CORAL GABLES (AP) _ For weeks, Miami coach Randy Shannon has said national rankings won't really matter until after the season's sixth game.
Well, the Hurricanes are there.
But Shannon, he still couldn't care less about any sort of numerology.
Miami (5-1) climbed one spot to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 poll Sunday, plus was No. 10 in the season's first release of the Bowl Championship Series standings. Nonetheless, when the Hurricanes convened for practice that afternoon, Shannon was already thinking about this weekend's return to Atlantic Coast Conference play against Clemson and not about computers or voters.
“Not really,'' Shannon said. “Everybody says it makes a difference, and when the computer rankings come out, that's what you base it on. But for me and this football team, not really. We're back in our conference play now and conference games are more valuable than anything. We've got to keep worrying about our conference games and worry about Clemson this week.''
Whether Shannon would say so or not, the BCS appearance carried some significance for the Hurricanes. They were the top-ranked ACC team in the BCS mix; Georgia Tech was No. 12, Virginia Tech No. 14.
Miami is among the BCS-ranked teams for only the second time since the end of the 2005 season. The Hurricanes never hit the BCS list in 2006 or 2007 and made just one appearance last year, checking in at No. 23 in mid-November, days before losing badly at Georgia Tech and dropping out once again.
“Like we said a couple weeks ago, we've got to keep on watching SpongeBob,'' quarterback Jacory Harris said.
The cartoon character has become a bit of a cultish accent piece for the Hurricanes.
One of the wasn't-supposed-to-get-out stories from the Miami locker room this season was born a couple weeks ago, when Harris _ disappointed with the way the Hurricanes lost focus after quickly vaulting to No. 9 before playing Virginia Tech _ challenged teammates to avoid watching people talking about football and rankings on television.
Harris said only two shows would be deemed acceptable for viewing: “48 Hours'' and “SpongeBob SquarePants.''
It's working: Since then, Miami is 3-0 and outscoring opponents 96-43, including Saturday's 27-7 win at Central Florida.
Miami outgained UCF 363-229, a 134-yard divide that would have been even worse if the Hurricanes didn't lose 74 yards of rushing on six sacks of Harris (costing 41 yards) and a snap sailing past punter Matt Bosher (costing 33 more).
Shannon wasn't happy with special teams play in general, and was less than thrilled about the sacks, though he said Sunday it hinged on much more than just breakdowns by offensive linemen.
“We've still got some things to improve on,'' Shannon said. “Long way to go as a football team, but it's always about working and trying to get better.''
That being said, it was clear that Miami wanted to make some sort of statement against UCF.
A year ago, the Hurricanes struggled with the Knights, escaping late with a 20-14 win. This time, the Hurricanes had control virtually the entire way.
“We had to put … something on this game, like we're trying to send a message to the other people about what we're trying to get done around here,'' wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said Saturday night. “We're going to just keep doing what we've got to do.''
Which is exactly what Shannon wants Miami to believe _ and say _ right now.
“We learned our lessons from earlier in the season, before we played Virginia Tech,'' Shannon said. “I don't think it'll be a problem.''