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How UCF Losing Impacts Cincinnati

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UCF lost their first regular season game since 2016, but how does that affect the Bearcats moving forward?

Central Florida v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

For the first time since late November 2016, the UCF Knights lost a regular season football game on Saturday.

Back on 11/26/16, UCF lost at South Florida 48-31. They lost the Cure Bowl to Arkansas State and since the start of 2017, they have won 28 of 29 games entering Saturday, including a win over Auburn in the 2018 Peach Bowl, to complete a perfect 13-0 season.

In a wild, back-and-forth game, Pitt pulled out a 35-34 victory against UCF thanks to a late trick play touchdown on fourth down. College football fans all over the world rejoiced in unison.

“No more talking about UCF”. “Frauds”. “Overrated”. “LOL”.

There is so much hate and anger about UCF. I will say this - winning 28 of 29 games is impressive. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you play. If it was “so easy” if they played such “bad teams” as everyone routinely implies, than why has no one else accomplished this feat? Why hasn’t Boise State, typically the world’s favorite underdog.

Boise State is the world’s favorite underdog because they go about their business and handle it quietly. They don’t claim National Championships. They don’t complain about not being ranked higher.

I’m not hear to argue the validity of UCF’s claims of being ranked in the top 10 or being a potential Playoff contender. I’m just here to respect their accomplishments and acknowledge that they are a great team who is capable of playing with anyone.

But now that they lost, how does that impact Cincinnati?

AAC no longer controls Cotton Bowl bid

The highest ranked conference champion from the Group of Five “lesser” conferences (AAC, Mountain West, C-USA, MAC, Sun Belt) earns a New Year’s Six Bowl bid as an at-large team. This year, the G5 Champion is expected to play in the Cotton Bowl.

UCF has played in the NY6 bowls the last two years, beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl in 2018 and losing to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl in 2019.

With the Knights’ loss, the AAC no longer controls it’s destiny. Boise State will be the highest ranked G5 school next week and if they run the table, no one is going to pass them.

Boise State’s schedule includes a road game at Utah State and BYU and a home games with Hawaii. They avoid both San Diego State and Fresno State until, potentially, the Mountain West title game. Broncos will definitely be favored in every game the rest of the season and now control their own destiny.

Had UCF won on Saturday, and Cincinnati beat the Knights on 10/4, the Bearcats could have potentially vaulted Boise State because beating UCF would have been a more impressive victory than anything the Broncos have or will do. Now, the value of the win is decreased.

Perception of the AAC

Much of the perception of the AAC, and why some people viewed it as the top non-power conference, was because of the strength of UCF. Now, there will certainly be doubt in how folks view the conference. If “UCF isn’t that good” (as people will say) than how good are the teams that they beat? If UCF beats Temple, does that just mean Temple sucks, since UCF isn’t good?

College football is a weird sport. Everyone hates UCF. They make people angry. Last week, after blowing out Stanford, the immediate reaction was “Stanford stinks”. This week, after the loss the reaction was “Pitt stinks, so UCF is a fraud”. This will continue to be the narrative that follows the Knights.

If Cincinnati wins on 10/4, many won’t consider it the great win that it should be, because they’ll view the Knights as nothing more than a good Group of Five teams, which is notches below the “real” teams. If Cincinnati loses, well UCF stinks anyways, so obviously Cincinnati is nothing special. The anti-UCF narrative will continue to shine and even more so it will now impact the AAC teams that they play, who will be looked down on even more than normal.

October 4

First of all, my initial reaction to Pitt’s win was simply sadness because I have long hoped that Cincinnati would be the ones to end the streak and end this magical run.

But that game is still happening and as much as today sucked for UCF, just like 42-0 vs Ohio State sucked for Cincinnati, those results are ultimately meaningless. Running the table and arguing about the playoffs would have been fun, but it comes down to 10/4 to see which school will control it’s destiny in the AAC East.

Cincinnati certainly has a lot of issues to clean up coming out of this off week, and we’ll see what they look like against Marshall next Saturday. Herd is an opponent that should not be overlooked. And maybe UCF’s loss will ensure the Bearcats don’t look ahead. But what we learned today from watching UCF vs Pitt is their are definitely weaknesses on this team and the Bearcats have the strengths and abilities to exploit those holes and take advantage.

What are your thoughts on UCF losing - are you happy because they are annoying? Disappointing because you wanted UC to do it first? Don’t care?