Masin-Moyer: UCF, others outside the power five are overlooked in rankings
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Monday, October 8, 2018
After six weeks of college football, 11 teams remain undefeated. Among these teams, you’ve got perennial juggernauts No. 1 Alabama, who are beating up unranked, below-average teams like they do every year; a high-flying No. 6 West Virginia team who has succeeded on the back of perhaps the best quarterback in the country — Will Grier; and your No. 5 Irish.
Yet one team sticks out amongst these schools, and I’ll give you a hint, they should have been crowned National Champions last year.
That’s right everyone, almost one year later and I am back at it defending the one and only University of Central Florida Knights, who, need I remind you, have now not lost a game since the Obama administration.
In the Knights’ first five games this season, they have blazed through every opponent in their way, winning all their games by at least 20 points, highlighted by a 45-14 drubbing of Power-5 opponent Pittsburgh.
Yet despite this dominant start, we’re right back where we were last year, with Central Florida receiving a lack of respect from the polling establishment.
UCF sits at No. 10 in the AP poll, behind not one, not even two, but three teams with more losses than they have.
And the Knights’ strength of schedule doesn’t compare that unfavorably with the one-loss teams ranked above them. With No. 8 Penn State’s only wins this season coming over noted college football juggernauts Appalachian State, Pittsburgh (who they beat by a similar margin as UCF), Kent State and Illinois. These wins line up pretty well with UCF’s other wins this season, over Connecticut, South Carolina State, Florida Atlantic and SMU.
I’ve said it before, and will say it again, UCF deserves more respect from the college football elite.
That being said, UCF has fared more favorably than in past years — last year at this time they were ranked No. 22 six games into their unbeaten run. And there’s a lot of the season left to be played; the Knights have two in-conference games later this season against unbeaten opponents — Cincinnati and South Florida — who, despite being two of the other 11 undefeated teams, sit ranked at No. 25 and No. 23, respectively.
And therein lies the problem.
Despite failing to drop a game this season, these two American Athletic Conference members sit mired at the bottom of the AP poll. South Florida sits behind two teams which have lost two games while Cincinnati, who has seen one of its best seasons since the Brian Kelly era, is behind three teams with two loses.
So while the cards currently being dealt to UCF are unfair, those being dealt to Cincinnati and South Florida are even worse. The likely reason? They weren’t as good as UCF last year. The Knights had a higher starting point and therefore currently sit higher in the polls than their conference rivals.
The whole UCF, Cincinnati and South Florida case raises two major problems with the way in which teams are ranked in college football and, eventually how the champion is chosen.
First, if you’re not in a Power-5 conference or Notre Dame, it’s pretty hard to ever have a chance for a high-enough ranking to compete for a title, especially when the members of the College Football Playoff Committee largely have backgrounds with Power-5 teams.
Second, so much of the rankings is based on a team’s ranking at the beginning of the season. While the College Football Playoff committee has tried to break this trend by releasing their rankings after week nine, these rankings rarely are drastically different from the AP or Coaches’ polls, reflecting the pre-established logic as to who is good and who is not in these polls.
Winning in college football is hard, to the point where halfway through the season only 11 teams have failed to lose a single game, yet the rankings rarely reflect this difficulty, and don’t always reward teams who don’t lose.
In order to remedy this, the College Football Playoff committee, AP and Coaches ought to take a hard look at how and when they rank teams because, while UCF may well end up competing for a title this year — though I wouldn’t count on it — every year there will be a 2017 UCF, an undefeated team given too little respect due to forces out of their control. And that’s a real shame.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.