The main argument that is sure to come up in every debate about college football is Strength of Schedule (SoS). Back in the dark ages of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era, SoS was attained by determining the cumulative win/loss record of a team’s schedule and the cumulative win/loss record of their opposition’s schedule. Add some computer magic, some formulas and you had a system that despite being frowned upon and widely criticized, was based on math and was, for the most part, accurate. A lot of people felt the BCS lacked the human element to determine which two teams were more deserving to challenge for college football’s most prestigious crown, so alas, the College Football Playoff (CFP) Committee was created.
My — how things have changed! Today, behind closed doors, the CFP Committee probably uses a series of predominantly subjective metrics derived from various non-specific variables like head-to-head record, wins against ranked opponents, quality of conference, program history, mascot name, length of fight song and perhaps many more undisclosed factors in order to ordain four suitors into the pageant (sorry, CFP Playoffs). Kirby Hocutt, the former Chairman of the CFP Committee (whose departure is proof there is a God after all) has been quoted saying that the Committee uses SoS in order to select the four best teams over the course of the entire season.
That narrative has been met with some controversy since day one, but no more than this past year when the UCF Knights finished off the season 13-0, yet were constantly ranked way outside of playoff inclusion. The CFP Committee debated that the Knights conference, the American Athletic (AAC), did not provide UCF a strong enough case for contention despite a schedule that featured a pair of ranked opponents and 5 bowl teams. Call it P5 bias or whatever you want, regardless of the “change” in leadership in the CFP Committee (chuckle) for the upcoming season, you can rest assured that the same argument will be used against the Knights should another run at an undefeated season be in play. The best chance for UCF, as well as any other bastard child of the G5, to make an impression on the CFP Committee lies on their Out of Conference (OoC) schedule. So I am going to have some fun now with a quick (really early) look at what I consider the Knights most important OoC schedule in program history:
(H) South Carolina State Bulldogs (TBD)
A familiar foe out of the FCS, the most recent matchup between the Knights and the Bulldogs resulted in a 38-0 season-opening victory for UCF back in 2016. SC State finished last season with a record of 3-7, an uncharacteristic campaign for what is usually a solid program out of Orangeburg, SC. Head Coach Buddy Pough will have the Bulldogs ready for action come game-day, but I expect the Knights to be able to put this one away early and with ease.
Prediction: UCF 52 – SCSU 13
(A) University of North Carolina Tar Heels (Sept 15)
The Knights begin their home-and-away series with the Tar Heels this upcoming season in Chapel Hill. Larry Fedora’s squad just had its worst year under his tenure, finishing with a 3-9 record. A string of injuries and the inability to put away close games doomed the Tar Heels who are going to try to find their new leader under center when spring ball begins. Road games are never easy and it will be Coach Heupel’s first test on the road, but I think the depth and the experience of the Knights will prevail in this one.
Prediction: UCF 35 – UNC 17
(H) Florida Atlantic University Owls (Sept 22)
The Lane Train is coming to Orlando! After plowing through Conference USA under the guidance of first-year head coach Lane Kiffin, the Owls obliterated Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl to cap the most successful season in program history. You can say many things, good or bad, about Coach Kiffin, but the truth is he can run a good offense and he can definitely recruit. The Owls are coming to Spectrum Stadium featuring a lot of returning starters including star RB and Heisman hopeful Devin Singletary. I expect FAU to try and make a statement out of this game, but I have no doubt Coach Heupel and his very own Heisman candidate QB McKenzie Milton will emerge victorious once again.
Prediction: UCF 31 – FAU 24
(H) University of Pittsburgh Panthers (Sept 29)
The Panthers were not as bad last season as their 5-7 record shows; they were just absolutely impossible to figure out. Head coach Pat Narduzzi’s squad started the season struggling to get a 28-21 overtime win at home against FCS Youngstown State, got overpowered on the road by a very good Penn State a week later, and then just could not seem to show any consistency. It all came to a surprising end with a dominating victory over the #2 ranked Miami Hurricanes. The Panthers return a lot of starters, but have questions at quarterback. The Knights should be able to secure the victory at home, nonetheless, in what I consider the toughest test out of conference next season.
Prediction: UCF 28 – Pitt 14
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