The four teams that played in Monday’s College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinals are among the sport’s elite. Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma are regular contenders for the national title.
Some seasons introduce teams who make occasional appearances on the national stage and show that, at least for a season, that team can play with anyone. 2018 was that season and the Central Florida Knights was that team.
UCF’s pulsating 34-27 win over Auburn of the mighty Southeastern Conference proved to any doubters that Coach Scott Frost’s gritty bunch belonged at the party. In fact, they had the audacity to ask the Tigers to hold their beer.
The only question UCF left unanswered was how could they receive zero consideration for gaining an invitation to the CFP? As each passing week produced Central Florida victories, the Knights could not even crack the top 10 in CFP rankings.
Frost was underwhelmed by the process.
“It wasn’t right,” said Frost, who now becomes the head coach at his alma mater, Nebraska. “I was watching [the selection show] every week, the committee sitting in a room and deciding that this two-loss team must be better than UCF because UCF is in the American (Athletic Conference), or this three-loss team must be better than UCF.”
Frost has every right to feel that way. His team defeated an Auburn team that beat both Georgia and Alabama when each was ranked No. 1.
When the conference champions were crowned, only one team — UCF — had won all of their games. Four of those games were against ranked teams (one on the road) and they dismantled the Big 10’s Maryland Terrapins 38-10 on the road.
On Monday they were 10.5-point underdogs. With their victory, they became the biggest bowl underdogs to come out on top.
Fox Sports’ Tim Brando said “Every talking head I watched (Monday) morning had condescending statements on @UCF_Football in its quest to win today. Let’s see who steps up and says we were wrong.”
ESPN basketball commentator Jay Bilas was equally critical of the selection process.
“A playoff system that leaves out an unbeaten team, and ranks that team 12th (behind 3 loss teams), is NOT legitimate,” he tweeted. “Every game counts? Nah.”
Following Monday’s victory, it’s not like Frost started tearing into the process. Instead, he began by expressing the joy he felt for his players in accomplishing so much in just two years’ time.
“I’m so happy for these guys,” he said. “I told them in the locker room, this was a 0-12 group when I got there, and they looked like they weren’t having any fun and didn’t care about each other. We had a long way to go, and to think that they are sitting here Peach Bowl champions and 13-0 in two years, I couldn’t be happier for them.”
The final rankings will come out after next week’s national championship game. UCF followers will not be surprised if the Knights are denied a spot in the top five.
With nothing more to prove, the Knights will have to be content with being perfect.