Tar Heels now await Tuesday’s release of College Football Playoff rankings, ACC title game outcome
By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina did all it could to improve its chances of making the Orange Bowl with a 62–26 blowout Saturday at Miami.
Now, the Tar Heels (8–3, 7–3 ACC) can only wait to see if they overtake the Hurricanes in Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings. The Canes (8–2, 7–2) were No. 10 and the Tar Heels No. 17 in last week’s rankings.
If the latest Associated Press Top 25 is any indication, that’s likely to happen. A week after Miami was No. 9 and UNC No. 20, the Tar Heels jumped to No. 16 and Miami fell to No. 19 in the latest poll released Sunday.
That’s the highest ranking for UNC since it was No. 15 on Oct. 25 after a 48–21 victory over N.C. State.
In the coaches poll, UNC jumped from No. 20 to No. 15 and Miami fell from No. 8 to No. 19, with the Tar Heels making the biggest jump in the poll and the Canes falling the most.
With a better CFP ranking than Miami, UNC would go to the Orange Bowl as long as both No. 2-ranked Notre Dame and No. 4-ranked Clemson make the College Football Playoff. That outcome is most likely to happen with a narrow Tigers victory over the Irish in Saturday’s ACC championship game in Charlotte.
If that worked out, who would UNC face in the Orange Bowl? ESPN , CBS, 247Sports and The Sporting News all project that the Tar Heels would face No. 5-ranked Texas A&M (7–1), coached by former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
The Aggies’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach? Former Chapel Hill High School quarterback Darrell Dickey.
Some poll shuffling was expected. In addition to Miami, other ranked teams to lose were Florida (was No. 6 but now is No. 11), Colorado (was No. 21 but now unranked) and Wisconsin (which went from No. 25 to unranked.)
N.C. State (8–3, 7–3) didn’t play but took advantage of the losses by Colorado and Wisconsin to enter the poll at No. 24 after receiving the 26th-most poll points a week earlier. The Wolfpack was ranked No. 23 for one week on Oct. 18, but fell out after losing to Carolina.
That gives the ACC the most teams in the poll at five (Notre Dame, Clemson, UNC, Miami and N.C. State) with four SEC teams (No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M, No. 10 Georgia and Florida) and four Big Ten teams (No. 3 Ohio State, No. 7 Indiana, No. 15 Northwestern and No. 18 Iowa) ranked.
Ranking UNC the highest at No. 11 are Dylan Sinn of The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., Eric Hansen of The South Bend Tribune and Rob Long of WJFK radio in Baltimore. Ranking the Tar Heels the lowest at No. 21 is Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.
All three North Carolina voters — Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsfan.com, Jonas Pope IV of The News & Observer and Conor O’Neill, a correspondent for McClatchy’s North Carolina newspapers — had UNC No. 15 on their ballots.
AP Top 25 football poll
Pool photo by Michael Laughlin