It took back-to-back wins against Top 25 opponents to finally certify the statement, but Miami is back -- and in the national title hunt. The unbeaten Hurricanes have been slowly working their way up the various college football rankings -- be they AP Top 25, Coaches Poll or College Football Playoff Rankings -- but no one seemed ready to sign off on this year's group as being anything more than being a threat in the ACC Coastal Division and "one year away" from something really special. But just like Ohio State in 2014, what if the early year is the right year for Miami?
Nine starters on Miami's depth chart are freshman or sophomores, but as this year has progressed, they've continued to improve and gel together. A "solid team" by Mark Richt's own assessment has battled adversity and now close victories against lesser competition has evolved into blowout wins against the best teams in the country.
You might have looked at Miami as being "one year away" or a good story, but now this story demands your attention. Voters, after treating Miami lightly for the entire season, will respond to one of the most stunning results of the season by making the Hurricanes the No. 2 team in the country on Sunday, and it's possible the CFP Selection Committee could put them even higher when the CFP Rankings come out on Tuesday.
1. Alabama (Previous week -- 1): Jalen Hurts might end up sneaking into the Heisman Trophy conversation with these clutch performances in high-profile November games, and guiding the Crimson Tide back to the College Football Playoff might be a path to securing the stiff-arm trophy in December. As Alabama's playmakers continue to develop, things will open back up for the rushing attack. It's crazy to consider as we think about Alabama, but right now its defense might need to lean on the offense for the Tide to win a title.
2. Miami (7): The value of speed, athleticism and coaching was on full display as Miami put it on Notre Dame early and ran the Irish out of the (very loud) building on Saturday night. The Hurricanes hit unprecedented status before kickoff by clinching the ACC Coastal, but now we've got territory that is familiar and a little nostalgic with the Hurricanes hunting a national championship.
3. Clemson (4): Taking care of business against Florida State locks up the ACC Atlantic Division, sending Clemson back to the ACC Championship Game for the third consecutive season. While the hype for a high-profile playoff play-in against Miami builds, Clemson still has to get past an improved (and improving) South Carolina team to keep its spot in the top four of the selection committee's rankings.
4, Oklahoma (5): A 38-14 halftime advantage allowed the Sooners to protect their lead in the second half and ride Rodney Anderson's big day to a huge victory that moves them one step closer to returning to the College Football Playoff.
5, Wisconsin (6): The Badgers have an argument as one of the best teams in the country, but the AP voters still won't jump on board. It will take the Michigan victory -- and if not that, maybe a Big Ten Championship Game victory -- before the AP voters are willing to slot Wisconsin over Oklahoma or Clemson.
6. Auburn (10): The defense that made many pick Auburn for one of those special seasons showed up early and established an advantage against Georgia after the Bulldogs' first scoring drive. Knowing that Auburn's defense wasn't going to allow any kind of success on the ground let Gus Malzahn and the offensive staff to be methodical with what became one of the most impressive victories in this series for either side given the implications.
7, Georgia (2): It seemed like this top-ranked Georgia team came in too hyped and made too many errors early to ever get comfortable. The Bulldogs are a ground-and-pound team that are excellent with leverage but not built to storm back from a big deficit. Once the game got out of hand early, Auburn got to ride its defense and a lively environment in Jordan-Hare. The question now is whether Georgia can regroup and find its way into the playoff by winning out and knocking off Alabama (or Auburn) in Atlanta.
8. Ohio State (11): The stark contrast between Ohio State's wins of 28 points or more (there are seven) and the three games against Penn State, Oklahoma and Iowa (1-2). When the Buckeyes get it rolling, they look like one of the most unbeatable teams in the country, and yet we've seen them not only look beatable but be defeated. There's a scenario that puts Ohio State back in the playoff picture, but it feels like we need to take it one week at a time with this group.
9. Notre Dame (3): Likely out of the playoff race, Notre Dame's big challenge will be keeping the team focused after a bad loss with plenty of mistakes and blame to go around. The Irish are still going to be a candidate for a New Year's Six bid, but even that will take some improved play to get past Navy and Stanford.
10. TCU (8): The good news for TCU is that the mistakes are correctable and the Horned Frogs will likely get another shot at the Sooners in the Big 12 title game. Oklahoma State's victory against Iowa State means TCU just has to win out (at Texas Tech, vs. Baylor) to get one of the two spots in the title game.
11. Oklahoma State (12): The Cardiac Cowboys have a back door into the Big 12 title game but right now need a lot of help and a strong finish. There were some crucial errors at Iowa State but it's still a quality victory for an Oklahoma State team that needed a strong bounce back after the crushing loss to Oklahoma.
12. UCF (14): The Knights are 9-0 and now two wins away from a perfect regular season, but talk of a New Year's Six bowl game will be silenced if UCF can't take care of business in its rivalry game against South Florida in two weeks.
13. USC (15): The Pac-12 South belongs to the Trojans, and as long as they take care of business against UCLA they'll have a much-needed week off to get healthy and prepped for a Pac-12 championship game that could have College Football Playoff implications.
14. Penn State (16): This was a good game for Penn State to hit the reset button. It wasn't a particularly pretty win, but the Nittany Lions had enough of an advantage to work out some kinks and cruise after a rough start to the game.
15. Mississippi State (18): The Bulldogs had victory in their hands against the Crimson Tide, and so I don't see any step out of order for them in the poll even after suffering a loss.
16. Washington State (19):Utah turned the ball over on three of first four possessions and never led, giving Washington State plenty of cushion in a game where the Cougars ended up kicking field goals more often than they were scoring touchdowns -- though Luke Falk's three scores did move him past Matt Barkley on the Pac-12 career touchdown passes list.
17. Memphis (20): The Tigers were idle in Week 11.
18. Michigan (21):Brandon Peters and the Michigan offense capitalized on a couple of key opportunities in the first half to establish a lead that a hobbled Maryland team wasn't going to overcome. It helped the Wolverines cruise to a 35-10 road victory heading into a showdown next week with Wisconsin.
19. South Florida (22): The Bulls were idle in Week 11
20. West Virginia (23):Will Grier got hot (372 yards and four touchdowns) after the Mountaineers got off to a shaky start and Justin Crawford got it going on the ground with 113 rushing yards. West Virginia will keep its spot in the top 25 with a 7-3 record but has some work ahead to keep that status with Texas and Oklahoma left on the regular-season schedule.
21. LSU (NR): After a slow start, the better team emerged as LSU pulled away from Arkansas in the second half. The games left on LSU's schedule are ones where the Tigers will be favored, so now it's about Ed Orgeron's crew finishing strong and going into the postseason with a chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2013.
22. NC State (NR): This game had all the makings of a bad loss for NC State. The team was coming off a heart-breaking loss to Clemson, the game was at Boston College and the game started with a pair of missed field goals. This was a good win for Dave Doeren and a display of toughness to respond well when Boston College brought the fight early.
23. Stanford (NR): The Cardinal will likely be back in the rankings one week after falling out. Bryce Love was able to shine on a big stage (166 yards and three touchdowns with plenty of Heisman Trophy voters watching), but it was as encouraging to see the defense come up with huge stops on third and fourth down. It helped Stanford dictate the pace and flow of the game and the victory has the Cardinal one Washington State loss away from making the Pac-12 title game.
24. Washington (9): Washington needs Cal to beat Stanford next weekend in order to have a chance to play its way into the Pac-12 title game in the Apple Cup. The loss to Stanford is devastating for a team that has absolutely looked the part of a playoff contender but could not sustain another loss because of its standing in the eyes of the selection committee (likely a result of Washington's strength of schedule).
25. Michigan State (13): The worst loss to Ohio State under Mark Dantonio will result in a big drop for Michigan State. Ultimately, I think they hang on in the Top 25 as one of the top three-loss teams thanks to those wins against Penn State and Michigan.
Projected to drop out: Virginia Tech (17), Iowa State (24), Iowa (25)