Last year, the Knights from The University of Central Florida (UCF) remained as the only undefeated college football program in the FBS after their 12 regular season games. Due to their splendid season, they acquired national attention and they even claimed they were deserving of getting a College Football Playoff (CFP) bid.
Rightfully so, they did not earn the bid they were so desperately asking for, instead, they played the Auburn Tigers in the Peach Bowl. After the game against the Tigers, the UCF fans, coaches, players, and staff proclaimed themselves national champions, arguing they were the only undefeated team left that had beaten the last team to beat the national champions in 2017 (Alabama, a.k.a Bama). After their self-proclamation they got rings, clothing, stadium signs, and banners all saying "2017 National Champions".
Don't get me wrong, they were obviously a very good team, top 10 in my opinion, but the reason why they weren't in the discussion to get playoff bid last year is purely due to the strength of their schedule. For starters, if you look at any strength of schedule metrics from last season, UCF ranked in almost all of them 90th or below out of 130 FBS Division 1 football teams. Under my book, going 12-0 in the regular season where the best team they played, before their bowl game, was Memphis, it should not earn you a CFP bid. It was not until after they beat an underperforming Auburn that they gained a little legitimacy, but even then, formulating your whole CFP argument around one win against a pretty good team, it is simply not enough. I mean under this logic, which of a lot of UCF fans have adapted, beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl should have proven that they were better than Bama, but let me ask you this: Does that mean Mississippi State and LSU, who both beat Auburn last year, were better than Bama as well? I'll go ahead and answer myself, no they were not; in fact, they both got beaten by Bama 31-24 and 24-10 respectively. This is why people claiming UCF were the "true national champions" is completely atrocious.
This season UCF's case of making the playoff has become a relevant topic yet again, but this time they have a little less credibility than last year. Their non-conference schedule is almost exactly the same as last year in terms of strength and only one team in their conference besides them has a positive record against FBS teams. Overall, their schedule this year was almost as weak as last year's and on top of that, they did not look nearly as dominant as they were in 2017. This year UCF had multiple close calls against, Memphis (twice), Navy, and Temple. Additionally, the Knights' rush defense is allowing 227 yards per game, (67 yards more than last year) making them 117th in the FBS. In fact, during the American Athletic Conference championship game, Memphis' running back Darrell Henderson alone was able to put up massive numbers against UCF including 1 passing touchdown, 210 rushing yards in 16 attempts (13.1 avg) while also scoring 3 rushing touchdowns and running for 20+ yards in 3 occasions throughout the game, including an 82 yard touchdown rush.
The Knights' defense ranks 98th in defense first downs and 100th in penalties per game recording 7 penalties per competition. Even though they do have really good offensive numbers, ranking 3rd in the country for total offense, let us not forget that they did all this while playing in one of the weakest football conferences in the country. Thus, these statistics should take a toll when it comes to reflecting their true offensive and, especially, defensive legitimacy.
After achieving a 25-0 record in the past two years and not being able to make it to the CFP, the UCF Knights have given rise to the case of a possible introduction of an 8 team playoff in the next coming years. Whether this is done or not, I do agree that teams outside of the power five, like UCF, should be given a chance to prove themselves in a new 8 team CFP; mainly because, from my perspective, this would be the only true way of giving those teams a chance, other than playing a much tougher non-conference schedule or switching conferences all-together.
For now, I do believe UCF should not be in the CFP because other teams take much bigger tolls both physically and statistically by playing much tougher teams back to back every week.
And in case you wanted my prediction for UCF's New Year's 6 Bowl game, I'm picking LSU, peace.