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Does UCF have a shot at a split national championship?

Here's the best-case scenario for me putting UCF atop my AP Top 25 ballot.
Could UCF be celebrating a split national championship next month? Probably not, but.... DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
Could UCF be celebrating a split national championship next month? Probably not, but.... DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Published Dec. 14, 2017

Reader Ken Kueker asked a great question yesterday:

"If UCF beats Auburn in the Peach Bowl, what do you think of voting them #1 in your AP ranking?"

My short answer is the obvious cop-out: It depends on how UCF looks (is it a triple-overtime win or a 30-point win?) and what else happens.

My longer answer: I won't rule it out, but don't count on it.

If the Knights beat Auburn, it will be extremely impressive. The Tigers are a very good team with a great defense, and UCF is trying to withstand a coaching change that has Scott Frost double-dipping the next few weeks. UCF would be the only undefeated team in the country, and it would have four wins over top-30 teams (Auburn, USF and Memphis twice).

Let's take this a step farther and present the best-case UCF scenario. Let's say Alabama wins the College Football Playoff. UCF would have beaten the team that beat 'Bama (Auburn) and done so with a perfect record. The Knights could get some help if Memphis beats Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl; the Cyclones, after all, gave the playoff-bound Sooners their only loss. It'd help, too, if USF looked better with a victory over Texas Tech.

But…

Its resume would still lag behind other programs. UCF already has a weaker schedule than the four Playoff teams. 'Bama has played the nation's No. 56 schedule, according to the Sagarin Ratings; UCF's strength of schedule is 83rd.

The Knights can get one more quality win. 'Bama (or whoever wins the Playoff) will get two, which widens the gap even more.

The harder-to-define variable (the eye test) leaves me with serious concerns about UCF's defense. How would a defense that gave up 97 points over the final two games fare against Baker Mayfield or Georgia's run game?

I'm not against Group of Five teams; I wish they had a realistic shot at the Playoff, and I wish the Boise State team that beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl could have gotten a sniff of the national title.

But I have a hard time imagining UCF leaping over the College Football Playoff champion to claim the top spot on my final AP Top 25 ballot.

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