ESPN Col­lege Game­Day shows pro-Knights signs

Hosts tone down crit­i­cism of UCF’s play­off chances

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Iliana Limón Romero, Mike Bianchi and Matt Murschel Or­lando Sentinel

UCF fans made their pres­ence known at ESPN Col­lege Game­Day Satur­day morn­ing in Jack­sonville, ar­gu­ing the un­de­feated Knights de­serve more re­spect in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off semi­fi­nal race.

While the Game­Day team didn’t agree with the Knights, the an­a­lysts’ tone changed a week af­ter they were an­noyed by the sugges­tion UCF should even be part of the play­off dis­cus­sion de­spite own­ing the na­tion’s long­est win streak span­ning 20 games.

Late in the broad­cast, Lee Corso no­ticed a UCF fan hold­ing a cutout of an un­flat­ter­ing pic­ture of Kirk Herb­streit’s head wear­ing a UCF na­tional cham­pi­onship hat. Corso pointed out to the sign clearly vis­i­ble on cam­era and Herb­streit re­sponded, “Oh yeah, that’s UCF. They’re fun guys. They’re good guys. We like them a lot. They got jokes.”

UCF fan Ja­cob Serre, a 2018 alum, made the sign Corso and Herb­streit dis­cussed on cam­era.

“We’re lo­cal. I’m from Day­tona Beach. I went to UCF. I just want to rep­re­sent the school and give us a good pres­ence on the na­tional stage,” Serre said. “I feel like we get ig­nored a lot and I want to make sure we keep our brand out there in a pos­i­tive way and we wanted to come out here and rep­re­sent.”

With UCF flags and signs pep­pered among the Florida and Ge­or­gia signs, host Rece Davis and an­a­lysts David Pol­lack, Des­mond Howard and Herb­streit dis­cussed where the Knights might land in the first play­off rank­ings to be un­veiled Tues­day.

Davis opened the dis­cus­sion about the Knights by say­ing, “We re­spect the heck out of win­ning 20 in a row be­cause re­ally no­body else has done that. But re­ally what we’re say­ing is are they one of the best four teams? Are they de­serv­ing of that? When the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee ranks these teams, they start with a list­ing step. No or­der. Six best teams . ... Are they are in the first six, sec­ond six, where are they?”

Pol­lack re­sponded, “I think they’re in the sec­ond six. I think they’d be at 12, so they’d start be­ing com­pared . ... The seven teams they’ve beat, none of them have a win­ning record. That will mat­ter. That’s go­ing to mat­ter in the com­mit­tee.”

UCF ath­let­ics di­rec­tor Danny White and those sup­port­ing the Knights ap­peared to have made an im­pact dur­ing the past week, re­fut­ing the ar­gu­ment by Herb­streit and oth­ers that UCF doesn’t try to sched­ule strong teams.

The Knights were slated to play North Carolina and Pitt this sea­son, which were both ex­pected to be com­pet­i­tive. The game against the strug­gling Tar Heels was can­celed due to a hur­ri­cane.

“Here’s what I’ll say: UCF’s done a good job,” Pol­lack said. “They’ve sched­uled Louisville, a Power 5 on their sched­ule, for the next seven years I think it is, so they’re try­ing to amp up their sched­ule. Look at what they’ve done right now. It’s not im­pres­sive. It’s not im­pres­sive at all, so I don’t think they’ll be in that mix to start early.”

Herb­streit stood by his sup­port of Boise State’s de­ci­sion to forgo home-and­home con­tracts and travel to play any team any­where in the coun­try dur­ing the Bowl Cham­pi­onship Se­ries era, vault­ing into the na­tional spot­light.

UCF has ar­gued it gets about $2 mil­lion per home game – far more than any pay­out for go­ing on the road against a high level Power 5 team — and is build­ing a loyal fan base that should get to see some of the Power 5 op­po­nents the Knights sched­ule in Or­lando.

Still, Herb­streit ar­gued UCF has to find a way to sched­ule tougher non­con­fer­ence com­pe­ti­tion.

“When you’re out of the Power 5, the re­al­ity is you have to have a heavy­weight in the non­con­fer­ence to get ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion,” he said. “Boise State, back in the BCS era, the rea­son they got so much trac­tion is they went to Ge­or­gia in the Ge­or­gia Dome and won. They went to FedEx Field and beat a very good Vir­ginia Tech team. That got ev­ery­body’s at­ten­tion and con­tin­ued year af­ter year af­ter year.

“And I think that’s what UCF is lack­ing. They’re 127th in strength of sched­ule. You just men­tioned the teams that they’ve beaten, how those teams are do­ing. Now they’ve got some teams ahead of them that can help be­cause they have bet­ter records, but at the end of the day, I don’t re­ally know how high their strength of sched­ule re­ally is go­ing to climb in or­der to be able to get out of be­ing in that sec­ond group of six.”

Davis asked, “Does the eye test help?”

Herb­streit replied, “It helps them. Yeah, they’re very ath­letic. Ab­so­lutely.”

Howard agreed with his peers’ opin­ions of UCF, adding, “Con­grat­u­la­tions. You guys are un­de­feated. Keep up the good work, but the strength of sched­ule is an is­sue.”

Davis closed by say­ing he thought the play­off com­mit­tee would not rank the Knights as high as their cur­rent No. 10 AP and coaches’ poll po­si­tions.

The de­bate played out in front of strate­gi­cally placed signs that in­cluded:

A pic­ture of Herb­streit with text that read, “They’re right be­hind me aren’t they?”

A sim­ple sign with a

UCF logo.

A UCF na­tional cham­pi­onship flag

And signs that read: “UCF’s SOS made Bor­tles a top five pick” and “UCF is the best team in Florida.”

There were some an­tiUCF signs in the crowd, but it ap­peared there were no fights be­tween fans sup­port­ing their re­spec­tive teams.

“There were about 15 to 20 of us,” Serre said. “We had a bus of peo­ple that was go­ing to come but un­for­tu­nately, there was some Twit­ter lan­guage that we didn’t feel com­fort­able or­ga­niz­ing it that way so we came in­di­vid­u­ally and grouped up to­gether. We met a lot of peo­ple we didn’t know were go­ing to be here. We’ve had a great time. A great crowd. Ev­ery­body was very re­spect­ful. We were very re­spect­ful and we had a great time.”

MATT MURSCHEL/OR­LANDO SENTINEL

A UCF fan holds up a cutout of an un­flat­ter­ing pic­ture of Kirk Herb­streit’s head wear­ing a UCF na­tional cham­pi­onship hat.

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