The self-serving college football elite got what they wanted: An end to the UCF Cinderella Knights’ remarkable 25-game regular season winning streak. It ended Saturday in Pittsburgh with a one-point, 35-34, last-minute escape by the Pitt Panthers, a certified member of one of the so-called Power Five conferences.
For more than two years, the Knights have been a burr in the Power Five saddles, threatening to horn in on the elites’ rich playoff pot of gold. The big boys became outspoken critics of the Knights’ alleged soft schedule — a result of numerous Power Five schools refusing to schedule the Knights after they began knocking off traditional powers like Auburn, Baylor, et al, and having a game against Georgia Tech cancelled by a hurricane last year. The big boys sneered at UCF for playing non-conference foes the likes of Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic, all the while failing to point out that even schools in the Power Five SEC and ACC softened their own 2019 schedules with off-Broadway cupcakes such as Samford, N Mexico State, Murray State, Western Kentucky, Lamar, Portland State, UT Martin, Towson, William & Mary, Old Dominion, Richmond, The Citadel, Bethune-Cookman, Wofford, Mercer, Holy Cross, Alabama State and the ever-powerful Elon.
Those big boys and their sycophant media are now celebrating that the UCF streak ended with a 1-point loss on the road at Pitt despite an undersized freshman quarterback filling in for the magical but injured McKenzie Milton. One Ohio columnist claimed UCF never deserved a spot in the final four playoff because of its schedule and the “fact” that it was a small school “somewhere in Florida.”
Memo to that lazy journalist: Had you done your homework, you would have found that UCF is the largest university in the nation by enrollment, having recently passed your beloved Ohio State. Today, that guy is doubtless celebrating as if the Knights had been waxed in Pittsburgh by several touchdowns. In fact, UCF has been doing the waxing, dispatching its first three opponents this season by lop-sided, embarrassing scores, including Power Five headliner Stanford just last week.
Another critic, a college football rating service, now snidely puts UCF’s chances of gaining a berth in the playoffs at a demeaning one-tenth of one percent, even if the Knights run the table on its remaining schedule. But finishing with that 1-point loss to Pitt as the sole blemish on this season, will be tough because most remaining games are against the rapidly rising American Athletic Conference. Several fellow AAC members have begun knocking off Power Five teams. In addition to UCF’s romp over Stanford, Memphis beat Ole Miss, SMU upset TCU and Cincinnati upset UCLA just in the first month of this season.
You can’t tell the red faces for all the red faces.
No doubt the Power Five Ranking Committee will censure those athletic directors for being so foolish to put some AAC teams on their schedule, thinking when those contracts were made several years earlier the unwashed opponents would provide guaranteed wins (and bowl bids) for the big boys.
When the current college football playoffs were adopted a few years ago, the Committee claimed their goal was to identify a true No. 1.
No, they were instead looking out for No. 1. Themselves.
This post originally appeared September 23, 2019 at SpaceCoastDaily.com, based in Brevard County, Florida.