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UCF AD calls out the Playoff committee for its lack of respect for the AAC

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The committee hasn’t been too kind to non-Power 5 schools with a lot of wins in the past.

South Florida vs Central Florida Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

The UCF Knights improved to 11-0 over the weekend in a thrilling 49-42 win over the USF Bulls to advance to the AAC Conference Championship game this Saturday. Despite being one of two undefeated teams left in the country — Wisconsin is the other, at 12-0 and ranked No. 4 — the Knights still only checked in low in the College Football Playoff rankings, at No. 14.

This is the highest ranking UCF has had all season, despite continuing to win — the Knights checked in at No. 15 during Week 12. Even after the big win over the Bulls, which was nationally televised on ABC on Black Friday, the Knights just barely moved up the top 15. Knights AD Danny White reacted accordingly:

On Wednesday, a “Stop the P5 bias” billboard was spotted in Orlando:

This isn’t just about UCF — it’s about Group of Five schools, too.

In fact, White stood up for the AAC and 12-2 USF on Tuesday night, suggesting the Knights shouldn’t be the only ones from the conference ranked by the committee.

USF AD Mark Harlan agreed.

Even AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco believes the conference isn’t getting the respect it deserves. He touched on this during my colleague Richard Johnson’s interview with him last week:

UCF hasn’t been rising as it wins, either. After starting at No. 18 on Halloween, they’ve only risen to No. 15 through five rankings.

“I don't think the system has credibility if a team like UCF or USF or Memphis doesn't have a chance to compete for a championship, if they're a really good team, because they're in a so-called Group of 5,” AAC commish Aresco said. “I hate that term. I hate being lumped in. We've separated ourselves from the Group of 5 [one term for FBS’ five non-power conferences] by a lot of measurements.”

While Wisconsin is now filling its resume out with good teams, a few weeks ago, UCF had a similar resume, yet was ranked 10 spots behind the Badgers.

The committee hasn’t been too kind to non-Power 5 schools who win a lot.

A quick look at the final rankings each of the last three years of the CFP shows the committee consistently ranks Power 5 teams ahead of non-P5 ones, even if they have fewer wins.

In 2014, Boise State finished at No. 20 despite having a 12-2 record and winning the Mountain West Conference Championship against Fresno State. The Broncos went on to beat Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl. The next season, the Houston Cougars finished 12-1 with an AAC title, and checked in at No. 18 in the committee’s final rankings on Selection Sunday. That year, Houston upset the Florida State Seminoles 38-24 in the Peach Bowl. And last season, the Western Michigan Broncos finished undefeated as Mountain West champs and checked in at No. 15. WMU ended up losing to Wisconsin 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl.

“It’s frustrating,” Aresco told Johnson. ”It’s been frustrating for a long time. I think in part it’s strictly the bias for the P5. There’s no question about it. The lack of respect still for what we do in our conference, and this is what troubles me.

“It irritates me, and it irritated me last year. We had a number of three- and four-loss teams ahead of some of our teams with one loss. All you can do is keep winning, keep playing well, and keep promoting the conference, and I think we have to tell people about certain things.”

The AAC has been aggressively marketing a “Power 6” idea. It’s pushed to alter NCAA legislation that allows the Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Notre Dame to make separate rules for themselves.

When the 10 conferences in FBS agreed to the CFP structure a few years ago, there were no assurances that things would be a level playing field, but you understand Aresco’s gripes.

“Longer term, this kind of thing doesn’t help us, clearly, when you have teams this good not getting the respect they deserve,” Aresco said. “They’ll go out and play a bowl game and win decisively, and they’ll end up in the top 10 at the end of the year, but I’d like to see them in the top 10 of these rankings.”

When Knights head coach Scott Frost was asked about the rankings earlier this month, he didn’t seem to mind too much, but that sentiment may have changed now that UCF is 11-0.

“I wouldn’t complain for us. The teams I feel bad for are the Wisconsins and Miamis,” Scott Frost said via ESPN. “As a football player, all you can do is beat the people they put in front of you. If you’re undefeated, that’s undefeated and that means a lot. I hate to see people’s opinions have more emphasis put on them than the record on the field. But from our standpoint, we just have to take care of business and a lot of good things are headed our way.”

Yes, the committee will likely reward UCF with a New Year’s Six bid come next week if the Knights win, but maybe Aresco and White are on to something when they say the AAC deserves more than that.