MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – There's still a chance.
It may be slim, but thanks to a muddled mess in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division, Miami has not mathematically been eliminated from the race.
The Hurricanes (5-4, 2-3 ACC), mired in a three-game losing streak, will likely need to win out and hope for some help to have a chance to repeat as division champions and represent the Coastal in the ACC title game next month in Charlotte, North Carolina.
With road games at Georgia Tech (5-4, 3-3) and Virginia Tech (4-4, 3-2) before the home finale against Coastal-leading Pittsburgh (5-4, 4-1), that seems unlikely, but senior safety Jaquan Johnson said that's the focus of this team down the stretch.
"There's no giving up," Johnson said Saturday after Miami's 20-12 loss to Duke at Hard Rock Stadium. "We have three games left. We have to give it our all every day, so that's going to be the main goal."
For embattled head coach Mark Richt, who has been the target of fan criticism questioning his play-calling abilities, he knows the quarterback shuffling has been the subject of much scrutiny.
"Obviously, you'd love to have one quarterback who is playing his tail off and there's no question who the guy is," Richt said after the game. "I can sit here and try to say who it's going to be, but sometimes you say something now you may not want to say after all the film is viewed and that kind of thing. I think it would be in our best interest if one guy steps up and balls out, plays great ball. We're still trying to find that answer right now."
Senior quarterback Malik Rosier started the first four games of the season before yielding to redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry, who orchestrated a comeback win against rival Florida State in his first home start.
However, Richt went back to Rosier after the offense sputtered Oct. 13 in a 16-13 loss at Virginia.
Rosier has thrown three interceptions and just one touchdown since reclaiming the job, prompting angry fans to call on Richt to make another change.
Because of the NCAA's new redshirt rule, true freshman Jarren Williams could play up to four games without burning a year of eligibility. It begs the question: Will Williams see action in the final few games of the season?
"I don't know about that. I haven't thought about that," Richt said. "Obviously, the redshirt rule would allow him to play a bit. So I'm not saying that couldn't happen, by any means. I think anything is possible at this point."
The Hurricanes need to win one of their next three games to become bowl eligible. Currently second-to-last in the Coastal standings, Miami would need to beat the Yellow Jackets, Hokies and Panthers to stay in the division hunt. Provided that happens, Virginia (6-3, 4-2) would still need to lose twice more, since the Cavaliers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 'Canes.
"We have to find a way to win," Johnson said. "That's the total attitude in the locker room."