Alabama Football: Let’s End The Ridiculous Debate of Alabama and UCF

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Defensive back Tony Brown
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Defensive back Tony Brown /

 Enough of the championship debate about Alabama football and the University of Central Florida.  UCF AD Danny White and Alabama AD Greg Byrne even had a twitter beef about the mythical championship and parade.

America loves to root for the underdog. Alabama football is almost never an underdog.

Since scrappy challenger Rocky Balboa beat undisputed heavyweight world champion Apollo Creed, the Miracle on Ice occurred when the United States trounced the USSR in the Olympics. Perhaps, eighth-seeded Villanova beating defending national champion Georgetown Hoyas for the NCAA basketball championship floats your boat. Boise State upsetting Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl showed the appeal of a team that ‘did not belong’ shaking normalcy.

Alabama football’s run for the College Football Playoff

National pundits did not agree if allowing Alabama in the College Football Playoffs was deserving after the Auburn loss and no SEC Championship.  Alabama football coach Nick Saban made the case an Alabama defense ravaged by injuries led to the late-season demise.  As a result, the CFP committee voted Alabama in over Big Ten champs Ohio State.

Upon entering the playoffs against the wishes of many, the Crimson Tide manhandled Clemson and needed a thrilling comeback victory to defeat Georgia.  Alabama football finished with the 29th ranked offense averaging 444.1 yards per game.  The suffocating defense yielded 260.4 yards per game for first in the country.

The University of Central Florida had the fifth-ranked offense in the country averaging 530.5 yards per game.  Their defense was 93rd in the nation allowing 427.9 yards per game.  Both of these elements plus the excellent coaching of Scott Frost led to a record of 13-0 which made UCF the only undefeated team in the FBS.

A mythical championship has presented UCF with a bright national spotlight.  ESPN reporter Darren Rovell stated the unbeaten season was worth more than 200 million dollars to UCF.  The inspirational play of linebacker Shaquem Griffin drew admirers across the globe and was massive for college football and UCF.

The proposal

Assume Alabama and Central Florida played on a neutral field after their bowl victories to determine the outright champion.  Only the winner would get appearances at the NFL Pro Bowl, parades at Disney World or the claim to the title national champions.

Alabama would make light work of Frost’s UCF team because of superior talent, their ability to control the clock with a punishing ground game and exceptional defense.

The real story

The talent gap on both sidelines is enormous.  Alabama football finished with the top recruiting class six years in a row while in the past two years, UCF recruiting classes were 65th and 55th per 24/7 recruiting rankings.

The Golden Knights had four players invited to the 2018 NFL combine. Alabama had 14.

Next, UCF faced three ranked teams during the season, South Florida, Memphis, and Auburn. Overall, Alabama faced robust opponents Florida State, LSU, Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia.

The one common opponent is Auburn.  Alabama ran into a buzzsaw in Jordan Hare Stadium as blazing hot Auburn had defeated the previous number one team in the nation, Georgia. UCF faced a vanquished Auburn team that had ambitious dreams of competing in the College Football Playoff failed after an SEC championship game loss to Georgia.  The Golden Knights overwhelmed Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl 34-27.

The truth: the stats

Below are teams that UCF’s high-powered offense faced with their defensive ranking in parentheses:

  • Florida International University (80) 417 yards per game
  • Memphis University (121) 476 ypg
  • Southern Methodist University (122) 487 ypg
  • East Carolina University (130) 542 ypg
  • The University of Maryland (84) 419 ypg
  • The University of Cincinnati (91) 429 ypg
  • Navy (57) 387 ypg
  • The University of Connecticut (126) 519 ypg
  •  Temple University (61) 392 ypg
  • The University of South Florida (14) 343 ypg
  • Auburn University (25) 312 ypg

In contrast, the two top offenses faced by Alabama, the active defense met Colorado State’s 12th ranked offensive attack for 492 yards per game.  CSU finished with 397 total yards. The Crimson Tide also played Ole Miss with the nation’s 18th ranked offensive attack averaging 462 ypg.  The Tide beat the Rebels 66-3 limiting the offense to 253 yards which were 209 yards below their season average.

Four UCF opponents (Memphis, USF, SMU, and Auburn) finished higher than Alabama’s 29th ranked offense, each game presented a challenge for the UCF defense. In the South Florida victory, UCF accumulated 533 total yards of offense but also gave up 653 yards on defense.  In the double-overtime American Athletic Conference championship game, UCF amassed 726 yards but gave up 753 yards to Memphis.

Defense is Alabama’s Calling Card

Furthermore, Alabama’s defense was second in the country with a pass efficiency rating of 96.78 finishing slightly behind national leader Wisconsin’s 96.39.  The defense finished sixth in passing yards allowed with 165.7 ypg.  More importantly, the Crimson Tide allowed only eight passing touchdowns the entire season.

The Tide has had their issues with dual-threat quarterbacks.  The most dangerous threat they faced in 2017 was Clemson’s quarterback Kelly Bryant.  Alabama held him to 143 yards of total offense after averaging 266 yards.

UCF quarterback Milton McKenzie would have been hard-pressed to find receivers or find running room against a fully healthy Alabama defense.

UCF almost ready for the big boys

Put aside the notion that conference bias put Alabama in the playoffs. UCF has a growing program.  To prove they can compete with the blue blood programs, they need to schedule more prominent opponents. Let’s see how they fare against UNC, FAU, and Pitt this upcoming season.

Regardless, UCF can lay claim to the fact that they beat Auburn. The realistic expectation is that UCF would have lost to all four of the CFP participants, not just Alabama.

Honestly, against the Golden Knights, freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would not have to enter the game to save Alabama from a loss.  He would only play in the fourth quarter for mop-up duty.

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UCF fans are unlikely to relinquish their national championship claim. The remarkable play of the Crimson Tide in the playoff games make them the undisputed national champions.