UCF and the Great Eight Debate

Once upon a time, the powers that be in college football decided they'd had enough of Co-National Champions. So they created the BCS.

Then, after Auburn got shafted, former SEC Commissioner Mike Slive engineered the drive to create the current College Football Playoff.

One committee picks the final four teams. One team carries home the national championship trophy. And then, there was UCF.

Since declaring themselves as national champions, there have been shots fired from both UCF and Alabama. Oddly, just about every shot has been truthful. Yes, UCF's title claim pretty much will be recognized only by themselves. UCF didn't come close to being playoff worthy in the committee's eyes. And, beating Auburn once isn't exactly going through the entire gauntlet known as the SEC West, with an extra side of Georgia along the way. The playoff was created to determine and recognize just one team as the champion. And, as even former coach Scott Frost admitted, that team wasn't UCF. It was Alabama.

Yes, UCF's defense that a lot of schools have claimed national championships for less is also true. There's a lot of national championship banners out there from schools that weren't recognized by the AP, Football Writers of America, UPI, or coaches polls. It wasn't long ago that Auburn considered claiming a whole bunch of national titles in that same regard, including 2004, when the Tigers were snubbed from the BCS title game despite an undefeated season. If so many other schools did this, why shouldn't UCF?

In reality, while Alabama is the true national champion of 2017, UCF's claim though might end up being more significant to the game. It's their claim that creates the ultimate fork in the road: Expand the playoff to eight teams, or divide Division I into three sub-divisions, rather than the current two sub-divisions of FBS and FCS.

Think about it ... say UCF got a home and home with Alabama. Say they actually beat the Tide and go through the rest of their season unscathed. Would they likely make the College Football Playoff in its current state ? Given the recent history of Boise State, who steamrolled Pac-12 schools, as well as Georgia once in Atlanta, and yet never even came close to sniffing a national title shot, I'd have to say no.

If they expand the playoff to eight? I'd say in the above scenario, yes. The problem with eight is that many years, you don't even have eight teams that honestly have earned a shot for a national title; sometimes four teams just stand out and going with the simplicity of four works so much better. But, for UCF, it's really the only shot that they have.

As the demand to play more conference games, along with Power Five showdowns in neutral sites rises, the chance for teams like UCF and Boise State to make a case is waning faster by the year. The CFP is further separating the power conferences from the rest of college football. And, if college players were ever to formally receive payments, that divide would be too massive for Group of Five schools to overcome.

In this case, it's in the best interest of the Group of Five, along with two or three of the best conferences in the current FCS, to form a new subdivision. Every football player should be able to suit up knowing that they've got a chance to earn a college education in the classroom and a national title on the field. Until changes are made, there are a lot of schools in which this isn't the case for their players.

So, UCF has their proclamations and banners. They'll recognize a season forever that few outside of Orlando will. But, if the college football world alters itself because of UCF, that championship claim just might be worth it for everyone involved. If so, it might be the biggest win UCF can rightfully claim in its history.

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