College Sports

UCF’s chaotic path to the College Football Playoff isn’t as improbable as you might think

Saban dismisses claim that UCF shares national title with Alabama

Alabama coach Nick Saban insists that his team is the true NCAA football champion, and not UCF, who went undefeated last season. Saban added that the College Football Playoff system is "not broken."
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Alabama coach Nick Saban insists that his team is the true NCAA football champion, and not UCF, who went undefeated last season. Saban added that the College Football Playoff system is "not broken."

UCF’s path to the College Football Playoff doesn’t seem as improbable as it once did, thanks to a little chaos during Rivalry Week.

There needs to be additional chaos and a victory against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game this week for the Knights to have a CFP chance.

Of course, this is based on the playoff committee shaking including a Group of 5 program for the first time as well as not factoring quarterback McKenzie Milton’s injury into evaluating UCF for college football’s “Knightmare” scenario to play out.

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While UCF really needed West Virginia to knock off Oklahoma in Morgantown on Saturday, the Knights did get help when Washington beat one-loss Washington State in the Apple Cup and Texas A&M defeated LSU in a seven-overtime thriller.

But Ohio State’s blowout victory against Michigan will likely replace the Buckeyes with the Wolverines as a team ahead of UCF when the new CFP rankings are unveiled Tuesday.

UCF was No. 9 last week.

What Knights fans need to cheer for is Alabama to defeat Georgia, a team likely to be ranked No. 4 in Tuesday’s CFP rankings, and Oklahoma and Ohio State to lose their conference championship games.

The Sooners are playing a three-loss Texas team that defeated them earlier this season, while the Buckeyes play Northwestern in the Big Ten title game.

While UCF faces Memphis in a rematch of a one-point Knights’ win this season for the AAC title in Orlando, there’s plenty of interest in other games to see what kind of shake-up could happen. Notre Dame pretty much sealed its CFP ticket with an undefeated regular season, while Clemson plays Pittsburgh — a team UCF blew out this year — in the ACC title game.

Of course, the playoff committee could revert to basketball precedent and re-evaluate UCF in the wake of Milton’s horrific knee injury much like the March Madness seeding committee did to Cincinnati in 2000 when Kenyon Martin’s broken leg moved the Bearcats from a No. 1 seed to a No. 2 seed. The Bearcats’ national title hopes vanquished with an early round tournament loss.

The playoff committee could easily leapfrog Texas over UCF, too, if the Longhorns defeat Oklahoma soundly in the Big 12 championship, even with Texas possessing three losses. The committee has had two-loss teams ranked ahead of UCF at different points of the 2018 season, which included LSU through last week.

Texas also has a strength of schedule ranked No. 8 compared to UCF’s ranking of 107. The strength of schedule is considered in the committee’s criteria when comparing similar teams.

However, if the committee values winning above all else and chaos strikes a second consecutive week, UCF could find itself in serious consideration for one of the four playoff berths.

And a possible semifinal game against Alabama, the team UCF fans have called to play ever since declaring itself national champions at the end of last season.

Send story tips to @Jason__Dill on Twitter.

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