Miami Moves Ahead of Unbeaten Alabama in AP Poll

Unbelievably, once-beaten Miami jumped ahead of 9-0 Alabama for the #3 spot in the AP poll.

Miami edges unbeaten Alabama for No. 3 ranking (AP)

Miami jumped over unbeaten Alabama, though just barely, and into the No. 3 spot in The Associated Press Top 25. The Hurricanes (7-1) moved up two spots Sunday in the media poll behind No. 1 Southern California and No. 2 Texas, a day after their 27-7 victory at previously unbeaten Virginia Tech. Alabama improved to 9-0 with a 17-0 win at Mississippi State, but stayed put in the Top 25. Only two points separate Miami (1,452) and Alabama (1,450).


Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News had Miami ahead of Alabama on his ballot after watching the Hurricanes manhandle Virginia Tech. “I got a chance to watch most of the second half, and the way they went up and played Virginia Tech made me believe they deserve mention as one of the top three teams in the country,” he said. “They are playing better then Alabama right now.”

Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star had Alabama No. 3 and Miami fourth. “I kind of wrestled with that to tell the truth but I came down to my rule if you’re undefeated and play in the SEC you have to be ahead of the team with one loss,” he said. Pointer said he even considered putting Penn State ahead of Alabama. “You have to give [Alabama] credit for winning the games,” he said. “You can spin it however you want, they might not be as impressive at times, but they are unbeaten.”

Not only unbeaten but they’re in the SEC, playing a much tougher schedule.

It’s quite possible that Alabama will wind up losing one or more games this year, with road games at #5 LSU and tough arch enemy Auburn (#15) the next two weeks and once-beaten #9Georgia in the SEC Championship if they win those. It may well be that Miami is the better team. The bottom line is that Miami has lost a game, and not to a team ranked ahead of Alabama but twice-beaten Florida State.

Update: Charles Austin argues in the comments that, “The only way you can say Alabama has a tougher schedule than Miami is to give them credit for games they haven’t played yet.”

Let’s compare:

Miami Hurricanes

    Florida State L 10-7 0-1 (0-1)
    Clemson W 36-30 1-1 (1-1)
    Colorado W 23-3 2-1 (1-1)
    South Florida W 27-7 3-1 (1-1)
    Duke W 52-7 4-1 (2-1)
    at Temple W 34-3 5-1 (2-1)
    Georgia Tech Postponed –
    North Carolina W 34-16 6-1 (3-1)
    Wake Forest 3:30 PM ET Tickets
    Georgia Tech 12:00 PM ET Tickets
    Virginia TBA

Alabama Crimson Tide

    Middle Tenn. St. W 26-7 1-0 (0-0)
    Southern Miss W 30-21 2-0 (0-0)
    South Carolina W 37-14 3-0 (1-0) CBS
    Arkansas W 24-13 4-0 (2-0)
    Florida W 31-3 5-0 (3-0) CBS
    Mississippi W 13-10 6-0 (4-0) CBS
    Tennessee W 6-3 7-0 (5-0) CBS
    Utah State W 35-3 8-0 (5-0)
    Mississippi St. W 17-0 9-0 (6-0) CBS
    LSU 3:30 PM ET Tickets CBS
    15 Auburn 3:30 PM ET Tickets CBS

Miami lost to Florida State, which has lost twice to mediocre Virginia and NC State. They beat Virginia Tech, on the road no less, which is quite impressive. The only other decent team they’ve beaten is Clemson, which has lost four games.

Alabama beat South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee. Now, granted, the Vols are having a down year–although mostly because they’re getting killed by the tough SEC schedule and somebody has to lose those games–but they beat LSU on the road and are still likely headed for a bowl.

As to the “soft non-conference schedule,” that’s true of both teams. If you’re in the SEC or ACC, you’re foolish to schedule any additional hard games. There are usually enough in the conference.

Alabama has two incredibly hard road games in a row coming up, LSU and Auburn, and could lose either or both of them if their offense doesn’t step up a bit. If they win one or both of those, they’ll go to the SEC Championship Game and face Georgia, another possible loss. But, so far, they’ve earned the #3 ranking ahead of teams that have lost.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He's a widower and father of two young daughers. He earned his PhD from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The only way you can say Alabama has a tougher schedule than Miami is to give them credit for games they haven’t played yet. Let’s see if Alabama can win them before giving them credit for playing them. According to Sagarin’s ratings, it’s not even close who has the tougher schedule or even who is the better team. as usual, Alabama played a weak non-conference schedule, and they’ll pay the same price for it this year that Auburn did last year.


  2. DL says:

    And I always thought football was about winning the game. Now I find that it’s the poll voctory that counts. Someone please splain it to me?


  3. Skillzy says:

    It’s not unbelievable, it’s karma. The Bammers spent the end of last season chuckling at Auburn’s inability to get any respect despite a perfect record, and now the shoe is on the other foot. If they can win their next two and the SEC, maybe they deserve a look. But until then, they haven’t really proven anything other than good defense can win games for you against so-so opponents.


  4. James Joyner says:

    I’m sure there was some of that last year, although not here. Indeed, I argued that Auburn deserved to play in the BCS championship game more than Oklahoma and congratulated them on their 13-0 season.

    I’d note, too, that Alabama blew out Florida this year but, unfortunately, lost their best player (wide receiver and kick returner Tyrone Prothro)in that game. Too, no team with a loss was ranked ahead of Auburn last year.


  5. the Pirate says:

    While Alabama did blow out Florida, they also haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in the SEC in 9 quarters. I don’t care how good the SEC defenses claim to be, you have to score at some point in time. What has helped Alabama is they play equally offensively inept teams too.
    ‘Bama put up 24 points on Arkansas USC put up 70, pulling the starters just after the half. Bama strugles to beat Ten 6-3, Notre Dame has no problem hanging a 41 on Ten. USC and Texas would eat Alabama for lunch.

    Included that Miami has vastly improved over the first game of the season when they lost and above all unlike Alabama they can score. But then again, this could all be premature.


  6. James Joyner says:

    Pirate: I agree that USC and Texas deserve to be ranked ahead of Alabama, as I noted here. It’s possible that several teams are better than Alabama at this point in the year; I’m just saying that they’re 9-0 and play in the toughest conference in college football. They don’t deserve to be ranked below a team with a lesser record.

    I’d note, too, that the 1992 team that went on to blow Miami out 31-13 and win a national title had a pretty weak offense, too. They won several close games solely on the strength of an explosive defense, in some cases relying on the defense to score the decisive points themselves. I didn’t think Bama had a shot to beat Miami that year.


  7. Like I said at the top of the thread, you keep giving Alabama credit they don’t yet deserve for nothing more than playing in the SEC. Alabama has played exactly one team this year that is now ranked — Florida. Sure, LSU, Georgia, and Auburn are highly ranked, but Alabama hasn’t played any of them yet. It’s not Alabama’s fault that Tennessee hasn’t lived up to expectations, but that’s the way it is. Meanwhile Miami has thus far played Florida State, Colorado, and Virginia Tech, all of whom are ranked today.

    If you aren’t going to give credit for playing tough schedules, schools like Alabama are never going to schedule anything but easy victories for their out of conference games. And yes, IMHO, tough non-conference games are a good thing and should be encouraged.