UCF finished last season 11-3, ranked in the top 25, won its bowl game against Georgia and is the reigning C-USA champion. It wasn't ranked in the preseason, and though the Knights won their first two games by very large margins (62-0, 30-3), they remain on the cusp of the top 25 in both the AP and coaches' poll. Why hasn't UCF garnered enough respect from these pollsters yet?
Teams like the Texas Longhorns finished the 2010 season 5-7 (2-6 in conference) and didn't qualify for a bowl game. Texas was unofficially No. 26 in the preseason AP poll and 24 in the coaches poll prior to the 2011 season. They are now ranked 24 in the AP poll and 21 in the coaches poll after an unglamorous victory over Rice and a squeaker against newly independent BYU.
How can that be? What did Texas do to garner the respect of the pollsters?
Well, it is in the Big 12, a BCS automatic-qualifying conference, and has a legacy of being a winning program. These two facts alone give teams like Texas a head start in the preseason and a bigger head start once the season starts.
I'm not picking on Texas, it's just an example.
Non-AQ coaches repeatedly tell their teams that polls don't matter until the end of the season. Tell that to TCU, which didn't play for the national championship last year despite being in the same position as Auburn and Oregon. Tell it to Boise State, Nevada, Utah and BYU, who experienced the same story as a result of their conferences' exclusion from BCS auto-berth.
BCS teams claim that strength of schedule is the determining factor and that you have to play somebody to be somebody. Then they refuse to schedule non-AQ teams to prove they can be dominant. In Florida alone, UF, FSU, Miami and USF all refuse to add UCF to their schedules. How can UCF prove itself if it doesn't have the opportunity to play BCS conference teams now?
There is always a caveat to the games UCF does play. For instance, the first game of UCF's season was against an FCS division opponent, so the win is insignificant. The second game was against a Boston College team that lost its opener and garners no respect in the ACC currently. BC's 12-year streak of bowl eligibility isn't mentioned, nor is the fact that UCF beat that FCS team by a wider margin than No. 5 Florida State Seminoles.