Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. Three powerhouse programs, three perennial championship contenders, three of the most popular and well-recognized brands in all of American sports. They are the only three teams that have won three or more New Year’s Six Bowls in the last six years.
UCF is one win away from joining that list.
“That’s an elite class of teams that you’re putting yourself in with but that’s kind of where this program is so far,” tight end Michael Colubiale said. “We consider ourselves an elite program as well as those programs so just winning this game would mean so much more to our conference, to this program and it’ll really help boost morale for next season.”
Of those four programs, no team has faced more adversity along the way than the Knights. From winning its first major bowl in 2013 to now, UCF has seen three head coaches, a winless season, a Peach Bowl victory and now a 25-game win streak. The Knights haven’t lost in so long that there are key players on the roster that have never even experienced a defeat.
“I’ve been in college for two years and I’m on a 25-game win streak,” wide receiver Gabe Davis said. “I just can’t enough but thank the guys around me, thank this team, thank this brotherhood that we have in this team, and that’s the main reason why we’re so successful.”
It would seem that a team that has won so much for so long wouldn’t have anything left to prove. But doubts still linger around UCF as it prepares for the Fiesta Bowl against LSU on Tuesday. Despite two perfect years, the Knights were never even considered for a playoff spot, and many fans and national media members expect the 9-3 Tigers to get the win on New Year’s Day. But the players know that this is what young programs have to go through, even in the midst of great success.
“UCF is an up-and-coming new school,” wide receiver Adrian Killins said. “Not many people know about us but once we get on the field and get our name out there, get our brand out there, they’re gonna know who UCF is as a student body and as a football team as well.”
While winning three major bowl games in such a short span would be a huge accomplishment, getting one more win would also move UCF’s win streak up on the all-time list. 26 wins in a row would tie the Knights as the 18th longest winning streak of all time, and the third-longest streak since 2000. Very few teams have ever seen as many wins in such a short amount of time as UCF is experiencing now.
But despite all of this success, many players believe that the Knights are just getting started, and that the future may be even more bright than where they are now.
“It’s exciting to see if this is where we’ve made it so far, what will happen in the next 20 years?” linebacker Pat Jasinski said. “As long as this program keeps bringing in quality student athletes and people to be around them every day, like they’ve done so far, it’ll just continue to grow.”