There is still one question left to answer on the UCF Knights’ 2019 football season: Will they finish the season ranked in the Top 25? UCF has finished in the Top 25 four times in their Division I history (2010, 2013, 2017, and 2018).
Here is where everybody stood in the AP Top 25 prior to the bowl season:
AP Top 25 as of December 8
|1||LSU||Plays #3 Clemson in CFP Championship|
|2||Ohio State||L CFP Semifinal vs. #3 Clemson|
|3||Clemson||Plays #1 LSU in CFP Championship|
|4||Oklahoma||L CFP Semifinal vs. #1 LSU|
|5||Georgia||W Sugar Bowl vs. #8 Baylor|
|6||Florida||W Orange Bowl vs. Virginia|
|7||Oregon||W Rose Bowl vs. #11 Wisconsin|
|8||Baylor||L Sugar Bowl vs. #5 Georgia|
|9||Auburn||L Outback Bowl vs. #16 Minnesota|
|9||Alabama||W Citrus Bowl vs. #17 Michigan|
|11||Wisconsin||L Rose Bowl vs. #7 Oregon|
|12||Utah||L Alamo Bowl vs. Texas|
|13||Penn State||W Cotton Bowl vs. #15 Memphis|
|14||Notre Dame||W Camping World Bowl vs. Iowa State|
|15||Memphis||L Cotton Bowl vs. #13 Penn State|
|16||Minnesota||W Outback Bowl vs. #9 Auburn|
|17||Michigan||L Citrus Bowl vs. #9 Alabama|
|18||Boise State||L Las Vegas Bowl vs. Washington|
|19||Iowa||W Holiday Bowl vs. #22 USC|
|20||Appalachian State||W New Orleans Bowl vs. UAB|
|21||Navy||W Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State|
|22||USC||L Holiday Bowl vs. #19 Iowa|
|23||Cincinnati||W Birmingham Bowl vs. Boston College|
|24||Air Force||W Cheez-It Bowl vs. Washington State|
|25||Oklahoma State||L Texas Bowl vs. Texas A&M|
Virginia at #25 in the Coaches’ Poll instead of Oklahoma State is only difference as far as which teams are in the polls.
I am projecting only USC and Oklahoma State to drop out of the AP poll, while USC and Virginia should drop out of the Coaches’ Poll.
UCF will be competing with the following five teams potentially for two open spots in the Top 25:
- Texas A&M (8-5): Won Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma State. The five losses were at #3 Clemson, vs. #9 Alabama, vs. #9 Auburn, at #5 Georgia, and at #1 LSU. Does a win over #25 Oklahoma State sneak the Aggies in over UCF?
- Tennessee (8-5): The Vols defeated Indiana in the Gator Bowl to win their sixth straight game to end the season. Could that hot finish sneak the Vols into the Top 25?
- Florida Atlantic (11-3): The Owls won the Boca Raton Bowl over SMU, who won 10 games this season. That will impress voters, who might reward the C-USA champions. But FAU got blown out at home by UCF in Week 2. UCF will have the edge here.
- Texas (8-5): The Longhorns won the Alamo Bowl vs. Utah. Texas has the most impressive win of the group over #12 Utah, who was in the top 10 prior to the Pac-12 Championship. I expect the Longhorns to be the only team from the Big 12 to win a bowl game, and get rewarded by ending the season in the top 25.
- Arizona State (8-5): Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils won the Sun Bowl over Florida State, and that’s a bigger brand win than UCF over Marshall. Arizona State also has a win over Pac-12 champion Oregon, who will finish in the top five. Is that enough to overcome five losses and pass UCF? They both had same amount of votes prior to bowl season with 5.
UCF has to worry about Texas A&M, who is ranked ahead of UCF in Jeff Sagarin’s rankings at #19 (UCF is ranked 23rd). Texas is ranked 15th, and Tennessee is 37th.
The other question will be whether the pollsters cap The American at three teams in top 25. Memphis, Cincinnati and Navy are locks to finish in the top 25. That would tie 2017 as having the most teams in top 25 to finish the season (UCF, USF and Memphis).
While I think UCF should finish in top 25 and give The American a record 4th team in the top 25 final poll, it will come down to whether the pollsters reward the Aggies for the win over Oklahoma State. Do the pollsters look to maybe add a second ACC team like Louisville, who defeated Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl? Do they go with Herm Edwards and Arizona State? Or do they squeeze in the Knights with a better record than those teams?
We will find out on January 14th.