ESPN College GameDay shows pro-Knights signs
Hosts tone down criticism of UCF’s playoff chances
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
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.”
A UCF fan holds up a cutout of an unflattering picture of Kirk Herbstreit’s head wearing a UCF national championship hat.