UCF is the only unbeaten team left in college football after the 2017 season. Does it deserve to be called a national champion?
Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
The column, like Auburn, apparently “hasn’t seen any speed” like UCF was able to bring to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
For those of us who lived through it, it was a dark time with a creepy Apple ad, a sell-out album from Van Halen, and that was about it
Imagine a world where a team outside of the major conferences went undefeated.
It didn’t play anyone who was any good, but it rolled through the schedule and came up with a bowl win to finish 13-0. As the only unbeaten and untied team, it was named the national champion.
However, there were arguments from the big conferences about the schedule.
Another team from a power league went through the regular season with one loss, didn’t win its conference championship because it lost a late-season game, and played a mediocre schedule. But it made amends with a dominant performance over another powerhouse team in a big bowl to finish 11-1.
Welcome to 1984.
BYU played NOBODY.
It ended the season with four wins over teams that finished with winning records, with the best victories coming against whatever Hawaii and Air Force squads on the road in close fights.
But the Cougars were 12-0 going into the Holiday Bowl against one of Bo Schembechler’s worst Michigan teams. BYU won 24-17, was the only undefeated team, and the AP and Coaches polls both named LaVell Edwards’ squad the national champion.
Washington finished No. 2 after going 11-1 – the lone loss coming to a strong USC team – with a terrific win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. However, the Huskies didn’t have the best of schedules in the regular season with just four wins over teams that finished with a winning record.
Does any of this sort of sound familiar? Maybe, except for the unbeaten team beating a mediocre team part in a bowl part.
If you took the 2017 college football season and plopped it in 1984, on January 2nd, 1985, UCF would’ve been named the national champion.
But, of course, we’ve evolved since the Poll ‘n’ Bowl days – to a point.
The old system was totally ridiculous, since it was based purely on the flawed judgments of the voters. There was no Internet, cable TV was just getting rolling, and there was no way to watch more than just a few big games every Saturday.
But at least an undefeated BYU team was in the discussion for the national championship – and won it. Now, as improved the process is, it’s still based on judging and opinions. That’s what UCF’s biggest problem is after beating Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Now, let’s get this out of the way before diving in any further. Unless you’re a UCF fan, I’m on your side.
I might not have dug the process that set up this year’s College Football Playoff final four, and America is threatening to stay away from the all-SEC national championship in droves – especially considering the third-best team in the conference this season is probably going to win it – but there’s no such thing as a cheap College Football Playoff national champion.
Even if you believe Alabama didn’t deserve to get there, if it beats Clemson and Georgia, it did it. It more than earned its national title – but that’s not the point. Alabama got that chance at Clemson, and despite doing everything right, UCF didn’t.
Could Ohio State have beaten Clemson? Penn State would’ve been a tough out, and Wisconsin might have made some noise, too. But they all had a reason to not be in the College Football Playoff. Had any one of them won the Big Ten title and finished with one loss, it would’ve been in.
UCF didn’t get that chance. There wasn’t anything the team could’ve done to get in, and that’s where the frustration comes from. In no other sport is a team effectively eliminated from the championship chase before the season even starts.
Now-Nebraska head coach Scott Frost made the after-the-fact beef against the CFP committee that it made a “conscious effort” to keep UCF low in the rankings, which is, of course, true, because the entire purpose of the CFP committee is to make a conscious effort to rank all teams where it believes they should be.
But to insinuate that the committee knocked down UCF because it’s UCF, or not in the Power Five, is wrong. UCF was knocked down because its schedule wasn’t all that great – there was no conspiracy.
Remember, for all the bickering, debating, and arguing, the CFP committee is honestly trying to do the right thing. There are no ulterior motives here. We can disagree, and we can argue, but this group really does want the four best teams in the playoff every year.
But now, after four years of the College Football Playoff, the Group of Five champions are 3-1 in the New Year’s Six bowls, with that one loss a good performance by Western Michigan against Wisconsin in last year’s Cotton.
All UCF wanted was that same chance that Alabama had. And while we can’t go in the wayback machine to do anything about it, the program and the Group of Five advocates actually have a point.
UCF just beat Auburn. Say what you will about the bowl games not being the same as a regular season battle, and argue if you must that the Tigers didn’t care about this like they would’ve if they were in the CFP, but bowls matter in the final polls. The games are played, they count toward the final records, and they are a part of the make-up of the season.
Of course, Auburn beat Alabama rather easily, and destroyed Georgia once, before getting rocked in the SEC Championship.
So, if UCF is the lone unbeaten team in college football, and if it beat the team that beat the two teams about to play for the national title …
But it doesn’t work that way.
Of course schedule matters.
Putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, UCF beat seven bowl teams in all – and Memphis twice – but Memphis, Navy and USF were the only good wins to get to 11-0, and then came that Auburn win.
But before Clemson, Alabama only beat two teams ranked in the College Football Playoff top 25, and there’s a chance that UCF will finish with as many final top 25 wins as the Crimson Tide.
Is anyone saying UCF is better than Alabama? That’s the point. I don’t think so, and you don’t think so, but I didn’t think UCF was better than Auburn, either, and – most likely – neither did you.
UCF didn’t get its opportunity, and that’s the real killer here. In any other sport, a UCF would’ve had a chance to win the games on the field and take the championship. In college football, it wasn’t able to get into the club.
Is UCF the national champion? No. Some metric might say so, but no.
It’s not fair that UCF didn’t get the opportunity to win it all, and it’s not right that the system is set up this way, but the winner between Alabama and Georgia on Monday night will be the national champion for the 2017 season.
But that national champion will have a loss on the resume to a team UCF beat.
When it comes to deciding a college football champion, the more things change …