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UCF Knights

Despite UCF’s being kept out, don’t look for College Football Playoff Expansion

Olivia Stacey

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

UCF’s impressive 34-27 victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl left the Knights claiming their own “national title” and many people questioning, where UCF stands among the nation’s top college football programs.

After all, the only team to have beaten this year’s two national title participants is Auburn—which lost to UCF.

Despite finishing the regular season 12-0, the Knights were not invited to the College Football Playoff. UCF’s undefeated record in the American Conference was not judged to be as strong as the four teams from power conferences who all made it in with one loss. However, the Knights were never ranked higher than 10th. UCF was the nation’s only unbeaten team, yet was ranked 12th in the final CFP ranking before the bowls and playoffs — behind five two-loss teams and one three-loss team.

It’s left many to wonder, is there any way for UCF or another non-Power 5 school to crack the playoffs?

There’s growing debate over a push to expand the current four-team format in the CFP. Put simply, an expansion to eight or even 16 teams would make room for more teams to have a shot at the national title — especially teams like UCF, who are in non-Power 5 conferences.

However, while UCF’s 2017 season has brought an outcry in many corners for a playoff expansion, don’t expect it to happen any time soon.

As reported by ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported Sunday, the College Football Playoff management committee, which is comprised of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, are in unanimous agreement that the CFP should not expand beyond four teams right now.

Although American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has been fully supportive of the Knights 2017 season, and very outspoken about the slighting of UCF’s season. Alas, he’s not on board for an expansion either — at least not yet.

“I am open to the notion, but I’m not campaigning for it,” Aresco told ESPN. “The last thing I want to do is give anyone the impression I’m campaigning to expand it, because I’m not. I’m happy with the four.”

The reality is, an unbeaten non-power conference team will have to have two or maybe three out of conference significant wins to make up the difference in strength schedule.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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UCF Knights

Games to watch Saturday for UCF College Football Playoff hopes

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The hype and build up for UCF’s appearance as the host school for ESPN “College GameDay” live show Saturday morning and then the national television broadcast of their game with Cincinnati is continuing. On the field, we will keep track of what else needs to happen in front of the Knights for them to have any possible shot at the four team College Football Playoff.

With the understanding, that UCF is in at #11 in the latest CFP rankings, they’re going to need numerous losses in front of them to pave the way.

So here’s the quick look at this week:

We had F.F.I., like many, believe that Alabama can even take a loss and will still be in the playoff. That is also probably the case with Clemson. The Tide are hosting FCS, the Citadel, and should win by 40 points Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, number to Clemson plays ACC foe Duke at home Saturday night and should also win. So, keep them unbeaten at 1 and 2.

A very intriguing game for UCF’s hopes to move up is Notre Dame playing Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. The third-ranked unbeaten Irish have only two games remaining with this one and then, at USC next weekend.

UCF has to have some losses and Syracuse has a chance with the Irish-probably a better chance in the Trojans have. Stay tuned for that.

The CFP fourth-ranked team, Michigan, hosts Indiana, whom they will beat easily but then, the Wolverines play their massive rivalry game at Columbus against Ohio State next week.

Speaking of the Buckeyes, they are in College Park, Maryland to play the Terps and should be able to win. However, if they were to stumble against a Maryland team with a losing Big Ten record, that would eliminate Ohio State from any playoff consideration. And it would mean UCF should jump in front of the Buckeyes with their other loss being Purdue.

You can also make the argument that the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game next week should also be behind UCF, because it will be their second loss. And, they will have not even won their division, much less the Big Ten Championship Game.

That is not likely to happen, but it still could happen in terms of ranking UCF in front of a two loss Big Ten team.

As far as the Big XII, the game to watch is West Virginia Saturday afternoon at Oklahoma State. The one loss Mountaineers control their own destiny to win the title game and potentially be in the playoff. However, Oklahoma State already has a win at home over Texas and had a chance to beat arch rival- Oklahoma in the final minute at Norman last week.

A Cowboys upset of the Mountaineers would basically eliminate them as well, as it would be West Virginia’s second defeat.

Also looming, is the Black Friday West Virginia vs. Oklahoma game, where someone is guaranteed a second loss in that one. And the loser will have not won the Big 12 Conference.

Again UCF would have an argument that they should be in front of that two loss team.

Finally in the Pac-12, 8th ranked and one loss Washington State controls its own destiny to win the Pac-12 championship and potentially, be in the playoff. They are hosting Arizona Saturday night before playing their rivalry game with Washington next week. Then, would come a potential Pac-12 championship game.

A loss to Arizona at home, which already has five losses on the season, would not only be the Cougars second loss, but again, UCF would have a strong argument to be in front of them in the rankings.

Bottom line for the Knights is keep winning, and keep hoping for some help and losing in front of them.

Then the rankings may break their way over the next couple of weeks.

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UCF Knights

Who can identify with UCF lack of respect? Cincinnati, that’s who

Matt Zemek

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday, Brian Kelly will coach away from home, in a professional sports stadium, in the November cold of a northern city, pursuing a national championship against a school which was formerly in the Big East Conference.

These details pertain to Kelly in 2018. He will coach in New York’s Yankee Stadium, leading Notre Dame against Syracuse, formerly a member of the Big East, as the Fighting Irish try to keep their national title dreams alive.

These details also pertain to Kelly nine years ago at this time of year. In 2009, near the end of his team’s season, he coached in the home of the Steelers, Heinz Field, against Pittsburgh, which is also a former member of the Big East. The team Kelly coached on that late-November day was Cincinnati. The Bearcats, if you recall, were chasing their own national championship dream.

How fitting it is, then, that while Kelly tries to hunt down an elusive national title with the Fighting Irish, his former team stands in the way of UCF as the Knights make their own attempt to win a national title.

Are UCF’s playoff hopes realistic? No… but it is well worth remembering that the Colley Matrix — one of the formulas used in the Bowl Championship Series rankings — did rate the Knights as national champions last year after the playoff and the bowl games, which is precisely why that national championship debate contained at least a measure of legitimacy, no matter what the national (read: SEC) pundits said. As long as other unbeaten teams keep losing, UCF and its fans will hold out some hope that even if they don’t make the playoff, they might replicate the Colley Matrix magic of last year.

They will throw another party. No one will stop them. They will enjoy it… IF they can produce another unbeaten season.

UCF might get locked outside the candy store… but it can still create its own sweets, becoming an independent confectioner.

Does this sound familiar? It was almost the situation Brian Kelly’s 2009 Cincinnati team encountered. It fell one game short.

When the 2018 UCF team takes the field against Cincinnati on Saturday, it will be looking at a football school which once carried the frustrations UCF shoulders today.

The 2009 Cincinnati team played in the Big East, whose status did not exist on par with the current Power 5 conferences — SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 — but which enjoyed more stature than the current American Athletic Conference. The Big East’s high-profile bowl victories in the years preceding 2009 — West Virginia over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl, Louisville over Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl, West Virginia over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl — lifted the Big East’s profile.

It was almost enough to get Cincinnati to the 2009 season’s BCS National Championship Game… but not quite.

Cincinnati did what UCF did last year, and is trying to duplicate in 2018: go unbeaten through the regular season. The Bearcats came from behind to win their late-November pressure cooker in Pittsburgh and preserve their perfect slate. They then waited to see if they would get the one big break needed to play Alabama for the whole ball of wax in Pasadena, California.

They came one second from achieving that goal.

A Texas pass from quarterback Colt McCoy — in the final moments of the Big 12 Championship Game against Nebraska — hit a railing in Cowboys Stadium with one second left in regulation. Had that pass not hit the railing, instead hitting the ground after diving a few more feet, Cincinnati likely would have been in the national title game.

Why?

In the final 2009 regular-season BCS standings, Texas — due to its escape against Nebraska — finished second and earned its date with Bama in California. Cincinnati finished third, TCU fourth, and Boise State sixth.

Cincinnati (Big East), TCU (Mountain West), and Boise State (Western Athletic) were all unbeaten… and all were left out of the national championship game. After the bowls, Boise State was the only team other than Alabama which still had a perfect record. The Broncos ended up in the position 2017 UCF inhabited when the final game had been played in January. However, Cincinnati was the team which came closest to qualifying for the national championship-producing main event on the first weekend of December… without getting inside the door. UCF and Ohio State, in their own ways and on their own separate levels, felt that same sting when Alabama was voted in by the committee last year as the No. 4 playoff seed and Clemson’s opponent in the Sugar Bowl semifinal.

The one big difference between 2009 Cincinnati and 2017 UCF — and, perhaps, 2018 UCF if the Knights once again complete a “perfecto” — is that whereas UCF finished the job in its bowl game against Auburn, Cincy was dismantled by another SEC team. The Bearcats were hammered by Florida in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, which was Tim Tebow’s final game as a college football player. Cincinnati was denied a chance to play a postseason game with national championship stakes, but the Bearcats couldn’t throw a perfect-season party in January. UCF took that final step, and the Knights hope to do that again this year.

Yes, it is entirely fitting that Cincinnati is UCF’s opponent this Saturday, with College GameDay in Orlando and the eyes of the nation riveted to UCF’s plight. Brian Kelly might still be chasing a national title with Notre Dame, but Kelly’s first big run at gridiron glory came nine years ago with the program UCF can fully relate to in the present day.

The 2009 Bearcats wish there was a four-team playoff. The 2017 and 2018 Knights wish the AAC of today had the Big East’s level of stature in 2009.

All three teams would have wanted to play Alabama… but two never got the chance, and the 2018 Knights probably won’t receive the same opportunity, either.

Cincinnati then, UCF now. The past and present are brought together this week in Orlando, with College GameDay on hand to magnify a moment which is hardly new or unheard of in 21st century college football.

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UCF Knights

Demand building to attend UCF prime time match-up with Cincinnati

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As the anticipation continues to build towards this weekend in Orlando and UCF being featured on national television against Cincinnati, so too does the demand for tickets.

Spectrum Stadium, the home of the Knights seats just over 45,000 fans and it will be “packed to the gills” for the primetime match-up with the 9-0 Knights against the 9 – 1 Bearcats. It’s arguably the biggest regular-season game in UCF history, when you take into account all that’s going into it.

Consider that ESPN will bring their “College GameDay” four hour live pregame show to Orlando Saturday and then will show the game nationally with Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Maria Taylor on the call.

Consider also that UCF is putting their 22-game win streak on the line which is the longest in the country. Further consider, that the nights are attempting to lock up a spot in the American Conference Championship game with a victory and that it would be their biggest regular-season win of 2018.

Then, taking all of that into account, you can understand why the demand is so high for this showdown. The school announced on Tuesday afternoon that they were making more tickets available in the standing areas:

UCF has not done that for a home game this season and the last time they did it was in their Black Friday Showdown with rival USF a year ago, which completed a perfect 11 – 0 regular season.

That game, by the way, was shown nationally on ABC that Friday afternoon and was one of the highest rated non Primetime football games in years for the network.

Further, we checked on StubHub online Tuesday afternoon to see what kind of demand there is. At the time we checked: the lowest price ticket was in the upper level of the stadium for $73 while the lower level tickets were ranging between 250 and $400 depending on if you had access to the club or suite areas.

So there is no question, that there is demand for this match-up between UCF and Cincy.

Now, the question becomes will the Knights be able to focus and cut through all of the hype and build-up to showcase themselves to the College Football World and specifically the CFP selection committee in a prime time game?

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