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UCF- National Champions?

Charlotte Varnes, Staff Reporter

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Following the University of Alabama’s nerve racking 26-23 win over the University of Georgia in the College Football National Championship Monday night, crowds filled the streets of downtown Tuscaloosa, reveling in their team’s win. Hundreds of miles away, in downtown Orlando, Florida, a very similar celebration was happening, but for a whole different team: the University of Central Florida. Why the celebration? UCF went 13-0 during the 2017 season, finishing it off by defeating #7 Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl. The university has given itself the title of 2017 National Champions, despite not even playing in the championship game.

What lies behind UCF’s argument? One factor is UCF’s victory over Auburn, who beat both Georgia and Alabama during the regular season. As well as this, the Knights had the number one scoring offense in the NCAA and pulled off wild win after wild win. Additionally, the team seemed to overcome all odds; going from 0-12 to 13-0 in just a matter of two seasons, as well as missing out on two weeks of gameplay at the beginning of their season due to Hurricane Irma, yet playing all season as though no time had been lost.

All of these reasons are minor, though, compared to the one true factor: embarrassment. UCF, a non-Power 5 school, had defeated Auburn, a perennial power. This quite upset the College Football Playoff (CFP) committee, sportscasters, and Power 5 fans; nearly all predictions and lines showed Auburn winning by a large margin. UCF, by declaring themselves National Champions, are challenging and embarrassing the age-old beliefs of college football fans and the playoffs committee alike. Yes, schools in smaller conferences can play football, and they can certainly play it on the national stage.  This is the second time in four years UCF has proved this point; their 2014 Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor shook up the college football world as well. Seeing the embarrassment caused to the CFP committee by defeating Auburn has certainly encouraged UCF to force their victory on all.

Are the Knights truly national champions? Realistically, no. Their several close games during the regular season and mediocre schedule were certainly reasons to keep them out of playoff contention. Still, their campaigning has made a strong case for possibly expanding the CFP to eight teams. Only allowing four teams has certainly kept worthy schools out of the playoffs, such as Big Ten Champion Ohio State and Auburn (considering they beat both Alabama and Georgia). With eight teams, allowing a wild card smaller conference school would be easier, and could make for much more interesting games.

Additionally, they have also made a point regarding the inclusion of smaller conferences. Although UCF has won both the Fiesta Bowl and the Peach Bowl in the past five years, they have been paid little due on the national stage. The American Athletic Conference includes strong teams such as UCF, USF, Memphis, and Navy, but these programs gain little recognition due to “weak” schedules and an “easy” conference. Numerous teams in the conference were ranked at various points throughout the season, but the American garners little attention due to the fact it is not in the Power 5.

Although not official national champions, UCF came out of the season with a shiny Peach Bowl Trophy and an undefeated record. Despite this, they lost Coach Scott Frost to the University of Nebraska, a Power 5 school with the allure of a high paycheck and the chance for Big Ten and national glory. Still, the Knights finished the season on a high note, and hopefully all of their campaigning will lead to change in the college football elite and the CFP committee alike.

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UCF- National Champions?