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Who UCF Fans Should Root For in Week 13

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UCF’s jump in the polls leaves the door cracked for a playoff berth

Derek Warden

A few weeks ago, we look a look at FiveThirtyEight’s College Football Predictor to game out some scenarios that would increase the UCF Knights’ chances of making the College Football Playoff.

Well, a lot has happened since then, and now that we’re heading for Thanksgiving Weekend and the rivalry games that come with it, things are coming into sharper focus.

For one thing, the Knights jumped a couple of spots in the College Football Playoff rankings to #9, leaping over Ohio State in the process. The fewer hurdles you have to jump, the better.

The Knights currently have a 4% chance of making the playoff, according to FiveThirtyEight. Win out and it jumps to 6%, without knowing the results of any other games.

Let’s take a look at what else UCF needs to happen:

#1: Beat South Florida

Of course. And preferably as handily as possible. The game will be televised in the late afternoon on ESPN on Friday, so given how UCF’s performance last week before a large national audience helped them in the CFP Rankings, a big win over the Bulls will help.

But never mind the result at this point. Just win.

#2: Win the AAC Championship against whoever

The collapse of the AAC’s West Division means that functionally it doesn’t matter who UCF plays in the conference championship at home on December 1st.

Houston (8-3, 5-2 AAC) is the leader, but they play Memphis (7-4) Friday at noon on ABC. The winner comes to Orlando next week.

Technically, one could argue that a UCF-Memphis rematch might behoove the Knights. UCF beat the Tigers by only one point earlier this year, so if they beat Memphis handily in the AAC Championship, that might erase some doubts about that game in relation to the Knights’ strength of victories.

#3: Hope for the following results

Over we go to FiveThirtyEight to game out the best-case scenario.

I was able to get the Knights’ chances heading into conference championship weekend to 28% among statistically reasonable scenarios, thanks to this combination of results (on top of UCF winning out):

  • #1 Alabama beats Auburn
  • #2 Clemson beats South Carolina
  • USC beats #3 Notre Dame
  • #4 Michigan beats #10 Ohio State
  • #13 West Virginia beats #6 Oklahoma
  • #22 Texas A&M beats #7 LSU
  • #16 Washington beats #8 Washington State
  • #14 Texas beats Kansas

We’ll get to the Georgia-Georgia Tech game in a second.

Granted, 28% isn’t great odds, but it’s not impossible, especially given that we still have a bunch of games to play next week.

Georgia really needs to lose.

The sticking point here is #5 Georgia. They face Georgia Tech this weekend before going up against Alabama in the SEC Championship.

Ticking a win for the Dawgs over the Yellow Jackets does nothing to UCF’s chances in the above scenario. But if the 7-4 Ramblin’ Wreck (who are second in the ACC Coastal behind...wait for it...Pitt!) pull off the upset in Athens, well, this is what I get:

FiveThirtyEight

Wait a second...Can we zoom in a tad?

So you’re saying there’s a chance.

That’s still below 50%. But still, there’s one more week with the potential for more chaos ahead.

The real scenario UCF needs

As Marc Daniels alluded to on his radio show this week, what UCF really needs is for all of the undefeateds to remain undefeated, and for everyone else to finish with two losses.

Should any Power Conference team finish with only one loss, that dramatically hurts UCF’s chances, since the committee would likely put that team in the playoff over them, even if the Knights finish undefeated.

But an undefeated Knights team coupled with a cluster of 2-loss teams will at least make those in the Ivory Tower think about it really hard.

The overwhelming bulk of these scenarios likely still will result in the Knights being left out, unfortunately. Even if things do break the right way, they still might get left out. But we’ve seen chaos happen before in the final two weeks of the season, and if it happens again, the Knights just might be one of the four teams in a playoff seat when the music stops.