Would a stronger strength of schedule get UCF into the CFP? The answer may lie in Boise State’s past

Photo by Sarah Kelliher

He may have only been here for three years, but Danny White is basically a god to UCF fans. In that time he has hired two outstanding football coaches, helped revitalize the majority of the school’s sports teams and led one of the most effective marketing campaigns in modern sports history.

While there is no shortage of love for White – thousands of fans chanted his name in cult-like fashion when he was spotted during College GameDay’s visit to campus – there remains one growing area of criticism surrounding him: his scheduling policy.

The Knights went undefeated (again) and didn’t make the College Football Playoff (again) so the annual ritual of finding reasons to justify UCF falling short has begun. The centerpiece this year has been the program’s scheduling policy.

Since arriving at UCF, White has been vocal about his preference to schedule only home-and-homes with Power Five programs. Most Group of Five schools are more than happy to sign on for two-for-one deals with elite programs, but then again, UCF isn’t like most G5 programs.

But White’s scheduling philosophy was forced under the microscope this week after UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin publicly stated that he would love to schedule UCF – in a two-for-one format.

“We do home-and-homes with like FSUs and Power 5 leagues,” Stricklin told the Orlando Sentinel. “We haven’t done any home-and-homes with non-Power 5 teams. I don’t think we would start that.”

White released a statement later that day holding firm to his policy, but also offering to play a one-off game at a neutral site. But that last part of the statement was largely ignored, with national media and Twitter fans choosing to point out that UCF’s weak schedule is a product of its own policies.

A common rallying cry has been that if the Knights want to make the Playoff, they must do what Boise State did in the mid-2000’s: adopt an “anytime, anywhere” approach to scheduling. But how well did that plan work out for the Broncos? After all, they never played in a BCS National Championship. Would a similar strategy yield better results for UCF in the Playoff Era?

Let’s take a deep dive into Boise State’s history to find out. From 2008-2011, the Broncos played a ranked Power Five team each year, and finished with a combined regular season record of 47-2. Boise State never qualified for a championship under the two-team system of the BCS, but would it have gotten a shot in the current system? Let’s go season by season to find out what, if anything, UCF has to gain from an “anytime, anywhere” policy.

 

2008 Boise State Season

Out of Conference Slate:

  • FCS Idaho State (Win)
  • 6-6 Bowling Green (Win)
  • 10-3 No. 10 Oregon (Win)
  • 7-6 Southern Miss (Win)

Regular Season Record: 12-0

Final BCS Rank: 9

A very solid out-of-conference schedule resulted in very little respect for Boise State this year. Despite playing two teams with a .500 record or better and knocking off an Oregon team that was ranked No. 12 at the time of their meeting and was a top-10 team by the end of the year, Boise State garnered very little respect from the system in place.

Even if this had occurred in the Playoff Era, the Broncos still would have fallen short by five spots, placed behind seven one-loss Power Five teams. Not a great start for the “anytime, anywhere” policy.

 

2009 Boise State Season

Out of Conference Slate:

  • 10-3 No. 11 Oregon (Win)
  • 1-11 Miami (OH) (Win)
  • 7-6 Bowling Green (Win)
  • FCS UC David (Win)

Regular Season Record: 13-0

BCS Rank: 6

Another undefeated season, another big win over a ranked Power Five team, and another championship snub. At the time of their matchup, Oregon was the 14th team in the nation, and ended up finishing several spots higher than that. The rest of the out-of-conference schedule wasn’t exactly dazzling, but Boise State did as much as it could, winning those games by an average margin of 28. But it still wasn’t enough to be within range of a top-four finish. UCF’s best out-of-conference win this year was against a 7-6 ACC team, and the Knights finished only two spots lower than this Boise State team did in its era.

 

2010 Boise State Season

Out of Conference Slate:

  • 11-3 No. 16 Virginia Tech (Win)
  • 3-9 Wyoming (Win)
  • 5-7 Oregon State (Win)
  • 8-5 Toledo (Win)

Regular Season Record: 11-1

BCS Rank: 10

Boise State really hurt itself this season by doing the one thing that is unacceptable for Group of Five contenders: losing. The Broncos just couldn’t quite pull off three undefeated regular seasons in a row, dropping a conference game to No. 19 Nevada. Once again, however, Boise State earned a big-time win against a ranked Power Five team and was hardly rewarded for it. The BCS rankings placed every one-loss Power Five team ahead of the Broncos, as well as two two-loss teams.

 

2011 Boise State Season

Out of Conference Slate:

  • 10-4 No. 19 Georgia (Win)
  • 9-4 Toledo (Win)
  • 8-5 Tulsa (Win)
  • 7-6 Nevada (Win)
  • 4-9 Fresno State (Win)

Regular Season Record: 11-1

BCS Rank: 7

This was really the perfect storm season for Boise State. After years of building itself up and winning bowl games to show they could compete, the Broncos won out through an out-of-conference slate featuring a ranked SEC team and four winning opponents. But, once again, Boise State shot itself in the foot by losing a single game. However, this was still the first year where it saw real respect. A No. 7 ranking for a Group of Five team that lost a game is virtually unthinkable in the current era. And, after years of playing tough opponents, this was the year where the Broncos could have broke through. It isn’t inconceivable that they could have finished few spots higher with a perfect record.

 

But above all, this proves that there is really no benefit at all for UCF to follow Boise State’s scheduling policy, even though many people are beginning to suggest it. In four years of sacrificing revenue to play top-caliber teams, the Broncos won all of their marquee games, went undefeated twice, never lost more than one game in a regular season, and still never cracked the top four.

So what’s really the better strategy for UCF here? To continue looking for lucrative home-and-home matchups with Power Five teams while winning absurd amounts of games with a chance to break through if everything falls right in a season? Or sacrificing money, respect and chances at a perfect season for the slim hope of playing in a marquee regular season matchup that is unlikely to move the needle much anyway?

It looks like, once again, White knows what’s truly best for UCF.



About Christian Simmons 68 Articles
Christian Simmons is the founder and editor of Knight Sports Now. You can follow him on Twitter at @ByCASimmons.