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Peach Bowl win warrants national championship cries from UCF supporters

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WEB EXCLUSIVE

National Champions: A moniker deemed fitting for the best team in all of college football. The Alabama Crimson Tide were declared “national champions” after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in the championship game of the relatively-new college football playoff system. This system uses factors such as record, strength of schedule and game control to determine the top four teams at the end of the season.

The system leaves some teams, such as UCF, at a disadvantage. UCF won the American Athletic Conference after going undefeated in the regular season, but were still ranked outside the top ten by the College Football Playoff Committee. Oviedo native and alumni of nearby Hagerty High School, Josh Kelly, is a redshirt sophomore defensive back for UCF. He and his teammates, coaches and other members of UCF athletics community consider themselves the true national champions.

“A lot of us think that we should be ranked at number one,” Kelly said. “We beat every team that has been put in front of us, and no other team in the country was able to do that.”

Some college football fans, like senior Ryan Hart, argue that Group of 5 teams, those not in the most powerful conferences of college football, should get the chance to play for a national championship if their team is deserving of the opportunity.

“I’m in full support of breaking down the College Football Playoff system or expanding it,” Hart said. “It is definitely biased against teams like UCF. I would love to see [UCF] go in the playoff and prove themselves.”  

Freshman Maddox Nebel sees the logistical benefits of UCF naming themselves national champions.

“I think it’s smart for them to do that so that they get themselves publicized and have more pride in themselves,” Nebel said. “They can get higher star recruits and maybe more people will pay attention to them.”

A major reason that people argued that UCF should be named national champions was their victory over sixth-ranked Auburn in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl, held in Atlanta. Auburn had defeated Alabama and Georgia in the regular season, which were the two teams that met in the championship of the College Football Playoff.

“I think the win against Auburn meant a lot for our team,” Kelly said. “I think it showed that we can compete with the top conferences [in college football], so if any Group of 5 team is in that position, then they should get a chance, unlike we did.”

After UCF declared themselves national champions, Florida governor Rick Scott made it official that the state of Florida would recognize UCF as such. In celebration, UCF held a championship parade at the Magic Kingdom.

“Disney was a great experience,” Kelly said. “I had a lot of fun with my team, and there were a lot of fans who showed up, much more than I expected due to the price of Disney’s tickets.”

UCF also held a block party on Church Street in downtown Orlando for fans to attend. Players took the stage and the crowd was electric, according to junior Chloe Cunningham.

“The block party was a lot of fun and it was super crowded,” Cunningham said. “After it ended, the team loaded back up on the bus, but [UCF starting quarterback] Mackenzie [Milton] stayed behind to sign stuff and take photos with people that had lined up.”

The “national champions” claim and Peach Bowl victory were all largely publicized and discussed, especially in the Orlando community. The bowl game in itself was important, attended by many UCF fans from the Orlando area.

It was very cool to see all of the UCF fans from Orlando,” said sophomore Emily Fil. “When we were driving up there, we could see everyone from UCF. You could tell by their license plates and their stickers.”

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Peach Bowl win warrants national championship cries from UCF supporters