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UCF beats Navy and solidifies itself as the Group of 5’s New Year’s bowl frontrunner

The Knights are 6-0 and can think big down the stretch.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 UCF beat Navy on Saturday in Annapolis, 31-21. In doing that, the Knights stated their case clearly as the best non-power-conference team in college football.

The Central Floridians are now 6-0, and three of those wins have been really impressive: at the Big Ten’s Maryland, at home against Memphis, and now at Navy. The Memphis win looks especially nice after the Tigers won at Houston this week.

The Knights are only playing an 11-game schedule this season because Hurricane Irma led to the cancellation of a September non-conference game against Georgia Tech. Unless they suffer a shocking upset against FCS Austin Peay, SMU, UConn, or Temple, they’ll go into their final regular season game 10-0.

That last game’s against USF, which might be unbeaten, too. I’m thinking way ahead, obviously, but both teams have easy enough schedules from here on in to make such a meeting easy to envision. That game happens on Nov. 24 in Orlando.

Scott Frost’s team is really good, which is why other teams are going to want the second-year head coach. But for now, let’s focus on the Knights.

Against the Midshipmen, UCF was impressive as usual.

Navy’s really good — not just for a service academy, but in general. The Mids’ triple-option offense makes them a vexing challenge for defensive coordinators. They’re capable of competing against anybody, and their only loss entering Saturday was by three points to a similarly good Memphis team.

The Knights outclassed them on the road, averaging 7.3 yards per play to the Mids’ 5.7. Running back Adrian Killins Jr. was outstanding, even after he got injured in a collision with the feeding bucket for Navy’s live goat mascot, Bill. The UCF defense, stingy all year long, was stingy again against the Navy option. The Knights still haven’t given up more than 23 points in a game all season.

If UCF keeps it going, the Knights will play in a big bowl game.

The New Year’s Six reserves one spot for the top-ranked Group of 5 conference champion. SB Nation’s projection entering the weekend had UCF as that representative, playing in the Peach Bowl.

If the Knights don’t lose, they’ll certainly get there. The likeliest Group of 5 rep is whoever wins the American, which has continued to set itself apart this year as the top mid-major league. On Saturday, UCF kept setting itself apart at the top of that league, with the potentially decisive meeting with USF just a month away.