The introduction of the College Football Playoff in 2014 brought forth great change to the college football landscape. For the first time, polls took a backseat to good old-fashioned competition, as the nation’s four most elite programs competed for the title of national champion.
For the first three seasons of the playoff, it was generally understood that only teams from Power 5 conferences deserved to play for the national title. Teams from second-tier conferences played schedules that were deemed to be too easy, as we saw with Boise State for many years during the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era.
Along came the Knights of Central Florida, who put forth a performance in 2017 that had many scratching their heads as to why this team didn’t get a chance to at least make the playoff.
The Knights went 13-0 this season, putting up astronomical offensive statistics all along the way. When it came time for pivotal conference wins, UCF rose to the challenge, defeating ranked South Florida in November, followed one week later by an incredible 62-55 victory over No. 20 Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game.
Following their AAC championship, the Knights sat at 12-0, but still found themselves snubbed by the playoff selection committee, who inserted UCF at No. 12 heading into bowl season. That placed the Knights eight spots out of the playoff, behind several teams that had two losses, and even one program that had three.
That three-loss team was Auburn, a team that rode its way to a No. 7 ranking following wins over Alabama and Georgia, the SEC’s most dominant programs this season. This Auburn team would get the chance to face Central Florida in the Peach Bowl to try and hand the Knights their first loss of 2017.
They failed in the attempt. UCF dominated Auburn defensively for most of the game, and made enough plays late to defeat the mighty Tigers 34-27, adding a New Years Six bowl win to their already gleaming resume.
UCF finished the season 13-0. They could not do any better. And here they sit, comfortably out of reach of the playoff. Personally, I have a problem with that.
We can sit and talk about changing the size of the bracket, but what it comes down to is this: if you win all your regular season games, in addition to your conference championship game, you are more than deserving of a spot in that top four. Let’s look at the aforementioned Boise State Broncos.
In 2006 and 2009, the Broncos went undefeated, capping each of those two seasons with wins in BCS bowls. In ’06, the Broncos finished at No. 5 in the AP poll. In ’09, however, the Broncos were inserted at No. 4 in the final AP poll. The Broncos played in the Western Athletic Conference during this run of success, a conference that, no matter how you slice it, is far weaker than the AAC that UCF currently plays in. The AAC contains teams like South Florida and Connecticut, schools that were once in the Big East (UCONN even made a BCS bowl several years back, albeit in a weak season for the conference).
If the playoff had been around nine years ago, Boise State would have been one of those teams very much in the conversation on the day the final four teams were released. But that didn’t happen with UCF this season. Not even a little bit.
I disagreed with the Knights’ decision to hold a parade and claim themselves the national champion for the 2017 season. However, Central Florida deserved a chance to at least play for that parade. For that trophy.