Heels return to AP poll at No. 20 but CFP rankings bigger

Orange Bowl possible with win at Miami

By R.L. Bynum

After a week out of the Top 25 and a blowout senior day victory, North Carolina is back in the AP Top 25 football poll at No. 20.

The poll figured to have plenty of changes after six teams in last week’s Top 25 lost, including four that were ranked No. 18 or lower: Wisconsin (was No. 18 now No. 25 after a 14-6 loss to Indiana), Oklahoma State (was No. 19 now unranked after a 29-22 loss to TCU), Oregon (No. 21 last week now unranked after a 21-17 loss to California) and Washington (No. 23 last week now unranked after a 31-26 loss to Stanford.)

North Carolina (7-3, 6-3 ACC), which throttled Western Carolina on Saturday 49-9, playing reserves for practically the entire second half, was No. 25 two weeks ago. After the Tar Heels’ 31-17 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame, they fell out of the poll with the 26th-most poll points.

The Tar Heels also returned to the coaches’ poll, where they are ranked No. 20 after getting the 27th-most poll points a week earlier.

The polls are nice but College Football Playoff rankings are much-more important and could make the difference between UNC playing in the Orange Bowl or settling for a lesser bowl.

A victory at No. 9 Miami (8-1, 7-1) at 3:30 p.m. (ABC) could put UNC in position to earn an Orange Bowl berth if Clemson (9-1, 8-1) narrowly beats Notre Dame (10-0, 9-0) in the ACC championship game.

If that happened, the Tigers and Irish likely both make the College Football Playoff.

The Orange Bowl would have to take the highest remaining ACC team in the CFP rankings. ACC standings don’t enter the equation. UNC was No. 17 and Miami No. 10 in last week’s rankings. Whatever the new rankings are when they are announced Tuesday, UNC has a decent chance of earning a better ranking than the Hurricanes with a victory.

Miami has opened as a 3-point favorite.

In the AP poll, Ron Counts of the Idaho Statesman ranked UNC the highest at No. 15 and four voters left the Tar Heels out of their Top 25: Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Brian Howell of the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo., Davis Potter of the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune and David Jablonski of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News.

All three North Carolina voters ranked UNC. Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsFan.com put the Heels at No. 21. Jonas Pope IV of The News & Observer and Conor O’Neill, a correspondent for North Carolina’s McClatchy newspapers, both have UNC No. 22.

AP Top 25

Others receiving votes: North Carolina State 98, Marshall 66, San Jose State 66, Oklahoma State 33, UCF 11, Boise State 10, Washington 10, Auburn 9, Missouri 8, Nevada 5, Army 2, UCLA 1, TCU 1.

Pool photo by Robert Willett

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