UCF Football in Elite Company

2017 AAC Championship Celebration
There was much to celebrate for the UCF Knights in 2017.

By Eddie Melville

In recent memory, there have been few football teams as impressive or polarizing as the 2017 UCF Knights.  If you believe the Knights are the 2017 National Champions, you have a lot of  people in your camp.  While UCF was not invited to the College Football Playoff, the team was the only undefeated squad in college football, finishing the season 13-0 with an impressive Peach Bowl victory over the #7 school in the CFP rankings, the Auburn Tigers.  This was the same Auburn squad that just so happened to hand CFP Final winner Alabama their only loss of the season; therefore, UCF athletic director Danny White held back no punches and outright claimed the National Championship for UCF.  Many renowned columnists followed suit and even the lesser known yet nationally recognized Colley Matrix Rankings proclaimed the Knights to be the number 1 college football team in America.  The argument for UCF as the true #1 team has not been without controversy though.  SEC elitists like Paul Finebaum have more or less shouted, “how dare you! Know your place, UCF!”  Other football analysts, personalities, and fans have laughed it off, made fun of it, and argued their opinions of why the Knights not only aren’t number 1, but would get destroyed if they played a “real schedule.”  All in all, it has made for a wild beginning of 2018 and a controversial end to the 2017 college football season for Knight Nation.

Shifting focus to one of the major polls: like many UCF fans, when I saw that the Knights were ranked 6th in the Associated Press (AP) Poll with 4 first place votes and 7th in the Coaches Poll, I had mixed emotions.  On one hand, I thought to myself, “This is awesome! It’s our best rankings ever in the major polls and even higher than I expected. And first place votes in the AP? Wow! We’ve made true believers out of some people!”  On the other hand, I thought to myself, “Undefeated and no better than 6? And 7th in the Coaches Poll? We deserve to be in the top 5 at minimum!”  While I still believe UCF deserves to be higher, I know none of us could change the perception of the coaches or members of the press who voted in these nationally recognized polls.   Therefore, I ultimately wanted to soak in these rankings, particularly the AP Poll.  To do so, I decided to do a little bit of homework to see where a #6 finish with 4 first place votes and two Top 10 finishes in 5 years places UCF in comparison to the rest of college football, especially since the program has only been in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) since 1996. So without further adieu, here’s some interesting numbers as specifically relates to the AP Poll…

  • Starting with the 1996 College Football Season:
    • 13 schools have finished #1 in the AP Poll
    • 20 schools have received #1 votes in the AP Poll (Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas, LSU, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, UCF, USC, Utah
  • 19 teams from Power 5 Conferences to have NOT finished in the Top 10 of the AP Poll since 1996
    • ACC (Boston College, Duke, NC State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Wake Forest)
    • Big 10 (Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers)
    • Big 12 (Iowa State, Texas Tech)
    • Pac-12 (None–all teams currently in the Pac-12 have finished in AP Top 10 at least once)
    • SEC (Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt)
  • Last Top 10 finish for the following notable programs
    • Boise State (2011)
    • Louisville (2006)
    • Nebraska (2001)
    • Notre Dame (2012)
    • Oklahoma State (2011)
    • Oregon State (2000)
    • Texas (2009)
    • Virginia Tech (2009)
  • 17 schools have played in the “championship game” (BCS National Championship Game from 1998 to 2013, College Football Playoff Final from 2014 to present)
    • ACC
      • Florida State (4 appearances, 2-2 record)
      • Clemson (2 appearances, 1-1 record)
    • Big 10
      • Ohio State (4 appearances, 2-2 record)
    • Big 12
      • Oklahoma (4 appearances, 1-3 record)
      • Texas (2 appearances, 1-1 record)
      • Nebraska (1 appearance, 0-1 record)
    • Pac-12
      • USC (2 appearances, 1-1 record)
      • Oregon (2 appearances, 0-2 record)
    • SEC
      • Alabama (6 appearances, 5-1 record)
      • LSU (3 appearances, 2-1 record)
      • Florida (2 appearances, 2-0 record)
      • Auburn (2 appearances, 1-1 record)
      • Tennessee (1 appearance, 1-0 record)
      • Georgia (1 appearance, 0-1 record)
    • Big East (re-alignment resulted in its reorganization after 2012 season)
      • Miami (2 appearances, 1-1 record)
      • Virginia Tech (1 appearance, 0-1 record)
    • Independent
      • Notre Dame (1 appearance, 0-1 record)
  • Teams that finished in the AP Top 10 at least twice since 2013
    • Alabama (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
    • Auburn (2013, 2017)
    • Clemson (2015, 2016, 2017)
    • Florida State (2013, 2014, 2016)
    • Georgia (2014, 2016)
    • Michigan State (2013, 2014, 2015)
    • Oklahoma (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017)
    • Ohio State (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
    • Oregon (2013, 2014)
    • Penn State (2016, 2017)
    • TCU (2014, 2015, 2017)
    • UCF (2013, 2017)
    • Wisconsin (2016, 2017)
  • Within the state of Florida, starting with the 2013 season
    • Florida State Seminoles
      • Went undefeated to finish #1 in 2013 and in the Top 10 in 2014 and 2016
    • UCF Knights
      • Finished #10 in 2013 and went undefeated to finish #6 in 2017, the first team to finish undefeated since 2013 FSU
    • Florida Gators
      • no Top 10 finishes; last finished in Top 10 in 2012 (#9)
    • Miami Hurricanes
      • no Top 10 finishes; last finished in Top 10 in 2003 while a member of the Big East (#5)
    • South Florida Cows
      • zero Top 10 finishes, zero conference championships, zero trophies outside of bowl games, period!
  • 2017 UCF Knights (13-0)
    • own 1 of 22 undefeated seasons by a FBS school since 1996
    • are the 1st school to go undefeated in the CFP era (2014 to present)
    • won 4 games over teams ranked in the final AP Poll
      • #10 Auburn
      • #21 South Florida
      • #25 Memphis (twice)

If you can’t tell by now, UCF Football can no longer be discounted.  The best accomplishments  of the Knights are on par or better than the majority of college football  in the last 21 years.  Simply put, UCF is in elite company, ahead of most programs in the country despite going up against history, pedigree, bigger pockets, and a college football playoff system meant for them to fail.  As the finances for the UCF football program continue to increase and the team continues to win big games, one can only come to the conclusion that this is just the beginning of #RiseAndConquer and #ChargeOn.  The raucous black-and-gold fanbase will only increase, stadiums will continue to shake as Zombie Nation screams through the speakers, phone lights will turn dark places starry, and the Knights on the field will shine!

5 thoughts on “UCF Football in Elite Company

Add yours

  1. Well done. Good article.

    Two thoughts:
    1) what’s your view and/or opinion on future stadium expansion, in context of ongoing program growth as described in final paragraph? (For grins: in addition to presumed likelihood of future need to expand stadium, what about also adding roof/overhang portions similar to Orlando City’s park in Parramore? It’d mostly be a first in NCAA facilities, but what the heck, that’s who we are. Plus, the pragmatism of it; it’s hot, humid, and rainy here; a bit of cover over the football stadium would be useful as well as dramatic; and I’d count “keeping some of the noise in” as falling under both categories, “dramatic” and “useful” 😉 ).
    2) Finebaum did, in fact, specifically say, “Know your place,” approximately right after calling us all cockroaches. I still think he was doing an unsolicited, spec audition for some kind of SEC-derived revival of “Oliver Twist” or something, and was practicing the snotty arrogance tone he’d need to win the part. hahahahaha Nothing says “off Broadway” like a revival of Dickens—in Tuscaloosa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment and readership; I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      I think expansion of the stadium is all going to come down to consistently selling out/having 95% capacity in the current stadium. It’s hard to justify more seats when the bleacher monster rears his ugly head far too often. I’m hopeful that continued winning will fix that problem, but that’s the key–consistency.

      Now, I am in total agreement that a roof or overhang similar to what Orlando City has would be a great idea! The Bounce House is more like the aluminum sauna during the majority of day games including the conference championship game in December. We can’t change Florida weather, but having more coverage from the sun would be invited by the entire fan base. Hopefully all stadium expansion plans come with that idea in mind.

      -Eddie

      Like

    1. Thank you! And yes, UCF most certainly has finished in the Top 10 twice which I’m guessing you caught after reading the article. It’s amazing how little research the “experts” do that act like UCF has never been good before. Two top 10 finishes in 5 years would be a big deal for the 100+ other schools who did not pull it off during the same time span (looking at you especially Florida and Miami!).

      -Eddie

      Like

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