ORLANDO — As Spectrum Stadium waited for a review on a fourth quarter fumble that would eventually go UCF’s way, the crowd full of Knights fans did something really lame. Something you’re never supposed to do at a sporting event. They broke out the wave. Nobody really knows why the wave stinks, but it’s universally agreed upon that the wave should stop being attempted at large gatherings of people.
Yet, without fail, Spectrum Stadium had one going. Kirk Herbstreit, a popular punching back for the UCF faithful, incredulously said on broadcast “The wave? I haven’t seen that in…10 years?” He sounded amused because here was this annoying fanbase that’s always in his Twitter mentions screaming about the Playoff doing the wave while they dominate a good Cincinnati team. The wave is annoying. UCF fans are annoying. It’s just so fitting isn’t it?
UCF decided it had to be annoying late last season. It was the only way to properly get the attention it wanted. They were in the midst of an undefeated season where they kicked the absolute snot out of everybody on their schedule and eventually defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Throughout that magical season, the College Football Playoff committee never once put UCF in the Top 10. The AP eventually put them in its Top 10 after that Peach Bowl, but as far as the Playoff committee was concerned, UCF was never in consideration.
From that point on, UCF and their fans decided it was going to be the loudest most obnoxious school in the country. You were going to hear about them whether you liked it or not and it all started with a National Championship claim. The championship claim is a point of contention among a lot of fans. I asked a Notre Dame fan that was checking out College Gameday in Orlando if he wanted to comment about UCF and the Playoff. He said he probably shouldn’t do that. When I told him that he didn’t need to say anything nice, his response was that’s because he wouldn’t have anything nice to say.
For some fans, the National Championship claim is a mockery of the sport. “How dare they!” the fans yell. Ironically enough, it’s never Alabama the actual team that won the National Championship last season, but usually a fan of a school that has never even sniffed a title that finds the title claim to be the most insulting — also because Alabama knows disputing questionable national title claims would be the ultimate throwing stones in a glass house.
Other fan bases have sympathy with UCF. Maybe it’s because they know it could happen to them one day, or it’s because underdogs in sports are fun. Either way, everybody has an opinion about UCF whether you want to or not.
“I think they got robbed.” David Rowe told UPROXX. A 49 year old Cincinnati alum, Rowe was in attendance Saturday morning for Gameday. “I think this is the biggest game of the year for them and I think if they win this game they should definitely be in the running for the Playoff. I think it needs to move to probably eight teams because UCF is 22-0 (and) they can’t help who they play. They can only beat the people in front of them. They beat everybody that’s in front of them and don’t get a chance to into the Playoff seems wrong.”
That is why UCF fans feel the need to shout as loud as possible from the rooftops. There’s a fear that if they don’t continue to shout they’ll be overlooked and ultimately forgotten. Sometimes, the best course of action is to keep talking until they listen. It’s had some effect. College Gameday did show up to UCF’s campus and gave them the primetime treatment for their 23rd straight win. Whether they deserve a spot in the Playoff is a weekly conversation at this point.
Even UCF QB McKenzie Milton got in on the discussion a little bit. He thinks UCF’s win over Pitt shows they’re a better team than No. 3 Notre Dame, via Bleacher Report.
“You look at the [Pitt] film against us and Notre Dame,” says Milton, UCF’s star quarterback. “You can’t tell me Notre Dame is a better team than us.”
He is asked: You don’t see a difference?
“Oh, I see a difference,” Milton says. “We’re better.”
“Notre Dame scored late to beat Pitt, and you hear the committee talk about how great it was for them to pull it out,” Milton continued during an interview with Bleacher Report earlier this week. “Then what we did to Pitt is ignored.”
Milton pauses for a moment, forces a crooked smile and sums up UCF’s uphill climb with a Hawaiian dialect as sweet as plumeria in full bloom.
“Thirteen dudes in a room,” he says, “hold our fate.”
For Milton and UCF there is a constant feeling of the goalposts and requirements being moved. First, they didn’t play enough Power 5 teams. Then they didn’t play the right Power 5 teams. Then it was wins against teams over .500 followed by wins against Top 25 ranked teams. The reality is there is no solid requirement from the College Football Playoff committee, simply that UCF doesn’t meet the general criteria. There will always be another hurdle to jump over and something else that UCF must do to prove its worth to the college football world.
With that creates a vicious cycle of UCF asking what it needs to do to make the Playoff and constantly having the rules changed. It’s not quite Boise State against the BCS, but it’s close. When there’s no way for UCF to earn a national title the way everybody claims it must be done then alternatives must be made. UCF beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl and was the only undefeated team in the country. Auburn had beaten Alabama, who was in the Playoff and had defeated Georgia in their regular season matchup. They lost the conference championship game rematch. In this way, UCF had a transitive win over eventual champions Alabama. Add in one former BCS computer declaring UCF as the best team in the land, and UCF had everything it needed to claim a championship.
“There’s a spot for multiple ways that you can be classified as national champions and I think we fit one of those qualifications.” UCF student Danny told UPROXX. The 21 year old student was taking a picture in front of the stadium and enjoying the sights pregame. “It maybe went a little overboard, but overall it’s solid. That’s just how they’re gonna do it. It’s okay. It’s fun.”
So now, with UCF’s win streak at 23, there’s a real chance of playing this song and dance all over again. UCF has a game against USF and the conference championship game left after that. If they can win both of those then they’re pretty much guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl, but what about the Playoff itself? Do they have a shot at that?
“Absolutely.” says Danny.
Unfortunately for Danny and UCF fans everywhere, it just seems unlikely. Every step UCF has taken to reach the Playoff has been resisted. Maybe they’ll find a way to claim another national title if they can finish off a second straight undefeated season. Even if not, these fans and this team is going to continue making noise. UCF has found a successful formula in being annoying on a national scale. It’s given them a title, begrudging exposure from the powers that be in the sport, and kept them in the national conversation.
Why stop now? Just, maybe be a little nicer on Twitter.