast freeze-out

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While it is true that USC players mused about an outside shot at the playoffs after their win at Colorado, they might be the only ones entertaining that possibility.

Last weekend put a further damper on the Pac-12 Conference’s hopes for a last-minute CFP run.

The problem is, the two-loss Trojans have only two chances to win votes, a game against UCLA, which won’t earn them any brownie points, quality win-wise, and the Pac-12 championship game.

Stanford and Washington State, sitting atop the conference’s North Division but outside the Top 10, don’t seem any more likely to make up enough ground with their remaining schedules.

Grin and bear it

As the season winds down, there is a top team that doesn’t seem to worry about strength of schedule.

Alabama — which figures to displace fallen Georgia in the CFP’s top slot this week — has opened the last couple of seasons with big matchups against ranked opponents.

But critics note that those games have been played at neutral sites and that the Crimson Tide have tended to populate their non-Southeastern Conference schedule with lesser competition.

After winning in the final moments at No. 16 Mississippi State last weekend, coach Nick Saban looked ahead. “We still have big games coming up,” he said. “Really big games.”

Next week’s opponent?

The Mercer University Bears.

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