Unbeaten UCF brings amazing game, but same questions hinder playoff hopes

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Unbeaten UCF brings amazing game, but same questions hinder playoff hopes

Unbeaten UCF brings amazing game, but same questions hinder playoff hopes

What a game.

Seriously, what else can you say after watching No. 15 UCF outduel South Florida in a 49-42 shootout that's a game-of-the-year candidate for the 2017 college football season? South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers accounted for 605 yards and five TDs, but Mike Hughes' 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 1:28 remaining ended a game that totaled 1,214 yards of offense and everything a fan ask for.

What does it mean?

We wish the College Football Playoff committee — or college football in general — had a better answer. We know the answer. UCF improved to 11-0 and has the inside track on the American Athletic Conference championship and New Year's Day Six bid with a victory against No. 20 Memphis on Saturday.

MORE: Three takeaways from Central Florida's wild win over South Florida

That's where the ride stops in terms of the national championship. UCF, which opened the week behind a three-loss Mississippi State team in the rankings, won't reach the College Football Playoff. It's not like college basketball. Imagine telling Stephen Curry that Davidson's run in the 2008 NCAA men's basketball tournament was over after reaching the Elite Eight. No Kansas game. You're done.

That's what college football does. See, Cinderella teams such as George Mason, VCU and Butler made it to the Final Four. Group of 5 teams don't have that luxury. The current system simply won't allow for that in the current four-team setup unless four amazing dots line up.

The team has to go undefeated twice in a row. The coach has to stay. That team has to beat a big-time nonconference opponent or two. Even with all that, they need a little chaos.

We've seen a few teams get at least parts of that equation right in the College Football Playoff era. Tom Herman led Houston to a 13-1 record in 2015 and set the team up for a big 2016. The Cougars two top-five teams in Oklahoma and Louisville but lost three regular-season games. Houston might have challenged Washington for the final playoff spot last year with an undefeated record.

MORE: Week 13 College Football Playoff projections

Then there's Western Michigan, which finished 13-0 in the regular season and ended up playing the fourth highest-ranked Big Ten team in the Cotton Bowl. P.J. Fleck left for the Minnesota job afterward.

So you're UCF. You're undefeated. Sophomore McKenzie Milton, who threw for 373 yards and four TDs, will inherit Flowers' label as a Heisman Trophy dark horse next season. UCF's nonconference schedule features North Carolina, Florida Atlantic and Pitt — a slate where the game against the Owls will get the most-attention if Lane Kiffin is still coach there. Of course, Frost might not be. He's being sought by a number of major Power 5 programs.

There is more focus on Frost than the Knights' bid to go undefeated and perhaps reach the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and take a swing at a SEC school.

Is that fair? Of course not. That's the setup, however. It doesn't necessarily cheat the Group of 5 schools — who are well compensated — but it does leave fans who watched that amazing shootout between the Bulls and Knights feel cheated on some level.

MORE: Week 13 bowl projections

What's the end game?

Unless there's an eight-team playoff — that Elite Eight format — then we won't see a Group of 5 school in the College Football Playoff era given the track record of the committee to date. The Group of 5 schools are treated like an afterthought. That's well-documented. This is the best bet for the Group of 5 schools to get their chance, however. They would lose a lot of those games, but again, we saw Curry play Kansas in basketball. Every once in a while, a special player will lead one of those upsets.

Perhaps the Group of 5 seeking their own four-team playoff to spice up bowl seasons would be a proper stage — especially if you get games like that. Maybe even give the highest-ranked Group of 5 team an exemption if they were considered for the four-team playoff. The problem is UCF would rather take a swing at a SEC school in that Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl instead of a G5 playoff semifinal against Toledo or Boise State. That's also not an easy problem to solve.

And UCF isn't going to solve it this year. Or next year if Frost leaves. It's a spin-cycle for Group of 5 schools with no clarity on the end game or what it means. That comes after watching one of the best games of the year.

What a game, indeed.

We wish there was more to it.