The Knights are headed to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, which is their third New Year’s Six Bowl in the last six seasons. This is a remarkable feat for any college football team in the nation. To this point, UCF is the youngest program to win a New Year’s Six Bowl, and they have already won two. UCF burst onto the national stage by downing Baylor in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, a game in which the black and gold were 17 point underdogs. Last season, the Knights shocked the nation again by beating the powerhouse Auburn Tigers in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia.
While I am overjoyed that UCF got into yet another New Year’s Six Bowl, something smells fishy here. This is nothing new, as the pungent smell of the College Football Playoff Committee has been frustrating Knight fans everywhere for two straight seasons. The omission of UCF from the top four, the ranking of Michigan and the Knights, as well as the bowl assignment proves how biased the committee has become against Orlando’s Hometown Team.
Should UCF be in the Top 4?
Is UCF one of the best four teams in the nation? If you look position by position, the answer is probably not, but it’s close. However, most other teams don’t have what the Knights have. A chip on their shoulder, a group of schools relying on them, and one of the nation’s largest student bodies have propelled these Knights to 25 straight victories. With three of the four top spots in college football getting into the playoffs with perfect records, it’s a slap in the face to UCF to not get in with their clean slate. It should be simple…four spots, four undefeated records, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Apparently conference championships aren’t relevant anymore
To continue to poke holes in the committee’s agenda, what happened to the importance of winning your conference? Let’s look at the top nine teams in the nation and show how the committee in just their fifth season of existence are already contradicting themselves:
1. Alabama, conference champion
2. Clemson, conference champion
3. Notre Dame, NO conference
4. Oklahoma, conference champion
5. Georgia, NOT a conference champion
6. Ohio State, conference champion
7. Michigan, NOT a conference champion (didn’t even play in the conference title game)
8. UCF, conference champion
9. Washington, conference champion
This order is an issue. On the list of things that the committee looks at, conference championships is supposed to be an important one. In 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff, TCU was ranked third in the nation in both the AP and Coach’s Poll but were omitted from the invitational championship. That team went 12-1 but lost a critical conference game early in the season to Baylor who was ranked in the top five. TCU still beat four other top 25 teams that year and got left out of the playoff. The four other “Power 5” conferences had conference title games and the winner of each one was admitted to the playoff. TCU would go on to dismantle #9 Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl, a measly trophy when compared to a chance to play in the first ever College Football Playoff.
The following season, the Big 12, AAC, and Sun Belt all adopted a conference championship game. It probably helps that the Big 12 and Sun Belt conference had two champions while the American had three, forcing the conferences to have one champion decided on the field.
Michigan sitting at home seems to be worth more to the committee than UCF’s conference title
At least back then a conference championship was a requirement to get into the playoff, now the system is a beauty pageant of the “best” four teams. What determines the best? Well this season, it certainly seems like a conference championship isn’t indicative of that phrase. UCF won their conference championship in back to back seasons. But let’s just focus on this season. Michigan sat at home watching the Big 10 Conference Championship from their couches, as they saw an Ohio State team that wrecked them nearly get beat by Northwestern. Yet somehow the Wolverines are ranked ahead of the UCF Knights, an obvious indicator of how this committee is a fraud. More on that in a bit as it pertains to the NY6 bowl assignments. As for conference championships, Notre Dame isn’t even in a conference and they got in with no questions asked, despite barely beating some teams they should have rolled over. On top of that, the public and even some talking heads of the college football world tried to say that Georgia deserved to get in despite losing two games and not winning their conference. Sure, they had to play the “almighty” Alabama, but for Georgia, that was your playoff game. Win and you were probably in the playoff, but you blew it.
That was another issue with the final top nine rankings. The committee sandwiched a two loss, non-conference champion in between two one loss teams. Sure, Ohio State got wrecked by a mediocre Purdue team by 29 points, but at least they only lost one game and have a conference title. Ohio State should have been ranked fifth while a team with two losses and no trophy should sit behind them at six.
UCF to the Fiesta over Peach is blatant hate from committee
All of the above has led me to believe that UCF’s Fiesta Bowl bid is simply a way to spite the Knights. I accepted the fact that they wouldn’t be allowed into the power five invitational this season a little over a month ago. But to rank Michigan ahead of UCF said everything I need to know about this committee. I get the fact that the Peach Bowl doesn’t want a “group of five” team, or even the same team in back to back bowls. However, it was the reasoning of the committee that set me off. They said that Michigan was higher ranked, so the committee did them a favor by giving them the bowl that was closer to their university, the Peach Bowl. That is what I believe to be the only logical reason that the Knights are ranked behind Michigan. Because of that ranking, the committee gets to ship UCF and Knight Nation 2,160 miles west while Michigan gets to travel 700 miles south to Atlanta. To compare the distances, Michigan would still have to travel almost exactly 2,000 miles to Arizona, but shouldn’t one think that the team that lost zero games and won their conference deserves to play in a big bowl game closer to home than a team that lost two games and didn’t even play in their title game? Apparently the committee doesn’t believe that.
Is UF actually afraid of the Knights?
Another note, the University of Florida’s Athletic Director, Scott Stricklin is on the playoff committee. There have been rumors that UF purposefully tried to avoid playing UCF in the Peach Bowl, another reason why people such as myself believe that Michigan was placed above UCF. While I don’t fully believe that could actually happen, it wouldn’t surprise me. But imagine this for a second. Picture UCF dominating UF in the Peach Bowl, which this year could have been likely. All those recruits thinking of going to the beautiful sunshine state to play football in Gainesville would see that game and consider flipping just two hours south to UCF. And why wouldn’t they? UCF has beautiful, newer facilities while being in one of the fastest growing cities in America with endless entertainment at every avenue. A UCF victory over the blue and orange would devastate their program, which could be a reason why they haven’t scheduled a regular season game with the Knights in the future.
The Gators have scheduled games with USF, but Knight Nation saw on Black Friday just what direction that program is headed in. USF’s head coach Charlie Strong has been throwing his players under the bus and now Bulls fans are calling for the entire coaching staff to be fired. USF won’t stand a chance when they play UF until that program turns around.
Respect has been earned, but still is not given
While it hurts to see all the hate towards UCF and how some people say they still haven’t earned respect, hopefully a win over LSU in this season’s Fiesta Bowl will silence the haters. However, that didn’t happen last year after the victory over Auburn, so when will it end? When UCF beats a “motivated” team? Every team this year has given the Knights their best shot and there was only one game decided by a single possession. So where is the respect? UCF will have to keep doing the impossible and proving everyone wrong because apparently winning 25 games in a row isn’t enough.
The pressure the Knights are applying to the playoff is building, and the resistance of the committee is a sign that eventually they could break. Whether that is expansion or the equal playing field for “group of five teams,” UCF is becoming a change agent for the way we look at and feel about college football.