Sims: Does Miami have a path to the College Football Playoff?

During the fourth quarter of Miami's 15-point win against Texas A&M, head coach Mario Cristobal looks up at the scoreboard before resuming play on Sept. 9, 2023 at Hard Rock Stadium Photo credit: Charisma Jones

It’s been quite the turnaround season for second-year head coach Mario Cristobal and the Miami Hurricanes. After a disappointing season last year, the ‘Canes have rebounded for a successful start so far this fall. The ‘Canes are already 4-0 before they enter Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play.

Miami has a tough test against the 14th-ranked University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels on October 14. If Miami is able to topple the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, they could be looking at an undefeated record heading into the clash with the fifth-ranked Florida State University (FSU) Seminoles. If they escape Tallahassee with a win, could the ‘Canes find themselves in the College Football Playoff?

Let’s dive into it.

The Hurricanes would have a record of 9-0 with wins against multiple top-25 opponents. They’d surely be ranked in the top-12 after a victory against UNC, and if they are able to hold off Clemson, N.C. State and Virginia before FSU, could be a top-10 team if other programs ranked ahead of them falter. Miami should only have a real problem with UNC and Clemson. While Clemson is not ranked in the top-25 as they’ve been in the past, it is still an immensely talented team that Cristobal and his ‘Canes can’t take lightly. We will see a lot about what kind of team Miami is after they play the UNC Tar Heels. If the ‘Canes get a victory in that game, they’d be a top-12 team in the country.

So let’s say that this happens. The ‘Canes are rolling and they are ranked in the top ten in the country with signature wins over Texas A&M, UNC, and Clemson. There should be an opportunity to topple a top-five team. The only game in which Florida State should be challenged is its October 21 matchup with Duke. The Blue Devils are ranked 19th in the nation and would be a nice win for the Seminoles. Unless FSU gets upset, it will be a top-five team when it comes time to face the ‘Canes.

Imagine Miami is able to win that game. It moves to 10-0 on the season with a plethora of signature wins. Assuming that UM is able to beat Florida State, it should have no issue with Louisville and Boston College to end the year. The ‘Canes would go 12-0 and be 8-0 in ACC play. Then, they’d probably have to battle the Seminoles again in the ACC Championship game. Any way it’s dialed up, the ‘Canes have to beat FSU. They can afford to lose to the Seminoles in ACC play, but if they want a shot at the playoff, they have to win in the ACC Championship game.

What if they do? The ‘Canes go undefeated and are 13-0 to end the year. They would have to be included. Well, the chances of the ‘Canes being undefeated is slim, but if they are able to beat the Seminoles in the ACC Championship game, the chances of being a top-four team are better than some people may think.

Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State all have to play each other. The trio of Big Ten East schools are all ranked in the top six. In all likelihood, only one of those teams ends up in the top four because of the head-to-head records they will have.

A similar scenario will play out in the Pac-12. USC, Oregon and Washington are all ranked in the top-10 and all have to play each other still. All three of those squads have playoff potential, but only one of them will come out on top and be able to reach the playoff. Or maybe they all falter and none of them reach the playoff. Either way, this could create more opportunities for Miami.

The only two remaining teams that could threaten the spots are Georgia and Texas. Both of these are ranked in the top three and Georgia gets the honor of being the top team in the nation. Georgia has an average schedule, and the only challenge they will get will be from one of Ole Miss, Missouri or Tennessee. That trio is all ranked in the top-25 and could pose a threat to Georgia’s number-one spot. The Bulldogs have looked shaky in the past few weeks and could be at risk of losing their spot on top of college football.

If Texas wins this week against Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown, then it can all but guarantee itself a spot in the playoff. There are no other ranked opponents on the Longhorns’ schedule besides Oklahoma that remain. So, for Texas and Georgia, it’s a win-and-they-are-in this type of situation.

More than likely, Georgia and Texas are in. One of the Big Ten schools will get in, but that leaves a spot open for another team. That team could be Miami.

If Miami can continue with the momentum it is building, keep collecting wins, take care of business against teams it should beat, perform in primetime and win the ACC Championship, it could certainly find itself in the College Football Playoff.