In the middle of a 24 game winning streak that includes last years’ Fiesta Bowl win over Auburn, and their self-proclaimed 2017 National Title Champion as the only undefeated team in the FBS, UCF produces a conundrum for everyone involved in the sport. Not only has it become apparent that they will not get anywhere near a shot at the CFP final four, it has become clear that the “Power 5” conferences and “Group of 5” conferences have evolved into two almost separate entities.
While it is important that there are many other factors at play, their 34-27 win over Auburn in the Fiesta Bowl last year was telling. It told us that UCF could have competed with Alabama and Georgia last year as Auburn beat both of the last two teams standing in the CFP. However, there are other circumstances to account for, such as Auburn being deflated about playing in a bowl game that wasn’t the CFP, the Gus Malzhan to Arkansas rumors in the air, the hesiatation of Auburn’s best draft eligible players to give their all in a meaningless bowl game in fear for injury, and them taking UCF lightly. At the end of the day, UCF beat them on the field and the scoreboard has the final word.
UCF had its fair share of distractions as well, with their prodigy head coach accepting the same position with his alma mater. However, he deciding to coach them in the bowl game, which could have helped motivate them in the end, the thought of sending the best coach in program history off with a bang.
UCF put up incredible numbers last year, scoring around 50 points per game and dominating the competition. However, through no fault of their own, the competition wasn’t up to the Power 5 standards the final four set. They dominated the schedule set for them, but by the time they truly proved themselves against Auburn, it was too late.
This shows a clear divide between the two groups of conferences, one that clearly won’t go away and one that will prevent any Group of 5 team in the CFP final four.
My suggestion? Split the two up and they can each compete for their own crown. It could be easily done, formally at least since it’s essentially split already. Power 5 teams would play only power 5 teams and vice versa, which will assist the teams in scheduling difficult and appropriate opponents. Then, the Power 5 and Group of 5 will each have a national champion and that’s where the arguments stop.
College football has shown it’s ability to slowly integrate progressive and beneficial ideas. The BCS, for example, had its flaws but it was finally a system where #1 played #2 for the big game. Before that, very rarely did 1v2 games happen during bowl season, and as long as you were a No. 1 team and you won your bowl game, you could almost count on being crowned.
Then came what we waited years for, a playoff where the final 4 were picked through a delicate process of 13 individuals who’s job was to pick the four best teams in college football. No formulas or equations deciding who’s the best, these are football experts. Though there has been controversy over the years over who’s in and who’s out, the committee has largely picked the true best four.
Since the committee refuses to expand the playoff to 8 or 12 or 16 teams, something must be done to give the UCFs of the world a shot at the glory they deserve. Do MAC and Sunbelt teams have anything to play for other than a conference championship? Not in today’s landscape. But if you give them a legitimate shot at a National Title, they become more hungry, hopeful, and focused. All of a sudden their season has ultimate meaning, something those teams have never had at the FBS or Division 1 level.
Thats not even to mention the recruiting factor going into play. Say a high level recruit out of Florida has his pick of anywhere in the country, he can now choose UCF because his chances of winning a ring is very plausible. Same concept applies with the lower 4 star and upper 3 star guys. Why go sit for a few years at a program like Arkansas who won’t have a title shot in the near future, when you can go play for, say, Boise State and have a real shot to win a National Championship, get great national exposure, and dominate at that level. To me, it appears as though everybody wins in this scenario, and though the cost may be great to achieve this proposal, the dividends will more than make it worth everyone’s while.