By Mike Mavres
In college football, only two schools have an undefeated record. One is Wisconsin, ranked #4 by the college football playoff committee. The other one, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is ranked #14. Why?
If you haven’t heard of UCF, you may think it’s some small school near Disney in the middle of the state of Florida. But it’s the second-largest university in the nation in student enrollment with more than 64,000 students.
You may not have known that they also have a football team. The Knights. You’ve probably heard of them.
They’re undefeated in 2017, have the #1 ranked offense in points per game at 48.3. Their defense is not too bad either, ranking 48th in the country in total defense. Obviously, given those statistics, it’s not difficult to assume UCF is ranked in the Top 10 by the College Football Playoff Committee.
You’d be wrong!
When discussing UCF’s current ranking, the committee chairman and the talking heads at ESPN love to remind everyone that UCF plays in a “non-Power 5 conference” named the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
And teams not in the Power 5 conferences don’t play good enough teams week in and week out to support a higher ranking. AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is not happy about it. “I just don’t think our league is garnering the respect it deserves, period,” he told ESPN. “I feel strongly about it. The evidence is in.”
This is nothing new for Aresco, he thought conference member Houston didn’t get the respect they deserved last year, despite beating highly ranked Oklahoma and Louisville.
So where is the love for UCF?
Let’s look at the 13 committee members and where they come from. Five members are athletic directors from each of the Power 5 conferences. Three others are former coaches at Power 5 conference schools.
So, eight of the 13 committee members have current or former ties to Power 5 schools.
Why would these members show UCF love? Showing love to UCF (or any other non-power 5 conference member) could potentially keep more power 5 conference members out of the 4-team college football playoff.
And that would cost those conferences millions of dollars.
Why should the college football playoff committee show UCF love? The American conference has displayed, over the past 3 years, that they can beat top ranked teams from the power conferences. Memphis defeated Ole Miss, Houston defeated Louisville, Oklahoma, and Florida State, and UCF defeated Baylor.
So, the perception that the AAC is a much weaker conference is simply inaccurate. In 2017, UCF has beaten three AAC teams that were ranked in the Associated Press (AP) Top 25 (Navy, Memphis, and USF). UCF went to College Park, Maryland and beat the Terrapins 38-10.
The same Maryland team that beat Texas in the first week. The same Maryland team that lost to Wisconsin 38-13 at Wisconsin.
Unbiased computer rankings (from the BCS era) have UCF ranked very high. The Colley Matrix currently has UCF ranked #3. The Anderson and Hester ranking has UCF ranked #2. The Billingsley Report has UCF ranked #10. But the CFP committee ranking is #15. There’s a reason why the playoff committee is keeping UCF ranked low. They want no part of a lower conference member taking any of the millions of dollars the conferences make from the playoff.
College football has become a rigged system under the current format. And UCF isn’t getting any love.