The Miami Hurricanes continued their climb up the national college football rankings this week, settling in at No. 10 in both the AP and Coaches’ polls.
The Canes remained undefeated with a 35-21 victory on the road at Georgia Tech. Miami is 4-0 for the sixth time since 2000 and has been quite impressive in doing so. The Canes are averaging 47 points per game while allowing just 11. They’ve outscored the opposition by a combined total of 188-44.
Miami’s rise to No. 10 marks the first time the Canes have been the highest-ranked FBS team in the state of Florida since Nov. 14, 2010. The top-10 ranking also marks the highest for the Canes in both polls since Nov. 2, 2013.
Which begs the question: “Are the Canes the best college football team in Florida?”
A year ago that exact same question would have rightly drawn a boisterous chuckle, but not today — not with Mark Richt at the helm, providing what appears to be a very bright future for the program under his leadership.
Among Power Five conference teams in the Sunshine State, Miami is the only one left that is still undefeated, hence the higher ranking. The question: Is Miami better than Florida or Florida State? The second part of that question will be answered on Saturday when the Canes host FSU at 8 p.m. Eastern time in Hard Rock Stadium.
The Seminoles, ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 21 in the coaches’ poll, aren’t having the kind of season they were hoping for, with two losses after opening the schedule with a most impressive win over SEC power Ole Miss.
The Seminoles should come out with their hair on fire Saturday. Miami should get their best shot, not only because FSU wants to silence its critics, but also because this is as bitter a rivalry as there is in college football.
Vegas has installed the Canes as the favorite in this game by 2.5 to 3 points. They probably get that much for home-field advantage, meaning these two teams are pretty even in terms of strengths and abilities.
Still, given the disarray of the Seminoles against Louisville and North Carolina (their two losses), it wouldn’t be out of the question to place Miami ever so slightly ahead of the Noles in the pecking order.
Where does Florida fit into the equation? The Gators should be undefeated at this point in the season, but they let a sizable (21-0) lead slip away at Rocky Top.
Still, that defense is formidable. Tennessee’s big-play offense is the only one this season that has been able to score more than one touchdown in a game. The Gators held UMass and Kentucky to 7 points before shutting out North Texas. They rallied after the Tennessee debacle to hold Vanderbilt without a touchdown (two field goals) as well.
We’ll also know more about the Gators this week when they host a revitalized LSU team, but right now, Florida is still No. 2 in the country in total defense, giving up an average of only 229.8 yards per game. Only Boston College (202) is better. The Canes are No. 7 (253.3).
Offense, on the other hand, is a different story. At No. 77 in total offense, averaging 407.2 yards per game, the Gators can’t be considered the best team in the state until they improve that number.
With microscopic differences among the three teams, Miami does seem to have its nose slightly ahead of the pack in this race. However, Florida State has an opportunity to slap it back on Saturday and take its place as the front-runner in the Sunshine State.