UCF beat Auburn 34-27 Monday in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, taking advantage of the one major bowl bid doled out to the Group of 5 conferences.
Auburn entered the game as a 10 1/2-point favorite, but the outcome comes as no surprise to those who watched the Knights compete during a perfect 13-0 campaign.
UCF has the speed necessary to hang with the big boys and they don’t come any bigger than Auburn, which beat two of the four teams taking part in this year’s College Football Playoff — Alabama and Georgia.
Auburn was on its way to joining the CFP before stumbling 28-7 against the same Georgia squad in the SEC title game.
As much as the powers-that-be consider the Power 5 conferences far superior to their mid-major brethren, we’ve been here before:
▪ Utah of the Mountain West trounced Pittsburgh 35-7 in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.
▪ Boise State of the WAC edged Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
▪ In the 2009 Sugar Bowl, Utah thumped Alabama 31-17.
▪ TCU, then a MWC member, topped Wisconsin 21-19 in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
▪ In the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, UCF beat Baylor 52-42.
▪ The 2015 Peach Bowl featured a 38-24 win for Houston, an AAC program, over Florida State
These mid-major wins keep happening on a somewhat regular basis, but there is no seat at the table for the Group of 5 in today’s College Football Playoff.
I’ve shot down arguments for the last month that UCF deserved a spot in this year’s College Football Playoff, but Monday’s Peach Bowl bolsters the argument that the Group of 5 deserves a spot when the CFP eventually expands to eight.
The Group of 5 should receive one automatic bid to an eight-team CFP to make sure there is at least one program from that level represented.
For the elitists who believe that an automatic bid would simply dilute the playoff, consider what mid-major programs have to offer the NCAA Tournament. Some of that event’s greatest moments have come when schools like Butler, Gonzaga and George Mason pulled off runs deep into March.
For those American Athletic Conference fans who make the argument that the AAC is simply a member of the “Power 6,” all you have to do is remember the score of UCF’s bowl game a year ago — Arkansas State 31, UCF 13.
It would be a travesty if the Group of 5 doesn’t have at least one representative each year in a future eight-team CFP.