UCF Football is having its best season ever. I’ve waited a long time this year to be confident enough to say that but after the best offense in the nation pummeled its way to a 7-0 start, I can’t deny it anymore.
I was at every home game of the Knights’ 2013 Fiesta Bowl campaign, and believe me, I didn’t think that squad would get topped anytime soon. But here we are. UCF is unquestionably the best its ever been.
And the College Football Playoff Committee could not care less.
Look, I’ve been watching college football for a while so I know how this goes: if you’re Power Five, you get ranked high. If you’re Group of Five, you don’t. That’s the way the college football world works and, for better or worse, we all knew nothing would be different this year.
But if there was ever a Group of Five team that could break into the top-10, wouldn’t it be the 2017 Knights? They’re not only one of five(!) undefeated teams left in all of college football, but they’re also the highest scoring offense in the nation.
Memphis, which was seen by many as the favorite to win the AAC, was absolutely dismantled by UCF. They also buried the Big Ten’s Maryland with 38 points. Only Ohio State and Wisconsin put up more on the Terrapins this year.
All in all, the Knights have played like a Power Five team, beating their opponents by an average margin of 31.2 points.
So, fans naturally had high expectations for UCF’s placement in the long-awaited College Football Playoff Rankings. I’m not talking about playoff expectations here, or even top-10 expectations. Just that the Knights would remain around 14 or 15, where they’ve been ranked in other polls.
But instead, the Playoff Rankings reminded us how unforgiving college football is to any team that dares to challenge the supremacy of the usual football powers.
UCF is 18th. Think about that for a second. The best offense in the nation. One of five undefeated teams. An average margin of victory that stands at 31.2. And 17 teams are ranked ahead of them.
Regardless of what team you are a fan of, whether you’re a diehard Buckeye or a sad-but-committed Owl, we all have to acknowledge that switching to the playoff format has done nothing to control the biases that dominate college football.
We were warned of this last year when Ohio State, a team that did not even play for its conference championship, made the playoff. And this year appears to be more of the same.
I write for a publication that covers UCF, so I wrote this from a UCF angle. But there are about a hundred issues in that poll that fans all over the nation are certainly debating right now. This issue is much larger than a great team being discounted because it doesn’t play in a respected conference. The issue is that this new system has perhaps enhanced biases, not avoided them.
And who knows where this leads UCF? With Power Five schools lining up to take shots at coach Scott Frost, why exactly would he want to stay if a perfect season at UCF can’t even translate to a top-10 ranking?
Either way, the College Football Playoff has sent a message loud and clear to UCF: as long at the Knights remain out of the Power Five, they will never be anything more than what they are now. This is their ceiling.
For better or worse, that’s the reality of college football.