Opinion: UCF Has Right to Be Mad Over Playoff Snub

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The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)


Central Florida probably isn't the nation's best football team. If you watched Alabama dominate Clemson 24-6 in the sugar Bowl, you may agree with me that the Crimson Tide appear to be the best team this side of the NFL.

But we'll never really know how UCF and Alabama would fare on the field because the Knights were left out of the College Football Playoff — a fact UCF officials are rightly ticked about.

UCF (13-0), champion of the American Athletic Conference, is the nation's only unbeaten FBS team after its 32-27 upset of Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

Auburn, of course, has beaten both Alabama and Georgia, the teams that will play for the national championship on Monday.

"To the College Football Playoff playoff committee," UCF'star linebacker'shaquem Griffin'said: "What more can we do?"

The truth is, like every other team in the nation's five mid-major FBS leagues, they never had a chance. As the CFP is structured, a mid-major team will never make the final four.

UCF was 12th in the last CFP rankings, a ridiculously low position that'should leave the committee ashamed.

I watched UCF four times this season on TV, and saw a big, fast, talented team. The Knights passed the eye test. They could play with anyone and deserved serious playoff consideration,'something they never got from the committee.

The Knights crushed Maryland 38-10 in their only regular-season game against a Power 5'school. Unfortunately, an early-season game against Georgia Tech was canceled by weather.

UCF coach'scott Frost'said the'snub from the CFP committee was intentional.

"It looked like a conscious effort to me to make'sure that they didn't have a problem if they put us too high and a couple of teams ahead of us lost, and, 'oh no, now we have to put them in the playoff,' " he'said.

I don't think it was a conscious effort, but instead a bias in favor of the establishment conferences.

The establishment includes the media. Paul Finnebaum from the'sEC Network said weeks before the Peach Bowl that UCF wasn't "in the same league as Auburn," and predicted that the Tigers would crush the Knights.

ESPN commentators calling the game kept'saying that UCF's offensive line couldn't hold up against Auburn's defensive line and that the Knights would get worn down by the'superior Tigers.

Instead, it was Auburn that wore down. UCF allowed just one sack; the Knights sacked Auburn's Jarrett Stidham six times, intercepted him twice and had 10 tackles for a loss.

UCF was clearly the'superior team.

For a mid-major to "upset" a Power 5'school on New Year's Day is nothing new. Mid-majors have won three of the four New Year's Day bowls they've played in since start of the playoff system, and are 8-3 in major bowls against the Power 5'since the beginning of the Bowl Championship series.

It's time for the playoff committee to rethink it's opinion of mid-major teams, especially those from the AAC, which went 3-1 in bowl games against Power 5's.

It's doubtful that until there's an eight-team playoff that a mid-major will get serious playoff consideration. And given that the FBS season is already too long, we may never have an eight-team playoff.

For now, UCF boosters have to be content with claiming they are the national champion .

"In our eyes and in our minds, they are the national champions," AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told the Orlando Sentinel.

As he was leaving the field Monday, UCF athletic director Danny White looked into TV cameras and said, "Undefeated, national champions," and walked away.

Ho-hum Season for ACC The ACC boasted it had the nation's best FBS league last season, when Clemson won the national championship and the league finished 10-4 against the'sEC and 6-2 against the Big Ten.

The conference had a'sterling 9-3 bowl record and produced the Heisman Trophy winner in Louisville's Lamar Jackson.

But the ACC fell a few notches in 2017. It won just four of 10 bowls and posted a 2-5 record against Power 5'schools. In all, the ACC won 11 of 29 nonconference games against the Power 5.

N.C.'state was impressive in a 52-31 Sun Bowl victory over Arizona state, and Wake Forest edged Texas A&M 55-52 in the Belk Bowl. But two of the ACC's bowl wins came against mid-major's, and then there was U.Va.'s embarrassing 49-7 loss to Navy.

It was an average year for the ACC — not what league officials had hoped for.

Big Ten raised its Stock It's easy to put too much stock in bowl records. Often, teams are transitioning between coaching staffs, the match-ups are poor and some of the best players sit out .

Still, the Big Ten's 7-1 bowl record was impressive. All seven victories came over Power 5 schools, and Michigan blew a 16-point lead to the SEC's south Carolina in the Outback Bowl.

With two teams in the national championship game, the SEC can clearly claim it's the nation's best league. But at 13-6, the Big Ten had the best record against other Power 5 leagues and won half of the New Year's six bowls.

Good'season for Conference USA

C -USA placed a league-record nine teams in bowls. There were setbacks for the league, among them UAB's 41-6 loss to Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl and North Texas' 50-30 blowout defeat against Troy in the New Orleans Bowl. But it wasn't a bad postseason for C-USA, which went 4-5 in bowls.

Marshall had an impressive 31-28 victory over Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl, and Louisiana Tech crushed SMU from the AAC 51-10 in the Frisco Bowl.

The league improved greatly over 2016, thanks in part to the rebirth of programs at Florida Atlantic and Florida International. For the season, the league was 2-20 against the Power 5, 9-1 against FCS teams and 15-16 against other mid-major's, including a 5-4 mark against the Sun Belt and a 3-4 record against the AAC.

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January 3, 2018


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