Central Florida has done everything it possibly could to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. The No. 8 Knights have won 25 straight games and consecutive American Athletic Conference titles. After losing star quarterback McKenzie Milton to a grisly leg injury this season, they beat Memphis, 56-41, in the conference championship game.
But are they in the College Football Playoff? No, they are not.
And Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey laid the blame for that back on UCF.
“I don’t think there are simple solutions necessarily,” Sankey said (via the Associated Press) of the Knights' problem. “There are solutions. One’s going to have to evaluate their circumstances fully to make those decisions. My observation is there is a need to look inward.”
And that means looking at UCF’s strength of schedule, which, to be fair, is lacking compared to the other College Football Playoff participants. Sankey recommended an approach similar to what the SEC took to improve its men’s basketball stock: schedule better nonconference teams.
“When it was us and when it was men’s basketball, we knew we had two top-50 teams in 2015-16, which means you had virtually no top-50 wins in men’s basketball,” Sankey said. “How are you going to access those wins? You have to improve your nonconference schedule.”
But UCF Athletic Director Danny White, who has previously argued for an expanded playoff, wasn’t buying that argument. Only four teams make the College Football Playoff. In college basketball the NCAA tournament field has 68 teams.
College basketball’s regular season schedule has more games than in college football. And nonconference football games are often arranged years in advance. Basketball schedules are finished months before the seasons begins.
“Basketball teams are rewarded for playing tough teams such as UCF through metrics like RPI or NET, while football teams avoid us because they’re concerned about the ‘eye test,’” White told the Associated Press in a text message.
UCF is "willing to play any Power 6 program in the country,” White said, substituting the AAC’s slogan for the conventional “Power 5.”
“The challenge is that not many are willing to play us," he said.