That’s what the 2017 UCF Knights were. With a 34-27 victory over SEC West Champs #7 Auburn in Atlanta, UCF became the only team in FBS to finish the season undefeated at 13-0. The Knights did not get into the playoffs and climbed only to #12 in the last regular season poll, but that did not stop UCF AD Danny White from proclaiming his school the real national champions.
UCF plans on hanging a “National Champions 2018” banner in Spectrum Stadium. A parade has been scheduled. Standby for the ring ceremony announcement…
— UCF Knights (@UCFKnights) January 1, 2018
College football’s structure is what it is. The G5 only has one seat at the New Year’s Six table. UCF beat every team put in front of them. They ran the table in the American, widely assumed to be the best Group of Five conferences. They beat Auburn, the only team to have beaten both sides in Monday’s National Championship game. Auburn won the SEC West, the toughest division in all of college football.
Is it such a stretch to believe that UCF is good enough? They’re in Florida, the most talent-rich state in the country. The University of Central Florida has over 56,000 students and an endowment approaching $150 million. Scott Frost was good enough for Nebraska to snatch him up after only two seasons as a head coach. It’s a shame UCF will never get a chance to prove it on the field.
Mackenzie Milton was incredible. UCF scored more points on Auburn than anyone had all season. Shaquem Griffin and the rest of the front seven dominated Auburn’s offensive line, sacking Jarrett Stidham six times. They stood toe-to-toe with a heavyweight, in their backyard in Atlanta, and beat them.
Where UCF was just two years ago, and where they are today is nothing short of remarkable. In 2015 the Knights were winless, 0-12. The George O’Leary era in Orlando had crashed and burned. After stellar 2013 and 2014 seasons, the bottom fell out, and after a 0-8 start, O’Leary was let go as head coach. Scott Frost was plucked from Mark Helfrich’s staff at Oregon.
Now it’s up to Josh Heupel. He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and has stops at Oklahoma and Utah State on his resume. I remember him as the Oklahoma QB, last Sooner quarterback to win a big game in the 2000 BCS National Championship game over Florida St. I guess UCF has a type. Midwestern QBs from the last 90s who won national titles. They’re hoping they found another Frost. Danny White’s formula is as transparent as an Orlando-style facelift.
He immediately installed an up-tempo, Chip Kelly inspired offense at UCF. They Went from 0 to six wins in year won and won thirteen in year two. It’s almost a shame that we can’t see what else Scott Frost could do with Central Florida. But at the same time I can’t blame him wanting to coach his alma mater. Who wouldn’t at least take a phone call from their alma mater?
Maybe one day the playoffs will expand. The fans want it. The college football playoffs have been a shaming success by most accounts. A vast improvement from the BCS era. The money is too tempting to leave on the table. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament started out with only 8 teams. Today it has 68.
But that doesn’t help UCF now. But look at it this way. UCF went 13-0. They beat everyone placed in front of them. Their best defensive player has only one hand. Their quarterback is Hawaiian. Scott Frost is apparently a young coaching savant. Daniel Tosh is their biggest fanboy on Twitter.
Go ahead UCF get down with your bad self. If Georgia Southern went undefeated and won the Peach Bowl, I would claim a national title too. It’s the only recourse G5 teams have against the playoff system. The lack of access to the playoff system for G5 conferences relegates them to de facto 2nd division status.
I would like to believe that G5 teams with great historic resumes would get a shot one day. But we have seen even the best G5 programs (Boise State, Houston, UCF) couldn’t crack the top four. Maybe if UCF went undefeated again next year, the committee would let them in. There’s always talk about the G5 getting their own tournament. If they do that its like waving the white flag.
If the G5 gets its own tournament then stop the charade and create a whole new division. I see it as waving the white flag. No, the much more prudent thing to do is to wait. The playoffs will expand. It’s only a matter of time and money. Player safety be damned. There’s stacks of cash out there waiting to be made.
College football is in danger of becoming too regional with the third straight all southeast national championship matchup. Other conferences don’t like that the SEC got two teams in. You better believe the old stalwarts of the Big Ten and Pac-12 are peeved at their lack of representation in the playoffs. The combined political weight and clout of both conferences will be enough to expand it to at least six, if not 8 teams.
Once they do that, the door cracks open a little more for the G5. Just wait. Once day the stars will align. The right G5 team, with the right schedule, will thread the needle and sneak in. But until then, UCF gets to throw a bomb-ass parade in O-town. They get to claim their champions and I dig that protest. It’s a middle finger to the bullshit purgatory that exists because the almighty College Football Playoff committee says so.
I dig it. It’s kind of punk. The UCF Knight are 2017 National Champions. That has a nice ring to it.