ORLANDO, FL — 18-game win streak. Check. Heisman Trophy contender at QB—via Hawaii. Check. Ranked in the top ten at number nine. Check. Yet, it seems that the national media and so-called sports “experts” continue to ignore the UCF Knights.
Yes, as an Ohio State fan and family alum, I bleed scarlet and gray all day, every day every Saturday, but as a fan of my newly-adopted second team that rocks “The Bounce House” hard that is known as Spectrum Stadium, its time to give UCF some respect.
Let’s be real here for a second: Yes, UCF doesn’t play in a Power Five Conference, they don’t play anyone and that they have no big time players, that’ll make fans up here in Cleveland–or in the rest of the country–tune in or even care.
Funny, same thing was said about another non Power Five Team that ultimately changed the college football status quo: Boise State.
You remember them right? Plucky upstart from the WAC that would move over to the newly-formed Mountain West, that shocked the world in upsetting Oklahoma 43-42 in the 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
A Statue of Liberty trick play, running back-proposes-to-cheerleader girlfriend-in the end zone-Boise State.
You know THAT team you randomly decided to check out after surfing thru all of your channels that plays on that cool-ass gimmicky blue artificial grass.
The Smurf Turf Squad.
That program that has won a combined 214 games since 2006 and defeated big name programs such as the aforementioned Sooners, Oregon, TCU, Utah, Arizona State, Washington, Arizona also got the proverbial Heisman–much like UCF is getting now due to a combination of geography, conference and lack of being a big name.
Despite producing some big name ballers who collect checks on Sundays such as Super Bowl champion Jay Ajayi, RB Doug Martin, LB Leighton Vanden Esch, WR Cedric Wilson and CB Orlando Scandrick, Boise State is on Pluto as far as the national East Coast bias-having media is concerned.
And despite being on the East Coast, UCF has a similar issue thanks to playing in the uber-stupid, talent-rich filled Sunshine State.
Situated in the proverbial Bermuda Triangle of Death in being between both Florida State up The Panhandle and Miami about 3.5 hours down the Turnpike, UCF is considered a second-rate community/commuter school by some in Florida.
In a state that produces an insane amount of Sunday studs, UCF is often stuck with the remaining scraps that are left over from the talent-hungry Power Five behemoths up AND down the road from them.
Oh! Let’s not forget a certain SEC East power that plays roughly two hours up I-75 and the Florida Turnpike in Gainesville, the Florida Gators.
You may have heard of them too, you know, where some quasi NFL football-playing, minor league Field of Dreams-having goodie-goodie, Jesus-loving guy named Tim Tebow used to play.
But anywho..back to UCF, and how being sandwiched in between Florida State, Florida and Miami is more of a detriment to the Knights than the fact that they aren’t in either the ACC or SEC.
They say that in real estate it’s all about location, location, location, considering that “the Bounce House” is in sunny–and ever so beautiful–Orlando, Disney runs O-town, where sadly the Knights are a sports afterthought.
Thanks to their 18 straight wins and the Heisman Trophy-like heroics of Milton, the perception of UCF as both a program and brand outside of the 407 are beginning to change.
If it takes a Cleveland born and bred, lifelong fan of the Scarlet and Gray to blog a proverbial love letter about a program on the rise such as UCF to get them noticed, then that says something.
UCF has “it” that something that can’t be quantified by win shares, stupid-ass analytics, trendy hashtag or even conference affiliation.
They aren’t Notre Dame, and thank god for that, but if you check them out and see their up-tempo, explosive brand of football, you can’t help but hop on their bandwagon.
The Knights don’t have the brash loudness or swag like the ‘Noles, Canes or even the Gators, but they are efficient and methodical, much like their storied namesake mascot.
And like Boise State, UCF has also produced some big time ballers such as QB’s Daunte Culpepper and current franchise quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars Blake Bortles, WR Brandon Marshall, two-time Super Bowl champion DB in Asante Samuel, RB Latavius Murray and the Griffin twins, Shaquill and Shaquem.
Hard to believe that UCF has only had a football program since 1979–I was three, at the time–but to have beaten some big time opponents in New Year’s Day bowls such as Auburn and Baylor in such a short period of time is astounding.
They went from winless two seasons ago to self-crowned national champions, and had the cajones to do that–and troll Alabama–with no chill.
Like them or not, you got give UCF and their shrewd athletic department and their social media team some dap for that.
As they get ready for their latest game on the road vs. Memphis, all UCF can do now is continue to pile on the wins, and possibly another claimed title, at the rate they’re going, it wouldn’t be so far out of the question as to the notion of them being another Boise State, but more of; of and how much of a “knightmare” they are going to become for the CFP selection committee if they run the table again.