As UCF prepares its follow-up act to 2017, it's important to remember exactly how high the hill is that they have to climb. As we know, the Knights are hardly the only non-autonomous five team to go undefeated. So what did those teams do for a follow-up?
Let's look at those non-autonomous five conference teams that went undefeated in the last 20 years and see how they did the following year:
|Team||Year||Coach||Bowl (Opponent)||Next Year||Coach||Notes|
|Tulane||1998(12-0)||Tommy Bowden||W Liberty(BYU)||3-8||Frank Scelfo||Lost 7 of last 8|
|Marshall||1999(13-0)||Bob Pruett||W Motor City(BYU)||8-5||Bob Pruett||Won MAC Championship|
|Utah||2004(12-0)||Urban Meyer||W Fiesta(Pitt)||7-5||Kyle Whittingham||3 of 5 losses were by one possession|
|Boise St.||2006(13-0)||Chris Peterson||W Fiesta(Oklahoma)||10-3||Chris Peterson||Won 9 in a row, lost final 2|
|Utah||2008(13-0)||Kyle Whittingham||W Sugar(Alabama)||10-3||Kyle Whittingham||2 losses to ranked teams in MWC|
|Boise St.||2009(14-0)||Chris Peterson||W Fiesta(TCU)||13-1||Chris Peterson||Only loss at #19 Nevada in OT|
|TCU||2010(13-0)||Gary Patterson||W Rose(Wisconsin)||11-2||Gary Patterson||Losses: @ Baylor 50-48, vs. SMU 40-33 OT|
|UCF||2017(13-0)||Scott Frost||W Peach (Auburn)||?||Josh Heupel||?|
A few things to note:
Of the eight teams that have gone undefeated since 1998, only three have had to replace their head coach: Tulane in 1998, Utah in 2004 and UCF this year. Both times previous, those teams hired from within, and it didn't quite go well the next year.
However, both of those teams also had to replace their quarterback - Shaun King at Tulane and Alex Smith at Utah. The Knights return McKenzie Milton.
The last four teams to go undefeated had pretty good follow-ups, most notably Boise State in 2009, which could have threatened a bid to the BCS Championship had they not lost to a Colin Kaepernick-led Nevada team in Reno in overtime.
So the task before Josh Heupel, McKenzie Milton, and UCF is formidable. This can go one of two ways: Either they rally to prove 2017 was not a fluke, or they can struggle through trying to recapture the magic.
And perhaps they have a shot at doing something that hasn't been done before: Going undefeated a second time in two years as a non-autonomous five team - with two different coaches. That would be one of the greatest feats in college football history.