If UCF beats Memphis in in the AAC Championship on Saturday, they will be the second straight Group of Five team to miss the College Football Playoff — by a wide margin — despite posting an undefeated season. Western Michigan (13-0) finished No. 15 in the final rankings last year.
That probably won't be the case if the Knights run the table again in 2018 and/or 2019.
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While UCF is expected to lose head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska (and likely some, if not all, of his assistant coaches) and a handful of key contributors, they will return quarterback McKenzie Milton, leading rusher Adrian Killins Jr., leading receiver Tre'Quan Smith, leading tackler Pat Jasinski and other pieces capable of delivering a second straight undefeated season.
The Knights were hurt badly by the cancellation of their game vs. Georgia Tech in Week 3. It's debatable whether a win over the Yellow Jackets would've given them a chance to enter the four-team field (probably not), though it certainly would've boosted their résumé.
Next year, they'll upgrade non-conference games vs. FIU (home), Maryland (away) and Austin Peay (home) for North Carolina (away), Florida Atlantic (home) and Pittsburgh (home). It's by no means a murderer's row of playoff contenders but still a good-enough slate to give them a better shot at national recognition. In 2019, it's even better: Florida Atlantic (away), Pittsburgh (away) and Stanford (home).
So if UCF can keep rolling in 2018 and beyond (and get a strong conference schedule), they'll have a darn good shot at becoming the first Group of Five team make the playoff.