ESPN expects Miami football to make case for College Football Playoff

Dec 29, 2020; Orlando, FL, USA; Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2020; Orlando, FL, USA; Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports /

ESPN projects the Miami football team to make a case for the 2021 College Football Playoff. In an article “Ranking all 130 college football teams in tiers for the 2021 season” Miami is “Tier 3: Teams we’ll spend a lot of time making a case for who won’t actually make the playoff.”  Miami is coming off of an 8-3 2020 season.

The Miami football team returns 19 starters, 10 on offense and nine on defense, plus punter Louis Hedley. Miami improved in 2020 from a 6-7 season in 2019. The 2020 season was the best Miami had since finishing 2017 10-3. The 2017 Hurricanes won the ACC Coastal Divison and appeared in the Orange Bowl.

For Miami to have a chance to move up into Tier two which is “Knocking on the door,” they have to defeat North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2021. The Tar Heels are among the teams in Tier Two with Florida, and Notre Dame part of the seven teams in the second level of teams. Five teams make up Tier One teams.

Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma make up the top level. Miami needs to stack multiple top 10  recruiting classes together to reach the level of those five programs. The losses to Clemson and North Carolina in 2020 and to a far lesser extent Oklahoma State exposed what Miami needs to improve on.

"“Be an elite blue blood or have a workable path to finish undefeated in a Power 5 conference. None of the teams in this tier quite fit that standard, but they’re all good enough to provide us with a lot of interesting hypotheticals as the 2021 season unfolds. On the flip side, there’s Washington, Miami and USC.All three recruit at an elite level, but have also vastly underperformed that talent in the past few seasons. If you’re betting on one of the programs in this tier to rise up, those three represent the safer wagers, but all would be something of a surprise.”"

In most seasons a victory for Miami over North Carolina would give the Hurricanes the potential for an undefeated path to the ACC Championship Game. Miami plays Alabama in the 2021 opener. Awaiting an ACC Title Game would likely be Clemson who won the Atlantic Divison from 2015-19 before divisions were vacated in 2020.

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The Division format in the ACC will return in 2021. The Miami-North Carolina game in 2020 was originally thought to be a de-facto ACC Coastal Division Championship Game. The winner between Miami and North Carolina on October 16 in Chapel Hill will be the prohibitive front runner to win the Coastal in 2020.