This isn’t the top of the School Soccer Playoff enlargement debate, or the Group of 5 conferences’ place in a sport of haves and have-nots. It is simply the top of the phantasm that UCF can declare a nationwide championship this 12 months — or some other 12 months, till enlargement or separation from the Energy 5 defines that function for the G5 faculties.
No. 11 LSU (10-3) beat No. eight UCF (12-1) 40-32 within the Fiesta Bowl, ending the nation’s longest win streak at 25 video games when a desperation move fell into LSU’s JaCoby Stevens’ arms.
That stated, it is nonetheless exhausting to reply these questions.
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UCF didn’t have star quarterback McKenzie Milton, and nonetheless deserves recognition for a two-year run different G5 faculties can comply with. It created actual Playoff debate and made this system a extra marketable possibility if there’s one other spherical of convention realignment. But it surely additionally antagonized the large boys.
LSU beat the Knights, nevertheless it wasn’t a full-fledged blowout. The Tigers additionally didn’t have a number of key gamers on protection. This recreation was good, nevertheless it may have been higher on either side. That is an issue with no simple answer.
For the primary 9 minutes, the Knights appeared just like the staff that beat Auburn in final 12 months’s Peach Bowl. Greg McCrae rushed for a 25-yard landing on the Knights’ first drive. Brandon Moore returned a Joe Burrow interception 93 yards for a landing, a play punctuated by a blind-side block on Burrow by Joey Connors that knocked the LSU quarterback off his toes.
UCF led 14-3 — and appeared legit.
The remainder of the Knights’ efficiency was mistake-prone, self-destructive and nothing near what a Playoff-caliber staff ought to appear like towards one among many second-rung SEC faculties. UCF wouldn’t have success dealing with Florida or Texas A&M enjoying like that — not to mention Georgia or Alabama.
A 3rd-down unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on UCF defensive lineman Randy Charlton was the turning level that gave LSU all of the momentum it wanted. Burrow led three straight landing drives, one other spurred by a focusing on name on Knights cornerback Kyle Gibson.
LSU was up 24-14 – and it appeared like a blowout was coming. But it surely was a recreation of checks and balances to the top.
UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. countered with an excellent landing move to Gabriel Davis earlier than halftime — however that got here towards a patchwork secondary with out All-People Grasping Williams, who skipped the bowl, and Grant Delpit, who was ejected for focusing on in an ugly first half the place the groups mixed for 149 penalty yards.
UCF’s self-inflicted errors continued within the second half. Davis dropped a certain landing move down the sideline. Mack missed tight finish Michael Colubiale within the purple zone. LSU turned these errors into three subject targets as a substitute of touchdowns.
The outcome confirmed the SEC-slanted pile-on that can comply with. Shorthanded LSU had each excuse to lose this recreation and managed the mistake-prone Knights for a lot of the recreation. This is similar LSU that hasn’t beat Alabama because the No. 1-vs.-No. 2 Recreation of the Century in 2011. From Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge, the revel will echo for the institution after the Knights claimed a nationwide championship after beating Auburn final season:
“That is your nationwide champion?”
LSU’s victory assured that will not be a subject of dialog when No. 1 Alabama meets No. 2 Clemson within the School Soccer Playoff championship recreation on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif., however that enlargement debate and the Group of 5’s place in it’s removed from over.
Boise State, TCU and Utah had been these groups within the Bowl Championship Collection period. The Horned Frogs and Utes used that profile to leap into the Energy 5. Boise State didn’t, they usually joined Marshall, Houston and Western Michigan as faculties who’ve fought for the committee’s consideration within the Playoff period. UCF simply did that a little bit bit louder — and did not apologize for it during the last two seasons.
With that, some questions linger:
— Will a Group of 5 staff ever crack a four-team Playoff? In all probability not, due to UCF.
— Would G5 faculties get extra possibilities in an eight-team Playoff? In all probability, additionally due to UCF.
— Will UCF be a member of the Energy 5 due to this run? The Large 12 ought to give them an extended look.
— If the G5 cannot crack this Playoff, would making their very own be a greater various?
It has been something to think about because the daybreak of the Playoff period. LSU’s win over the Knight is not going to present any concrete solutions for any of these questions, however we did be taught there is not going to be a cut up nationwide championship of any selection in 2018.
If Milton returns and the Knights run the desk once more in 2019, then possibly the Playoff discuss will begin once more. But it surely takes two unbeaten seasons to have an opportunity with the committee. Even then, it is slim.. It simply is not going to be a critical subject once more within the four-team period for some time, however there may be one factor we will say for certain after watching this one.
This recreation was good, nevertheless it may have been higher. Till it turns into a quarterfinal, there will probably be no simple reply from both aspect.