With the first College Football Playoff Rankings out, strength of schedule now “officially” matters. The #18 UCF Knights have beaten opponents with a combined record of 30-25 (a .545 winning percentage). UCF’s average margin of victory is 31 points. UCF has the best scoring offense in the country (51 points per game) and, of the five unbeaten teams in the FBS, only the Knights have won each game by double digits.
And yet the undefeated Knights are ranked after four two-loss teams: Auburn (6-2), Iowa State (6-2), Mississippi State (6-2), and USC (7-2).
Its clear that tearing through AAC foes – even in UCF’s rapacious manner -- isn’t worth all that much in the eyes of the committee. And the Knights were unfortunately deprived of the opportunity to play a second Power Five program this year when Hurricane Irma prompted the cancellation of the Georgia Tech game.
If UCF wins out, then the Knights will play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. It would be extremely difficult, however, for UCF to be ranked high enough to make the playoffs. Even if UCF continues blowing out opponents, it would take absolute carnage above them for the Knights to move up. Absolute. Carnage.
But please. Root for carnage.
And winning out.
The Knights’ past and future opponents, in schedule order:
FIU Panthers (5-2 Overall, 3-1 Conference USA)
The Panthers continue to have one of their best seasons to date and are a serious contender to win the C-USA East Division. On Saturday, FIU had its best offensive game of the year and hung 41 points on Marshall on the way to an 11 point win. They’re quite good for a C-USA team.
Maryland Terrapins (4-4 Overall, 2-3 Big Ten)
Maryland was down 14-0 against Indiana before surging back to win 42-39.
It sure would be nice if UCF’s only Power 5 victim this year could get to bowl eligibility and at least a .500 record. Getting to five wins is very possible with a game against Rutgers this weekend, but to hit six, the Terps would need to upset one of Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State. Not as easy task for this Maryland team.
#23 Memphis Tigers (7-1 Overall, 4-1 AAC)
Memphis jumped to an early lead over Tulane and did not look back. The Tigers cruised to a 56-26 win.
There’s a very serious possibility of a UCF-Memphis match-up in the AAC Championship game. The Tigers have a single challenge remaining – SMU – and two far easier opponents (Tulsa and ECU).
UCF and Memphis are the only Group of Five teams ranked in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.
Cincinnati Bearcats (2-6 Overall, 0-4 AAC)
The Bearcats were on a bye. Perhaps mercifully, given that they’ve yet to win a single conference game.
ECU Pirates (2-6 Overall, 1-3 AAC)
Also had a bye.
Navy Midshipmen (5-2 Overall, 3-2 AAC)
And yes, Navy had a bye.
Not a ton of AAC games this past week.
The Midshipmen resume play tomorrow against Temple.
Austin Peay Governors (5-4 Overall, 4-1 Ohio Valley Conference)
Many UCF fans seemed not to enjoy crushing Austin Peay as much as they should have. The Knights hung a UCF record 73 points on the Governors and won by 40 this week. It was also the most points scored by any AAC team against any opponent this year.
The Knights’ defensive lapses – including missed tackles and assignments – can certainly be fairly criticized. And no AAC program wants to allow an FCS team to score 33 points. But remember that many of those came in fluky ways. The Governors caught a tipped pass for a touchdown. And caught a touchdown pass that UCF freshman DB Antwan Collier bobbled instead of intercepting. The Governors also had a lineman fall on one of their fumbles for a touchdown.
The Governors may be “only” an FCS team, but they’re a good FCS team. Their other losses are against Miami (OH) and Cincinnati, and FCS powerhouse Jacksonville State.
SMU Mustangs (6-2 Overall, 3-1 AAC)
SMU played a tighter than expected game against lowly Tulsa. The Mustangs were down 28-34 before scoring ten points in the fourth quarter to win. It’s the second week in a row that the Mustangs have cut it close – on October 21, they needed overtime to eke out a 31-28 over Cincinnati.
Of course, SMU’s offense is dangerous (though the defense is . . . not). Other than the War on I-4, this is the most challenging hurdle remaining for the Knights.
UConn Huskies (3-5 Overall, 2-3 AAC)
UConn played the SEC’s Missouri Tigers and got crushed by a score of 52-12. UConn did manage to score first with a safety when a snap went over the head of Missouri’s punter and through the end zone. But the Tigers responded with three touchdowns in the first quarter, swiftly putting the game out of reach.
Very, very, little went right for the Huskies in this one.
Temple Owls (3-5 Overall, 1-3 AAC)
On a bye week.
Told you there weren’t a ton of AAC games this week.
USF Bulls (7-1 Overall, 4-1 AAC)
The dreams of two undefeated teams playing in a clash of the titans on Black Friday is now gone.
On Saturday, USF went up against their first good opponent of the year, the Houston Cougars. And the Bulls lost 28-24. If you want to traumatize your Bulls friends this week, ask them about 4th and 24.
Through Week Nine, USF has still only beaten one team without a losing record, and that’s FCS Stony Brook.
Our game on Black Friday remains risky and – with the Bulls unlikely to lose again before then – a threat to winning the division. Despite not playing up top their potential, the Bulls are a talented team. They’re also hampered by bad playcalling on offense – a fact that was obvious against Houston.
Speaking of bad offense, the Bulls snapped their record 24 game streak of scoring 30 or more points. UCF now holds the longest active streak, with seven.