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UCF still claims its title

The University of Central Florida is doing its best to erase any bit of sympathy it might deserve (in my opinion, it deserves NONE) from going 13-0 and not being selected for the College Football Playoff.

After coach Scott Frost, who is taking over his alma mater, Nebraska, and athletic director Danny White (yes, the same Danny White who played for the Cowboys) claimed the CFP consciously and deliberately kept the Knights out of the top four to keep the power schools in the playoff (read: Alabama), now UCF says it will fly a national championship flag over Spectrum Stadium.

ENOUGH.

UCF has nobody to blame but itself for not putting together a strong enough non-conference schedule in order to gain more respect from the CFP committee and those who vote in the Associated Press and coaches polls.

The Knights have FOUR non-conference dates to play with, unlike the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, which have nine conference games and only three conference games. If UCF wanted to gain respect, it would only schedule Power 5 conference opponents (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC), and would make every effort to play at least one of those Power 5 schools in the Sunshine State (Florida, Florida State or Miami).

If UCF has to play three or all four of its non-conference opponents away from Orlando, that’s the breaks. Why would Alabama, for instance, give up a home game in its 102,000-seat stadium in Tuscaloosa to play in UCF’s 45,000-seat stadium? Even if UCF moved the game to Camping World Stadium, where the Citrus and Camping World bowls are played, it would still fall 30,000 seats short of what Bryant-Denny holds. Why in the world would the Crimson Tide want to give up millions in ticket revenue, not to mention what would be taken out of the economy of Tuscaloosa, just in the name of fairness?

If it were up to Nick Saban, the Group of Five schools would not have the chance to play the Alabamas of the world. Saban would rather the Power Five schools play only other Power Five schools, and I see his point. Saban cannot schedule this way at Alabama because the athletic department claims it needs seven home games to pay the bills. The Tide could still schedule someone lesser, say Kansas or Oregon State, instead of Mercer, Charleston Southern, Chattanooga or Florida A&M, and not to have to return the trip.

When Bobby Bowden was hired at Florida State in 1976, the Seminoles were not anywhere near the power they were in the 1990s and recently under Jimbo Fisher. To get the Seminoles publicity, he took on any all comers, and played most of them away from Tallahassee.

For instance, the Seminoles played LSU five consecutive seasons from 1979-83. All five games were in Baton Rouge, where Tiger Stadium seated 30,000 more than Doak Campbell in Tallahassee. Florida State won four of the five, losing only in 1982. Florida State also made trips to Ohio State and Nebraska without the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers coming to the Florida panhandle.

The only major teams which played in Tallahassee consistently were Florida and Miami, simply because there were long-standing deals in place for home-and-home series.

When the Seminoles began to win and win big, Doak Campbell was expanded to the point where it was financially feasible for the powerhouses Florida State always played on the road to come to Tallahassee, and those teams did make their way south.

Could UCF play its way into a Power Five conference? If Virginia Tech ever defects to the SEC, then UCF might be a candidate to move into the ACC. But if the Knights want that respect, it has to be earned.

The title game is Monday night in Atlanta between Alabama and Georgia. Sorry, UCF. You are undefeated but not a champion.

SEC vs. SEC, take two

The worst nightmare of many college football fans has come true.

Not to mention a nightmare for the Nielsen folks.

Next Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game is an all-Southeastern Conference matchup between Alabama and Georgia.

The howls were long and loud after Alabama received the #4 spot in the CFP semifinals, ahead of Big Ten champion Ohio State, even though the Crimson Tide not only did not win the SEC championship, they did not even play for the championship.

Auburn defeated Alabama 26-14 in the regular season finale to give the Tigers the SEC West division championship and the spot opposite East division champion Georgia in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs avenged a 40-17 loss to the Tigers with a 28-7 victory in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, moving Georgia up to No.3  in the final CFP rankings.

Yesterday, Georgia defeated Oklahoma 54-48 in two overtimes in the Rose Bowl, then Alabama suffocated defending national champion Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl to set up the second all-SEC championship game in seven seasons.

The last time this happened, Alabama happened to be in the same position it was this time.

In 2011, the Crimson Tide’s only loss in the regular season came to LSU, 9-6 in overtime at Tuscaloosa. That allowed the Bayou Bengals to win the West division, and they went on to stomp Georgia 42-10 in the SEC title game.

Even though the Tide didn’t even win their division, they still made the championship game of what was then the Bowl Championship Series by the slimmest of margins over Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ lone loss was a 44-41 overtime setback at Iowa State two weeks after Alabama lost to LSU.

While I cannot stand Nick Saban and Alabama, I can see much more justification for the Tide getting into this year’s CFP than I could in 2011 when Alabama was selected to play for the BCS championship.

First, there was precedent for Alabama this season.

Last year, Ohio State lost to Penn State, its only loss of the regular season, keeping the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten championship game, since the Nittany Lions won the East division on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Penn State won the Big Ten championship over Wisconsin, but had to settle for #5 in the final CFP poll and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State, meanwhile, finished #3–ahead of Pac-12 champion Washington–and got to play Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers mauled the Buckeyes 31-0, then bested Alabama 35-31 in the title game.

Second, even with the loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma State had just as strong a case as Alabama to go to the title game.

The Cowboys defeated three other teams which ended up winning 10 games–Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State played a nine-game conference schedule, while Alabama played only eight. The Tide’s non-conference schedule for the most part was laughable–Kent State, North Texas and Georgia Southern. Yes, Alabama played Penn State in State College, but that was not a great Nittany Lions team, and the weight of the Jerry Sandusky scandal was about to come down and smash Penn State for the foreseeable future.

In 2011, LSU got screwed. Its reward for going 13-0 against what was determined to be the nation’s toughest schedule by the NCAA? A rematch with a team it beat on that team’s home field. Alabama won 21-0.

This time, Georgia and Alabama did not play in the regular season, which is not right. Alabama should be in the East division with Auburn, while Missouri and Vanderbilt should be in the West, but that’s another argument for another day.

Today, thousands upon thousands of people have taken to every social media platform available to decry the situation. Most of the comments read:

“The CFP committee is biased towards the SEC”

“ESPN wanted this matchup because it owns the SEC Network”

“Alabama always gets what it wants”

“Everyone kisses Nick Saban’s ass”

“Alabama doesn’t deserve to go ahead of Ohio State, which won the Big Ten”

“Central Florida (UCF) is the national champion because it is undefeated”

The last one makes me laugh. UCF played a pathetic schedule. It plays in a pathetic conference, the American Athletic Conference. Why should it get special consideration? If UCF wants that respect, it needs to play all of its non-conference games on the road against Power 5 conference schools. Then they can talk smack.

The television ratings for the Alabama-LSU game in January 2012 were the lowest for a championship game since the BCS’ first championship game in January 1999. I’m guessing 98% of television sets in Alabama and Georgia will be tuned in to the game this Monday, but the numbers will decrease rapidly the father away you get from Alabama and Georgia. Do you think someone in San Francisco is going to rush home from work to watch the game, which kicks off at 5:15 Pacific? Highly unlikely.

Many hotels in Atlanta are probably unhappy the Bulldogs are playing for the title. It’s only 72 miles from Georgia’s campus in Athens to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hotels in Atlanta are expensive to begin with, and I’m sure the rates are through the roof leading up to the game. Alabama fans probably won’t stay long in Atlanta, either, considering it’s a little over three hours from Tuscaloosa to downtown Atlanta.

Ticket brokers? That’s another story. A report today said someone paid over $104,000 for ten tickets to the game. That’s two new Impalas plus plenty left over.

It is what it is. At least we will not hear about it anymore by this time next week.