Coming off of a weekend filled with on-field drama, the pundits who make up the College Football Playoff committee spent Sunday doing what they do best: unveiling their final rankings of the season and completely underwhelming a majority of fan bases nationwide.
Entering Sunday, 3/4 of their work was already done. Foregone conclusions Notre Dame, Alabama and Clemson had all clearly earned their rightful place in the Playoff after finishing each of their seasons unbeaten. Alabama and Clemson triple stamped their double stamps with victories in their respective conference championship games on Saturday.
The only dilemma facing the committee was figuring out who belonged in the fourth and final spot.
There was Ohio State (12-1), who had spent their Saturday becoming champions of the Big Ten against outmatched Northwestern (8-4). Despite a preseason full of controversy and public admonishments, the only black eye for the Buckeyes on the field was an embarrassing 29-point defeat at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers (6-6).
There was also the Oklahoma Sooners (12-1), who won the Big 12 championship by revenging their only regular season loss to the Texas Longhorns (9-3). The Sooners spent their season successfully hiding one of the nation’s worst defenses behind the nation’s most high powered offense. That was made possible thanks to the efforts of junior quarterback, and Heisman-hopeful, Kyler Murray.
Lastly, ESPN’s four-hour long elitist showcase spent much of the time prior to the big reveal debating whether the final spot belonged the Georgia Bulldogs (11-2). The Dawgs were fresh off of an epic toe-to-toe knockdown, drag out with Alabama in the SEC Championship, a game in which they controlled throughout that simply got away from them when it mattered most.
Noticeably absent from the conversation was one final team. Your hometown team. The UCF Knights (12-0). The Knights earned their second consecutive American Athletic Conference championship when they pulled off what was likely their most improbable win of the now 25-game streak. Led by backup quarterback, Darriel Mack Jr., the Knights overcame a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat the pesky Memphis Tigers (8-5) at Spectrum Stadium. In the midst of still overcoming the emotional loss of beloved starting quarterback, McKenzie Milton, the Knights were given just a 10.4 percent win probability following the second half kickoff. They rode the momentum provided by a sold out stadium to a 35-3 second half blowout for the 56-41 win. The unblemished record is the Knights’ second consecutive season doing so, despite losing the entire coaching staff to Nebraska around this time one year ago.
Those accomplishments were still not enough for playoff consideration. Predictably, the Playoff committee chose to give the Oklahoma Sooners the fourth and final spot. The Knights’ win wasn’t even enough to move up in the final rankings, where they finished #8 – the same spot they had occupied the week prior to Saturday’s win.
The disappointment did not end there.
If Saturday’s win did anything, it appeared to set up the potential for another satisfying serving of Peach Bowl pandemonium. This, of course, was the site of UCF’s triumphant victory over power-five powerhouse, the Auburn Tigers, a season ago. The projected opponent this time? None other than the Florida Gators (9-3).
That, of course, was simply too good to be true, as it was announced that the Knights had drawn a date in Tempe, Arizona at the Fiesta Bowl instead. They’ll face the LSU Tigers (9-3), another SEC opponent who enters the game looking to give UCF its ‘gotcha’ moment.
Meanwhile, the Peach Bowl extended invitations to the aforementioned Gators and the Michigan Wolverines (10-2). That game will be the third meeting in the past three seasons between the schools and the fifth in the last 15 years – including four bowl games.
When pressed for answers as to why the dream scenario was omitted, Playoff committee chairman, Rob Mullens, spewed the following:
“Michigan being ranked No. 7 obviously deserved to stay closest to home, so that’s what placed them in Atlanta. And UCF had played in Atlanta last year so that sort of set them in the Fiesta Bowl.”
The only things “obvious” and “sort of” noticed about those comments are the fact that the committee’s bias is real, the exclusion has been accentuated, and the excuses remain repulsive.