The Miami Hurricanes learned their bowl destination on Sunday and also confirmed they will be without standout defensive end Jaelan Phillips, who has declared for the NFL draft, for the postseason exhibition.
No. 18 Miami is bound for Orlando and will face No. 21 Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl for a 5:30 p.m. kickoff on Dec. 29 at Camping World Stadium.
“We’re delighted to have the invite to the Cheese-It Bowl,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said. “As everyone knows, it has been a challenging season for everybody in college football, but to get our guys the reward of, in my mind, going to one of the best bowl destinations anywhere in the country.
“It’s been a long haul, but we have a chance to end it on a podium, which is what you get in a bowl game.”
The Cheez-It Bowl, previously the Camping World Bowl, among other former monikers, is in the tier of bowl games that follows the New Year’s Six group. The Hurricanes (8-2, 7-2 ACC) blew their chance at a spot in the Orange Bowl after the 62-26 drubbing they took from North Carolina on Dec. 12.
The Tar Heels (8-3, 7-3), ranked No. 13 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, will now face No. 5 Texas A&M on Jan. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium over Miami as the highest-ranked ACC team outside of the four-team playoff. No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame are playing in the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl, respectively, which are CFP semifinals this season.
“We are looking forward to participating in the 2020 Cheez-It Bowl,” UM athletic director Blake James said in a statement. “Florida Citrus Sports is a first-class bowl host. Our student-athletes and coaches have faced unprecedented challenges throughout this entire year and I’m excited they will have the opportunity to conclude an outstanding season in Orlando.”
The Hurricanes, while not getting the ideal bowl game they hoped for in their home stadium, still stay within the state of Florida.
“That’s huge,” Diaz said. “The fact that we can drive to Orlando, which is what we will do, and in the fact that it is a game that will allow fans, about 20-percent capacity. So, our players’ families will have another chance to watch them play, which I think is very important because it’s difficult when you see teams struggle to keep it together for a bowl games.”
Diaz will learn from other players eligible for the 2021 draft in the coming days whether they’ll opt out or play in the Cheez-It Bowl. It’s already known Miami will be without Phillips. With a skyrocketing draft stock after leading the team with eight sacks in 10 games, Phillips released a video on Sunday evening confirming a Friday report that he is declaring for the NFL draft.
“Well, obviously a guy like Jaelan is not going to be easy to replace,” Diaz said. “But you do recruit, you do develop. There are players that do have the ability to step in and make some things happen, whether that’s a Jahfari Harvey or a Cam Williams.
“That’s part of what bowl games are right now. It gives us the opportunity for next-man-up-type situation, and I think those guys will be excited for the challenge.”
Asked specifically about quarterback D’Eriq King playing in the game, Diaz said he “suspects” King will be on board.
Miami has played in the Cheez-It Bowl five previous times under four other names. Most recently, as the Russell Athletic Bowl, the Hurricanes had a 31-14 win over West Virginia in 2016 and a 36-9 loss to Louisville in 2013. In 2009, when it was the Champs Sports Bowl, they lost, 20-14, to Wisconsin. As the Micron PC Bowl in 1998, UM topped North Carolina State, 46-23, and as the CarQuest Bowl in 1996, the Hurricanes beat Virginia, 31-21. Those first two were as members of the Big East.
The 2016 victory over the Mountaineers is the Hurricanes’ lone bowl win since 2006.
Miami has faced Oklahoma State once before, a 40-3 win in 1991.
Diaz said the Hurricanes will get to work on preparation for the Cowboys on Monday. Players will lift during the day and have a light practice in the evening before having full practices on Tuesday and Wednesday to give players Christmas Eve and Christmas off on Thursday and Friday leading up to the Dec. 29 bowl.