Central Florida dreamin’, on such a winter’s day

I’ve been more than amused by all the UCF fluffery we’ve seen since the Knights embarrassed Auburn in the Peach Bowl.  Some of that’s come from folks with an axe to grind against the current CFP format, some of it’s been generated by the school (you folks are adorable) and now here comes Ian Boyd to explore what advanced stats and Peach Bowl film study might say would have happened had UCF been the selection committee’s number four in place of Alabama.

Sure, it’s harmless fun and it’s not as if I’m highly offended by it.  But there are a couple of premises he makes in support that I have to question.

The first is the most obvious:  UCF wasn’t the fourth-best team in the country this year.  Even Boyd notes that Bill Connelly’s S&P+ shows that Central Florida would have lost to both Clemson and Georgia.  Alabama was ranked first.  In that regard, where I do have to give a little credit where credit is due is that UCF doesn’t look totally out of place with the actual playoff field.

Playoff S&P+ profiles

Team S&P+ Rankings
Clemson 45th Off, 1st Def, 52nd S/T
Georgia 14th Off, 11th Def, 3rd S/T
Oklahoma 1st Off, 101st Def, 71st S/T
Alabama 23rd Off, 1st Def, 52nd S/T
UCF 2nd Off, 74th Def, 51st S/T

They look like a slightly poorer version of Oklahoma there, don’t they?

Based on that — and remember that S&P+ is a stat that adjusts for opponents’ quality — I think UCF’s offense would have had some success against Clemson and Georgia, but it’s defense would have had a harder time.  The real issue for Central Florida would have been depth, something S&P+ doesn’t address.  How likely would it have been that the offense would have gone unscathed against two ferocious defenses?  Alabama lost an offensive lineman in the middle of the national title game, plugged a five-star understudy in his place and moved on.  That ain’t happening with UCF.

The other place depth matters is on special teams.  That’s a matchup that would have greatly favored Georgia had the two teams met.

As far as the other premise goes, well…

We don’t have a ton of information to go off here, save for UCF’s performance against a Group of 5 schedule and a victory against Auburn in the Peach Bowl. However, Auburn defeated both of the participants in the title game, and it’s not likely that the Tigers were any more distracted than the Knights, whose coaches were balancing bowl prep with taking over Nebraska. So we can at least learn a few things from the Peach.

… really, it’s pretty weak.  Auburn’s problem in the bowl game wasn’t that its coaches were distracted.  It’s that its players weren’t particularly motivated.  And if you’re going to play the “Auburn defeated both of the participants in the title game” card, don’t you have to acknowledge that both of those wins came in the friendly confines of Jordan Hare Stadium and that when Auburn faced Georgia three weeks later in a neutral site (the same one where the Peach Bowl was played, as a matter of fact), the Tigers lost far more decisively than they did to UCF?

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68 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Stats Geek!

68 responses to “Central Florida dreamin’, on such a winter’s day

  1. Dawg1

    Why not Troy? They beat LSU who beat Auburn who beat uga and Alabama. Clearly Troy needs a parade!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Charlottedawg

    Who would’ve been a tougher opponent for us or Clemson? Ucf or Alabama? Of the two who most likely makes it through the grind of a power 5 regular season with 1 loss or fewer? Yeah that’s what I thought.

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  3. Mayor

    I’m one who disagrees with you on this Senator. UCF was undefeated. The Knights won all their games. They were not treated fairly by the committee which purposely underranked them from the committee’s first ranking sheet on so as to not be in the position of having to accept UCF as a top 4 teal as teams ranked higher lost during the season. I have posted about this before. The final rankings were upside down. Bama should have been number 1, Georgia number 2, Oklahoma number 3 and UCF number 4 in place of Clemson. To those who say UCF is from an inferior conference I would respectfully point out that the ACC is also an inferior conference. Compare the complete schedule of games played, including bowls, of UCF to Clemson’s schedule and they are comparable schedules. UCF went undefeated. Clemson lost 2 games.

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    • Sanford222view

      I don’t see how you can say/type that with a straight face. Clemson played at least 6 bowl teams ( I didn’t count FSU and Wake but they made bowls as well I believe so maybe 8). UCF played a Group of 5 schedule and only faced 3 bowl teams if I believe.

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      • Mayor

        They played Memphis twice so Memphis counts twice. My count was 5 bowl teams they played as I recall.

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        • Mayor

          I went back and recounted. If you count Auburn in the Peach Bowl and if you count Memphis twice (UCF played Memphis twice) 8 of UCF’s 13 wins came against bowl teams.

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    • Biggus Rickus

      Clemson played six teams in the regular season against teams ranked higher than anyone on UCF’s schedule by FPI. UCF played seven teams ranked 70th or worse by that same metric (Clemson didn’t play a single team that bad). So no, their schedules weren’t comparable. As for your last two sentences, UCF would have one more loss and Clemson one fewer if they’d switched places, with UCF playing Alabama in the playoff.

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      • Mayor

        I respectfully disagree with half of that. We don’t know that Auburn wouldn’t have beaten Clemson if they played a second time. Auburn was much better in the second half of the season and lost to Clemson by one score in the first game early in the season.

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        • Biggus Rickus

          If Auburn was motivated to play Clemson in the bowl game, maybe. If they played with the same intensity as they did against UCF, they’d have lost by three or four touchdowns.

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    • Mayor, I assume you’re making an argument that the playoffs should be about which teams are most deserving, as opposed to which are best. If so, that’s a subjective case and you’re as entitled to your position as I am to mine. No problem there.

      As far as equating schedules, though, you are way off base. Sagarin has Clemson with the #4 SOS and UCF at #72. Fremeau has Clemson at #7 and UCF at #74.

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      • Mayor

        And Clemson lost to…SYRACUSE! UCF didn’t have any losses. And UCF beat a Memphis team that was probably better than any team in the ACC other than Clemson–twice. I understand your position Senator. I just disagree with you. The committee should have picked UCF for one of the playoff spots and we wouldn’t be having this controversy. That’s what I’m saying. I’m not saying they really have a legitimate claim to the national championship.

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        • Again, if you’re making a deserving argument, I have no problem with it. I don’t agree with that criteria, but that’s just my opinion, too.

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          • Mayor

            Let me direct the same question to you Senator that I directed to Tony below. Since you are saying that no matter how many games these teams in the Group of 5 win and no matter who they play in conference, they should never be invited to the playoff because of their schedules. If that is true, do you favor splitting the FBS into 2 subdivisions and allowing them to have a national champion of their own?

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            • Since you are saying that no matter how many games these teams in the Group of 5 win and no matter who they play in conference, they should never be invited to the playoff because of their schedules.

              I’m not saying that. I’m saying UCF wasn’t one of the four best teams in the country at the end of the regular season.

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              • Mayor

                Since UCF won all the games they played, which is all they can do, if you are saying they are not good enough to be invited to play in the playoff because “they are not one of the four best teams” isn’t that the same as saying that the Group of 5 teams aren’t good enough to compete with the Power 5 teams for the championship no matter how good the Group of 5 team is because of the schedule they play?

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                • First of all, UCF didn’t do all it could do. It didn’t reschedule the game with Georgia Tech.

                  On your main point, I’m not saying anything more than UCF wasn’t one of the four best in the country. Unless you’re claiming it was, I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make. I’m not in favor of a tournament based on deserving. More power to you if you are.

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                  • Mayor

                    So you think GA Tech would have beaten UCF and UCF dodged a bullet by not rescheduling the hurricane cancelled Tech game? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

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                    • I don’t know who would have won. Neither do you.

                      What I do know is that GT asked to reschedule and UCF didn’t agree.

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                    • Mayor

                      I hadn’t heard that GT tried to reschedule the Knights. That said, I suspect GT’s desire to reschedule (if it really tried to get the UCF game back) was because the Jackets weren’t going to be bowl eligible without one more FBS game. If UCF didn’t reschedule Tech it sure as hell wasn’t because the Knights were afraid of the 5 win Jackets. More likely it was because they had to reschedule Memphis, a conference foe, and didn’t have enough slots. The lack of the win over GT, a Power 5 team, hurt the Knights’ chances to get into the playoff and the UCF AD had to know that.

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                    • Who gives a shit what Tech’s motivation was? My only point was that you were offbase claiming UCF did everything it could. It played one game less than did every other team in the CFP.

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                    • Mayor

                      Force majeure, Senator. Not UCF’s fault a hurricane came up. A whole lot of teams had to cancel games because of that hurricane. The Hurricanes (pun intended) would have been in the CFP if they had beaten Clemmons in the ACCCG and the ‘Canes also had played one less game because of that hurricane. Weak sauce, Senator. Surely you can do better than that (I would at least hope).

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                  • Mayor

                    P.S. I don’t give a shit about Tech’s motivation either. That’s not the point. The point is UCF was undefeated and if they had played Tech they still would have been undefeated.

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                    • And maybe they would have had a defensive player injured by a cut block.

                      My only point here, Mayor, is that you overstate their case.

                      And, again, if it’s about deserving, I have no argument with you. If it’s about best, even you concede they would have lost in the CFP. So what’s the point of continuing this argument?

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                    • Mayor

                      It’s not an argument Senator. It’s a discussion. And my point was, and is, that if UCF had been picked to be in the 4 team playoff we wouldn’t be hearing all this BS coming out of Orlando. That said, UCF might have surprised everybody and won. We’ll never know because they weren’t given the chance. And if this UCF team wasn’t given the chance then no G5 team is ever going to get that chance. Which brings me to my second point: If we are not going to let the G5 schools compete for the nattie in this playoff format why don’t we just split the FBS into 2 factions: (1) P5 and (2) G5? Let the G5 teams have a playoff too. After all, they have one for FCS, D-II and D-III don’t they?

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                    • And my point was, and is, that if UCF had been picked to be in the 4 team playoff we wouldn’t be hearing all this BS coming out of Orlando.

                      Who cares? Let ’em have their fun. It’s part of the charm of CFB, as far as I’m concerned.

                      The G5 doesn’t want a separate playoff, because that would be a money loser for them.

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                    • Mayor

                      Why would a G5 playoff be a money loser for them? It would get televised and that TV money could go to the G5 et. al. nest egg. Take all the G5 conferences and let their champs play off, maybe add a couple of the better non-G5 teams and the top second place finisher. The more the merrier.

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                    • There’s less money in a G5 playoff than the $17 million the mids are currently getting from the CFP. And when the CFP expands to eight, they’ll do even better.

                      There is nothing preventing them from starting their own playoff, since it’s not an NCAA sanctioned event. What do you think is stopping them?

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                    • Mayor

                      Don’t take my “playoff for G5 teams” gambit seriously Senator. I was just joking. The last thing we need in college football is more playoff games. But the committee system IS flawed and will cause the proliferation of playoff teams. The main flaw is the committee knows who every team is when they pick. It’s not blind. The committee picks based on the team’s reputation then justifies it with metrics it creates. They have to expand it because too many people now feel left out. BTW just wait til next year and the GA Tech AD gets a chance to screw the Dawgs. There will be howling–take it to the bank.

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                    • You’re overthinking this, Mayor.

                      The selection committee could be the most perfect thing on Earth and the playoffs would still expand.

                      Quit focusing on the noise and follow the money. That’s what’s driven college football for the last two decades and playoff expansion isn’t immune to that.

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                    • Mayor

                      First time I’ve been accused of OVERthinking. I usually get accused of not thinking at all. 🙂

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        • Biggus Rickus

          You could look up how objective attempts to quantify teams compared Memphis to the ACC teams on Clemson’s schedule. Miami and Louisville rate higher by S&P. Louisville, NC State, FSU, Virginia Tech and Miami all rate higher than Memphis by FPI. There’s also the eye test, who has more good players on their rosters and so on, if you don’t want to go by those rankings.

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        • I really hate to disagree with you Mayor because I live in Memphis and we all root for the hometown team. I can walk to the stadium and basically watched every game unless it conflicted with Georgia’s kick time.

          The difference can be really highlighted in the Memphis vs. Iowa State liberty bowl game. UCF would be somewhere probably slightly better than Iowa State (5 losses) in a Power 5 league. And it’s a great example because Iowa State showed they were capable of knocking off teams at the top of college football (OU and TCU) but were also susceptible to getting knocked around (5 times) when facing legit competition every single week.

          In the liberty bowl, which was the home team’s first ever appearance in the local game (and biggest bowl game in school history), a 5 loss team from the Big 12 came in to our stadium and pushed the hometown team around at the line of scrimmage, holding them to 25 points below their season average. UCF is nothing Iowa State wouldn’t be in a weaker league. Sorry.

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          • Mayor

            Then are you in favor of splitting the FBS into two subdivisions (Power 5 and everybody else) and having a national champion for both? Because you just said that no matter how many games those “other” teams win they can’t be good enough to make the playoff.

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            • Fine by me. Frankly, I don’t see why so many of these tax payer subsidized programs insist on playing football at the highest level amid rising costs. Tuition should not be going up to subsidize the indoor practice facility that Memphis wants. (obviously fancy accounting would never ACTUALLY show that, but there’s no getting around that the football program operates in the red and only balances their books through the help of the university at large).

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          • another thing about the American Conference. Most of their road games are worse atmospheres than a depressing bowl games—that’s why UCF proponents are always apt to argue neutral site / on paper type comparisons. So even if, say, USF (raymond james stadium) and LSU are comparable teams on paper, you’re blowing smoke if you think facing 18k sleepy fans in an NFL stadium is the same thing as playing even a mediocre LSU team at night in Tiger Stadium or a banged up Alabama grinding out a win while their ears are ringing to the tune of 70k cowbells.

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        • Napoleon BonerFart

          Yep. Watching UCF lose by 50 to Oklahoma in a game that mattered would certainly settle things. And we can all agree that Alabama didn’t deserve to be in the playoff. Good points.

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  4. 3rdandGrantham

    Reason #783 why I hate Auburn. I swear, they are the Florida Marlins of CFB. Most years they don’t do much and are basically an afterthought, then suddenly out of the blue (though cheating) they will put a great season together to retain respectability. Also like the Marlins, internally they are a mess of a franchise/program.

    In that UCF game, the AU players looked like they’d rather be doing anything else other than playing that game. Thanks to their general apathy, they screwed it up for the legit 4 playoff teams, and I for one think their loss could have been intentional just to try and stick it to us and Bama.

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  5. This whole UCF National Champions crap had me upset before Bama and the refs beat us. Now? I could care less. Let them claim one if they want. It is just as legit as several that Bama claims, which means not legit at all.

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    • Mayor

      You missed my point dude. I’m not saying that UCF really is the National Champion. I’m saying this is what you get when a team goes undefeated in the regular season (the ONLY undefeated team) and the committee leaves them out of the playoff. If UCF had played either Bama or Georgia in the playoff UCF likely would have lost. But they weren’t given that chance. Now you have claims of “undefeated national champs” coming from Orlando just like we heard coming from Southern Cal the year LSU won the BCSNCG under Saban. My point, inartfully stated by me I am sure, is that the committee system was and is flawed and needs revision. If they would fix that, I don’t think we need to expand the number of playoff teams. If they don’t fix that, it guarantees the expansion of the number of playoff teams in the future.

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      • Napoleon BonerFart

        If we’re looking for undefeated and ignoring SOS, then wouldn’t teams go all in? Cancel games in November for weather concerns, never reschedule them, and then line up a nonconference slate of FCS opponents just to claim an UNDEFEATED exemption for the playoff? It reminds me of the year UGA was the worst SEC basketball team, somehow won the SEC tournament, and ended up in the NCAA tournament. Everybody knew it was a joke, but those are the rules, so they were in over better teams.

        The current CFP system is supposed to identify the best teams. So we don’t have to suffer through that kind of crap. Some team managed to run the gauntlet of the weakest schedule in the country? Well, I guess they have to be in the playoff, even though everybody knows UGA or Alabama would smoke them. No thanks.

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        • Mayor

          So you’re in favor of going from 4 teams to 8 teams in the CFP? Because that is where this sort of thing is leading us.

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          • Napoleon BonerFart

            Of course not. 8 teams just makes the arguments more fuzzy. There’s no question that UCF wasn’t one of the top 4 teams in the country. Were they in the top 8? Maybe yes and maybe no. Now, we’re talking legitimate arguments. Was Wisconsin better than UCF? Should Auburn be ranked #8 or #9? Cinderella baybee!!

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  6. Got Cowdog

    Isn’t the Natty that tech is always crowing about a shared one?

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      • Got Cowdog

        I thought that was correct. I thought I’d throw that out there, you know, since we’re talking about imaginary national championships.

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        • Mayor

          Tech’s claim of a National Championship wasn’t imaginary. One of the polls picked them at the end.

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          • Got Cowdog

            So it was a poison ivy-poison oak sort of deal for the polls? If I recall correctly, that whole season turned out to be a participation trophy type thing. Either way, I’ll not be respecting the yellow perils in anything, and any success they gain is a fluke of nature.

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            • Mayor

              Nobody dislikes the Techmites more than me but I also don’t like fake news. That was the year Colorado got a fifth down by mistake and scored a winning TD on it, plus The Buffs were going to lose their bowl game to ND until a ref flagged ND for a BIB on a punt return that went for a TD. Tech should have won the NC that year. They had the best record in CFB.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Biggus Rickus

      Yes, though it arguably shouldn’t have been. I say arguably because their bowl opponent was likely the worst Nebraska team of Osborne’s career.

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  7. DawgPhan

    So UCF with a better defense and special teams and nearly equal offense to Oklahoma, is a slightly poorer version of Oklahoma, they look like they might be a slightly better version of Oklahoma.

    The only reason this is a discussion is that college football was down across the board this year. That 15.5 margin that UCF had this year would have put them somewhere around Miami last year and no where near the top.

    Same with every team though. This was the perfect year for a team like UCF to get a shot because all the other teams were around their level.

    This was the worst Bama title team since Saban’s first. This was everyone’s shot to win a title.

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    • Did you watch UCF play this year? How about Oklahoma?

      Stats are great, but I have to rely on what I see, too. UCF’s defense wasn’t good. And the gap between the number one offense and number two wasn’t small, either.

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  8. D.N. Nation

    Silly me, thinking that we as a species finally learned that transitive scores are fool’s gold.

    HURR DURR GEORGIA LOST TO AUBURN LOST TO CLEMSON LOST TO SYRACUSE LOST TO WAKE FOREST LOST TO DUKE, THEREFORE THE DOOKIES ARE NATIONAL CHAMPS, BAY-BEE!

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  9. DawgPhan

    The difference between the 101st defense and the 74th defense was greater than the gap between the first and second offense.

    UCF, Clemson and Oklahoma all finished next to each other in s&p+.

    Taking any 2 of those 3 teams would have been fine and would have likely produced the same calibre of playoff games.

    I dont think that the stats are the end all be all, but they definitely have “seen” more college football that you or anyone else did this season. So you relying on what you saw seems like pretty weak reasoning. The stats saw every play of every game. You didnt.

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  10. CB

    Caveat: Georgia defeated Auburn soundly in the SECCG with Auburn missing the production of the injured Kerryon Johnson. We probably win either way, but it’s an important factor to note given his impact on the first meeting. I totally concur with your point about the motivation of Auburn to play against a G5 opponent in the Peach Bowl after falling short of their goal to obtain a playoff berth. I even called in to explain that to Rich Eisen a couple of weeks ago… He wasn’t interested in my perspective.

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    • Biggus Rickus

      I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who picked UCF to win the game based on the way people reacted to it. I didn’t think there was any way Auburn was going to be ready to play, and UCF was pretty good, very good offensively.

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      • CB

        I think you would find a great deal of Auburn fans who were thinking the exact same thing. I know some who live in Atlanta and had no interest in attending the game for that very reason.

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      • Mayor

        I picked UCF to beat the Barners too. All my friends laughed at me.

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    • Are we certain Kerryon was at full strength 3 weeks later for the Peach Bowl ?
      Why does everyone ignore Memphis, the linch pin to UCF’s argument, getting stonewalled in their home stadium, in the biggest bowl game in school history, to a 5 loss Iowa State team ? (since we’re talking about bowl game motivation)
      Also, the 2nd best AAC West team (and usual bell cow) Houston, was beaten by the same Fresno State team that Alabama is facing criminal charges for what they did to them in Week 2.

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      • CB

        I personally throw out all bowl performances for that very reason. If you’re going to discount the Peach Bowl then it seems contradictory to take other bowls into account. Although, I suppose there is an argument to be made that bowls hold more significance for G5 schools.

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  11. WarD Eagle

    I stand by my assertion that UCF deserved a place because they won on the field regardless of whether they would’ve lost on paper. The eye test is quite often very wrong. In my business statistics are everything, yet they can be used to say anything.

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  12. Macallanlover

    UCF would have had a spot in an 8 team playoff, but was certainly not qualified for a four team playoff. As with Hawaii, they would have been dusted off and sent packing in a game played with intensity against top competition. Auburn wasn’t that in Atlanta, and I don’t see how anyone can make a case that they cared at all. Not what I want out of any team, but that is what bowls have become, especially to athletes planning on leaving afterwards.

    UCF has made fools of themselves with this charade, diminishing what respect they may have earned during the season. Their efforts should be more with courting the Big 12 and offering them a huge TV market and not alienating Power 5 schools with their silly banter. Good team, bad reaction. Go independent and earn respect the way Bowden did with FSU, don’t hide behind a pathetic schedule and toast yourself. You had no skin in the game, you cannot reap the rewards.

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    • Mayor

      I think UCF would be a better fit athletically and regionally in the ACC. The Knights bring a big TV market with them, too. They would fit in perfectly in the Coastal Division which only has 7 members currently (the Atlantic has 8). Of course Miami and FSU may not like it for recruiting reasons and might try to blackball them but that is not a good reason for the other 13 schools to keep UCF out. They need to change the name though. University of CENTRAL Florida sounds bush league IMHO.

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      • Macallanlover

        Mayor, the ACC picks up nothing as a TV market, Miami and FSU cover the entire state already. This would be virgin TV area for the Big 12, and in one of the most populous states. Hard to find a fit that good for any conference. Spreads the footprint a bit but they are already stretched to West By Gawd,,,,for a lot fewer viewers. Plus it opens up recruiting in talent-rich Florida.

        But now that they are kicking dirt on OU’s legitimacy in this year’s CFP, they have one enemy in the camp already, and Texas always requires some major-league sucking up. Seems like someone didn’t think through this campaign which looks more like it has roots in a freshman dorm, not in the AD.

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        • Mayor

          It’s a long way from Orlando to Lubbock, Mac. Sure it would add the FL TV market for the Big 12 but who would care if UCF beat TT or not besides the participants? Under that theory GA Tech should get in the ACC to add Atlanta to their TV footprint….wait……er…..forget it….never mind. 🙂

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  13. Bob

    The Florida Legislature wants to recognize UCF because they were unbeaten. No problem with me. However, I suggest they go back to 2006 and reward Boise State and 2008 and reward the Utes, who took Bama to the cleaners. Oh yeah, that would put a little dent in those two Gator titles, would it not? LOL

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