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Hurricanes back in Top 25 for 1st time since 2006

Hurricanes back in Top 25 for 1st time since 2006

Hurricanes back in Top 25 for 1st time since 2006
November 17, 2008

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -The news that Miami was among the AP Top 25 for the first time in more than two years was received somewhat less than warmly by Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon.

``It really doesn't matter,'' Shannon said Sunday.

See, if it's not in the game plan for Georgia Tech, it's not relevant to Shannon this week.

But whether Shannon likes it or not, voters are taking notice of the Hurricanes (7-3, 4-2), whose five-game winning streak and spot atop the ACC Coastal Division were enough to get Miami into the No. 23 spot in the poll released Sunday.

``We still feel like it's us against the world,'' running back Javarris James said. ``People will look at us and some at the beginning of the season probably thought we'd have a disappointing season. So we can't worry about what anybody else is thinking. We're just worried about the guys in our locker room and we're going to continue to do the things that got us here.''

Miami had been missing from the last 41 polls; the last time it took the field as a ranked team was Sept. 16, 2006 against Louisville. The Hurricanes lost 31-7 that day and hadn't been listed among the nation's best since.

Now, 32 games, one head coaching change and one disastrous losing season later, the Hurricanes are back to getting some glimmer from the national spotlight again.

``It really gets us motivated to go out there and dominate,'' said wide receiver Sam Shields, who's blossomed into a special teams standout for the Hurricanes in recent weeks. ``That's what we're focused on right now: dominate, finishing and executing our plays.''

Of course, the ranking - and those ACC title hopes - could be short-lived if Miami falls at Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech (7-3, 4-3) on Thursday night. The Yellow Jackets have won the last three games in the series.

The top five teams in the six-school ACC Coastal are separated by one game, meaning just about everyone still has a chance of playing in Tampa in three weeks for the league championship and an automatic berth in the Orange Bowl.

But Miami clearly has the easiest path, and could wrap up the title this weekend in two scenarios:

- Miami wins and North Carolina loses to North Carolina State.

- Miami wins, Virginia beats Clemson and Virginia Tech beats Duke.

``Not even thinking about it,'' Shannon said.

That's not surprising.

Shannon never goes overboard talking about stats and rankings. When he was Miami's defensive coordinator a few seasons ago and the Hurricanes were steamrolling most opponents, any questions posed to Shannon about the team's defensive ranking were typically answered with only a blank stare.

``Everyone else outside the University of Miami is all hyped up about it,'' said Xavier Shannon, Miami's center and the son of the head coach. ``But this is just another week for us. We're not going to change what we've been doing. We've been winning, so we've been successful. Why would we change anything?''

Still, even if either of the Shannons don't want to admit it, getting back into the Top 25 certainly seems like a significant step in the rebuilding process after last season's five-win, no-bowl debacle, the Hurricanes' worst season in 30 years.

The last time Miami was unranked for such a long period of time was a generation ago - Oct. 12, 1974 through Sept. 28, 1980, a stretch of 66 games. That was before the Hurricanes won the first of their five national championships and became, for a time anyway, the nation's premier college program.

``The only thing that matters to us is that we've got an opponent on the road that's playing very well in Georgia Tech,'' Randy Shannon said. ``They play very good at home, they can run the football and they've got great defensive players. That's the only thing that can matter to us right now.''

Notes: LT Jason Fox, who sprained his right ankle Nov. 1 against Virginia and sat out Thursday's win against Virginia Tech, practiced Sunday and is expected to play in the Georgia Tech matchup. ... KR Travis Benjamin was limited in practice because of a leg injury suffered against Virginia Tech. His status for this week remains unclear.

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