San Antonio, Texas, is the site on Saturday afternoon, as the culmination of the 2018 NCAA Men’s hoop tournament, a.k.a. “The Final Four” takes place. And along with powerhouses Villanova, Kansas and Michigan is a fourth school. A tiny Catholic school in Chicago, that has captured college basketball’s interest the last three weekends, Loyola University-Chicago.
They will take to the floor just after 5 p.m. local time in the Alamodome attempting to defeat the Wolverines and advance to Monday night’s championship game.
The question we wonder for the sport and the state we cover: is this truly similar to the football unbeaten 13-0 season and Peach Bowl victory on January 1st by the UCF Knights?
Let’s quickly compare a couple of things:
Loyola is in downtown Chicago and has an enrollment of just over 16,000. They have a previous NCAA basketball title having won the 1963 Tournament in an overtime championship game win over Cincinnati. They play in a smaller conference, the Missouri Valley, and were only on national t.v., cable or otherwise, starting with the title game of that tournament four weeks ago.
The Ramblers are have become more of a household name by upsetting the likes of the Miami Hurricanes, Tennessee, Nevada and then advanced to the Final Four with a win over Kansas State.
UCF is in downtown Orlando and has over 66,000 enrolled. You are probably much more familiar with what UCF did last fall turning around a disastrous 0-12 2015 season into a wild, perfect 13-0 last year. The Knights were on television somewhere every week and their dramatic Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving win over USF to put them at 11-0 was one of the most watched regular season college football games of the year.
They won the American Conference championship game the following week in equally exciting double overtime over Memphis. And then, were selected and got matched up with SEC power Auburn in Atlanta at the Peach Bowl. Coach Scott Frost, QB McKenzie Milton and a defense led by LB Shaquem Griffin proceeded to stun the Tigers and complete the 13-0 season.
Loyola Chicago is definitely on a big stage Saturday, as more than 20 million people likely will be watching this match-up with Michigan. Their coach is named Porter Moser, their stars have names like Clayton Custer and Marques Townes, and of course, their 98 year old Catholic nun chaplin “Sister Jean” has become one of the most fascinating and hilarious parts of their advancing this far.
And finally, the one difference: despite UCF’s claims, if the Ramblers win, they will actually be playing for the 2018 NCAA title on Monday night. The Knights and their fans could only scream and bellyache about being left out of the 2018 College Football Playoff.
No.There will be no dispute, internet poll, etc., if Loyola wins twice more.
They will be standing on the stage Monday night have pulled off one of the greatest three weekends of upsets sports has seen in the last 50 years or so.
Now, it won’t be easy, as these are the toughest most pressure packed games, against the best opponents they’ve had to date.
But, UCF rose to the challenge at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on New Year’s Day and thumped Auburn.
What will the Ramblers do Saturday, and maybe even, Monday?
Will UCF QB Milton kick-start Heisman talk Friday night?
With the understanding that quarterbacks of powerhouse programs like Tua Tagovailoa, Trace McSorley, and Will Grier will be getting most of the national hype throughout the seaason, in our state we know that UCF QB McKenzie Milton deserves to be consider for the Heisman, too.
The junior signal-caller for the Knights has been a bit victimized by the early part of the season and the schedule. First, Milton did get off to a tremendous start in UCF’s opening win at UConn, where he fired five touchdown passes in basically three quarters during a blowout win.
However, the following week against South Carolina State he was not sharp with a couple of early interceptions and even though UCF won impressively, Milton’s numbers of 243 yards, one touchdown and three picks jumped off the page, as a negative.
He and the Knights were looking to ramp the offense back up last weekend in a game against a Power 5 program on the road in North Carolina. But, as you probably know by now, Hurricane Florence wiped out that game, and it will not be made up.
So, it seems as though Milton’s Heisman hype which began back in the summer, has stalled out.
Well, now comes a Friday night showdown with cross-state rival FAU and something very important: national television exposure on a weeknight. You see, for a lot of the media and in particular Heisman voters, Milton’s games are not going to trump ones for Alabama, Penn State Ohio State, and the other Blue Blood programs that they would rather watch. It’s harsh, but it’s true.
So, this is an opportunity for him to light it up against an Owls defense and then, be seen and remembered for it.
FAU was bombed by Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray in their opening blowout loss in Norman, OK, Labor Day weekend. And, coach Lane Kiffin has to be fearful that more of the same may be coming from the potent Knights offense.
Yes, being a shootout with FAU may be possible because they boast running back Devin “Motor” Singletary, who was the CUSA Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.
So, it may be to Milton’s benefit, if FAU can score some in this game keep it close, and Milton gets a chance to play four full quarters and do it well.
If he’s going to make up ground on Tagovailoa and McSorley in particular, who are on national television almost every game, then that’s what Milton is going to have to take advantage of opportunities present themselves.
Friday night at Spectrum Stadium is one such opportunity for Milton and his Knights teammates.
UCF freshman linebacker charged with sexual battery
The first off-field controversy of the UCF football season has happened with the arrest of freshman linebacker Demetrius Mayes on a sexual battery charge.
The alleged incident took place Saturday night in Mayes UCF campus apartment, where a female accuser says Mayes had inappropriate and unwanted sexual contact with her in his bedroom.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the 18 year old freshman from Miami met the accuser at an off-campus party. A UCF campus police report says she woke up undressed in Mayes bedroom, as he was attempting to have sex with her. The accuser went on to tell authorities that Mayes tried to prevent her from leaving the room.
UCF police chief Carl Metzger released a statement Wednesday:
“The UCF Police Department is committed to a thorough, professional investigation of all criminal incidents reported to us, and we’re dedicated to a culture of care that starts by believing the brave survivors who seek our assistance,” Metzger said. “This survivor’s well-being will continue to be a priority for our department and our university.”
As did UCF first-year head coach Josh Heupel:
“This has no place in our program,” Heupel said.”Demetrius Mayes is suspended from all UCF football activities indefinitely. We are focused on ensuring that we provide compassion and support for everyone outside our program that has been affected by this.”
In the report Mayes told police he met the accuser at an off-campus party and took the woman back to his apartment. Mayes says the victim initially consented to sex and that when she told him “I can’t do this,” he stopped, let her get dressed and unlocked the door.
At least one of Mayes roommates, who is an unidentified UCF football player, told the authorities that they tried to warn him he was making a big mistake taking the woman into his bedroom. Apparently, that roommate and others were banging on Mayes bedroom door trying to break up what was going on.
They told UCF police that the accuser exited the bedroom crying and upset.
Mayes was a star at Miami’s Northwestern High School a year ago, where they won the 6A state championship, but he had not played in the first two UCF games against Uconn and South Carolina State.
The Knights did not play last weekend, because their game with North Carolina was canceled by Hurricane Florence.
Could UCF and Nebraska fill schedule voids by playing each other?
With UCF having their game cancelled this weekend in Chapel Hill against North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, it’s the second year in a row the Knights have a void in their schedule that will cost them a 12th game.
And, for the second year in a row the College Football Playoff selection committee can look down upon UCF strength of schedule. This is because: just like losing the Georgia Tech game a year ago due to Hurricane Irma, the Knights lose another Power Five opponent this year.
That is unless UCF is willing to get creative, and maybe partner up with another Power Five program that has a very familiar face to everyone in Orlando.
Yes, the Knights strength-of-schedule answer could be waiting in Lincoln, Nebraska with the Huskers and the former UCF-now brand new Nebraska coach, Scott Frost.
And while on the surface it might seem a little far-fetched, it actually makes a lot of sense for both programs to play the game.
The first and biggest key is Nebraska and UCF share the same bye week of October 27th. That stroke of scheduling coincidence opens the door for them to get together on a date that they agree to play.
Also a key factor is that the Huskers home opener with Akron two weeks ago, Frost’s first game in his returned to his alma mater, was canceled after a four-hour lightning delay.
So, the Huskers have lost what was a very winnable home game themselves, and with the challenge of their Big Ten schedule later in the year, may be struggling to get to a sixth win to play in a bowl game.
Therefore, Nebraska should be very interested in playing another game against a significant opponent that would create great excitement and could also help their win total.
Now, they’re obviously scheduling challenges for both programs.
First, UCF is scheduled to play Temple the next Thursday night (November 1st) at home in Orlando at Spectrum Stadium on ESPN. That’s why the bye week is originally in their schedule in the first place.
Next, Nebraska’s bye week was given to them by the Big Ten before they are scheduled to play Ohio State on Saturday November 3rd in Columbus.
However, as this item online suggested Tuesday night, the two programs could to agree to play on Friday October 26th. That would give UCF an extra day of rest and getting back to Orlando to play the game with Temple five days later instead of four, if they played Saturday.
And because Nebraska is at home the previous week with Minnesota it’s easier for them to only have five days in between that game any potential Friday night game with the Knights.
Another overwhelming factor in the favor of this happening, is UCF athletic director Danny White. White has such a great relationship with Frost that even though Frost took the Nebraska job in December, they worked out for he and his assistants coming back to coach the Peach Bowl game January 1st.
As you probably know, the Knights went on to stun SEC Powerhouse Auburn and finish 13 – 0.
It is completely realistic that if UCF with night negotiated seriously with Frost and Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos to come play in Lincoln, it could be worked out.
UCF has a large road game with Memphis just before this potential match up with the Huskers. There is an argument to be made that you wouldn’t schedule a tough road situation like this, if you are looking to finish unbeaten.
However, if the Knights continue to win all the way up until that date they will absolutely be in the top 10 of the rankings, and the CFP committee would give them great consideration for playing this hypothetical road game with Nebraska.
And, Nebraska would be very interested in a high-priced home game that fills a scheduled void that helps them potentially make a bowl game at the end of the year.
So, a potential UCF Nebraska Showdown could happen and there are a lot of reasons for it to happen.
Now we wait and wonder if it actually will.
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