Yes you read that title correctly.
Yes, I honestly believe that the 2017-18 UCF Knights would have defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide. If I had to wager all of my belongings and livelihood on one of these teams in a game, I’m rolling UCF.
Here, I will separate the major sections of factors that I believe would contribute to UCF’s victory, assuming that this game is played in a neutral site, in whichever scenario that would have come by *cough*College Football Playoff*cough* minimizing the factors not controlled by either team and letting their play on the field and their coaching decide the superior.
So let us dive into what would have been the most monumental upset in college football history.
Let’s be real here, the National Championship to Alabama means about as much to them as a mid-major, sponsored-name bowl game to your team, whether they choose to admit it or not.
It’s simply the expectation at Alabama. Anything less would be considered a letdown, and winning it of course only incites the general expectation that they achieved what they were meant to and no more.
Meanwhile, from the perspective of UCF, this game would have meant everything in the world and in true UCF fashion, they would come out swinging.
We saw the not-so-subtle shots fired on social media as the Knights used Twitter to parade their proclaimed National Championship, without hesitating to toss shade towards Alabama.
The whole program, from the players in their interviews to the coaches, to the equipment manager, to even the social media director were not shy in their proclamation, nor willingness and even request to defend it.
Simply put, UCF would be much more energized coming into this game than Alabama, with no fault to them of course, they would simply be a victim of their own success.
Now rings and trash talk aside, let’s take a look at the real tell tale, The On-Field Advantages and Styles.
On Field Advantages
Any disciple of college football remembers the infamous Michigan vs Appalachian St game. At the time, App St was the defending D1-AA champion, opening their season against a Top 10 ranked Michigan team. The Mountaineers would go on to win this game in dramatic fashion and go down as a historic upset in college football.
However, looking back, Michigan’s upset was perhaps not as improbable as it was originally made out to be. A very talented App St had a lot of speed and athleticism, compared to Michigan’s classic big man style of football. Michigan has very few players that could keep with the constant speed and athleticism of App St.
This type of contrast does tend to throw a knot in the loop of the larger teams, as history will tell us, and I have dubbed it the Mountaineer Effect. And in terms of UCF compared to Alabama, well the Mountaineer Effect is present in spades.
Let’s elaborate on the talent that UCF had that could counter the powerful force that is the Crimson Tide. Either by intent or just by chance, UCF ended up with some of the fastest players of their respective class at nearly every position, more specifically, at the skill positions.
With too many names to count, from a direct athleticism standpoint, UCF had more speed than Alabama at every corner, and the fast-paced, mix-it-up style they run with ball carriers and receivers provided a possible advantage over the Tide.
To effectively combat this, Alabama would have to put a lot of pressure on the passer and hope for sacks, allowing blitzes to open up even more holes for receivers to punch and score.
Now an obvious counter-argument would be the other side of the ball. Now I’m not crazy. Alabama’s offense last year, though not it’s strongest, probably outperforms the UCF defense handily.
But, UCF doesn’t need to out-defend ‘Bama. They have to outrun them, an offensive shootout with a total score in the 70s to 80s would provide UCF their best chance at history.
Well there you have it, UCF could have, and I believe would have beaten Alabama head-to-head. But at the end of the day, this will go down as one of college football’s many “What If’s?” that could have changed the course of the sport.
Whether you believe UCF is the National Champion or not is more than a single opinion, as the NCAA records now recognize the Knight’s historic season as a National Championship.
Perhaps there is a way to avoid these conflicts by adjusting the standards of the playoff, or if you don’t mind the old school ways like me, be content with schools claiming their National Championship by themselves (hello 1940s Bama). But that, my friends, is for another story.