College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock cited UCF's strength of schedule on Tuesday when discussing the Committee's decision to leave the undefeated Knights out of the playoff, per Heather Dinich of ESPN.com:
"The selection committee respected UCF. After all, they're the group that put the Knights in the Peach Bowl. To qualify for the playoff, teams need to play tough schedules against good teams—that is the way for all teams to stand out and be ranked high by the committee. UCF is an excellent team, but you still have to take into account who each team played and defeated during the regular season."
As Dinich noted, UCF only played one committee-ranked team all season, No. 20 Memphis, and only one Power 5 team, the 4-8 Maryland Terrapins. Still, the undefeated Knights were ranked in the committee's final poll behind a number of teams with multiple losses: Ohio State (11-2), Auburn (10-3), USC (11-2), Penn State (10-2), Miami (10-2) and Washington (10-2).
UCF head coach Scott Frost—who will take over as Nebraska's head coach next season—thought UCF's No. 12 ranking was nefarious and intentional:
"It wasn't right. I was watching [the selection show] every week, the committee sitting in a room and deciding that this two-loss team must be better than UCF because UCF is in the American, or this three-loss team must be better than UCF.
"It looked like a conscious effort to me to make sure that they didn't have a problem if they put us too high and a couple teams ahead of us lost. And oh no, now we have to put them in a playoff? But we just beat [Auburn], that beat two playoff teams and lost to another one by six points, and we beat them by seven."
Indeed, UCF's win over Auburn—which beat both Alabama and Georgia, the two teams who will play for a title next week, and lost narrowly to a third playoff team, Clemson—reinvigorated the conversation that the Knights were snubbed and should have been a playoff team.
Frost wasn't the only one who thought UCF perhaps got a raw deal:
Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith
UCF is undefeated and beat the Auburn team that beat both Georgia and Alabama. I'd like to see some AP Top 25 voters put UCF at No. 1 in their final polls.2018-1-2 14:20:50
Dick Vitale @DickieV
In Orlando for 4 days & all I heard is @UCF_Football is legit / well 13 -0 with a W vs a power conf team Auburn who beat Alabama I guess shows those fans r right.They are not able to play for a national title & that is sad/football system needs fixing @cbfowler @KirkHerbstreit2018-1-1 22:29:02
Jay Bilas @JayBilas
UCF is 13-0 after beating Auburn, but had no shot to compete for the National Championship. Every game counts, huh? Not so much. Scott Frost and UCF should’ve been in the playoff.2018-1-1 21:37:23
Gary Parrish @GaryParrishCBS
Weird deal when an undefeated team (UCF) with a win over the SEC West champ (Auburn) is asked to be satisfied with not getting to play for the national championship.2018-1-1 21:37:15
For teams like UCF who don't play a Power 5 schedule, however, it will always be tough to climb the rankings without playing an incredibly strong non-conference schedule. There are plenty of arguments to be made that the current four-team playoff is far more flawed than an eight- or 16-team playoff would be.
But in the current format, the UCFs of the world are simply at a major disadvantage unless they load up on quality non-conference, Power 5 opponents.