The Associated Press still awards a college football national championship each season, though it's been almost entirely ignored during the BCS and College Football Playoff era and means very little, if anything.
Does UCF have any shot at finishing No. 1 in the final AP Top 25 to earn a national title? Nope, but the Knights will shoot up from their pre-bowl No. 10 ranking.
UCF's highest final AP ranking was No. 10 when they finished 12-1 in 2013 and beat Baylor in a Fiesta Bowl shootout. It was one of only two seasons the Knights have finished in the final AP Top 25 (No. 21, 2010). Following their win over (7) Auburn in the Peach Bowl, they are guaranteed to set a new program record.
How far will they jump?
First, here's a look at the top 10 teams (because no one outside the top 10 is hopping UCF) from the Week 15 AP rankings:
|1||Clemson||1,506||vs. Alabama – Loss|
|2||Oklahoma||1,474||vs. Georgia – Loss|
|3||Georgia||1,409||vs. Oklahoma – Win|
|4||Alabama||1,307||vs. Clemson – Win|
|5||Ohio State||1,300||vs. USC – Win|
|6||Wisconsin||1,162||vs. Miami (FL) – Win|
|7||Auburn||1,123||vs. UCF – Loss|
|8||USC||1,101||vs. Ohio State – Loss|
|9||Penn State||1,008||vs. Washington – Win|
|10||UCF||983||vs. Auburn – Win|
UCF will hop both (8) USC and their Peach Bowl victim, (7) Auburn. They should eliminate the 25-point deficit to (9) Penn State despite the Nittany Lions' victory over (12) Washington. The Knights had a better win and many restless or excitable voters will reward them with more top-five votes than Penn State.
UCF is — at minimum — No. 7.
Let's go the top. Regardless of the outcome of Monday's national championship, they will not hop (3) Georgia nor (4) Alabama. The winner will be No. 1 and the loser will not fall beyond No. 4 — at worst. The Knights will be ranked higher than either or both Clemson and Oklahoma on some ballots but not enough to make up that much ground.
UCF is — at best — No. 5.
Fifth-ranked Ohio State had just 277 yards of offense and 13 first downs in a 17-point win over (8) USC in the Cotton Bowl. Though the Buckeyes were dominant at times (see Nick Bosa), the game was largely decided by the Trojans' miserable playcalling, self-inflicted wounds and four turnovers. Were enough voters impressed with the Buckeyes, namely the final score (24-7) to keep them at No. 5? I say yes, which pushes UCF into a battle with (6) Wisconsin for No. 6.
Wisconsin beat (11) Miami, 34-24, by dominating the 'Canes on third down (2-for-10), forcing three turnovers and controlling the clock (plus-19:44 time of possession advantage). It wasn't a sexy win, and it came against a team plummeting in the AP Top 25 (Miami dropped nine spots from Week 13 to Week 15).
Prediction: UCF hops Wisconsin to finish No. 6 in the final AP Top 25, their highest final ranking ever.