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2010 TCU vs 2017 UCF: Who Ya Got?

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If you match up two of the most recent undefeated Group of Five teams, which ends up with the better case to have made the championship round?

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Our friend’s at the excellent SB Nation site Underdog Dynasty put together an interesting article comparing the resumes of several Group of Five teams that finished undefeated but were denied an opportunity to play for a National Championship. Of course, TCU’s 2010 season was included on the list, though UD claims that the Frogs fall behind the Knights in the “WE GOT SCREWED” category.

The main reason for the argument is that in 2017, UCF was the only team with an unblemished resume, while 2010 TCU fell behind 13-0 Auburn and 12-0 Oregon and 2009 Boise State had to contend with two powerhouse undefeated teams in Auburn and Texas. There was at least one undefeated Power Five team in 2004 and 2006 as well, while Utah was the only team with a perfect record in 2008.

While UCF’s season was incredible, I would say they are the third best mid-major team of the BCS-Playoff era, falling behind the 2010 Frogs and the 2008 Utes. Utah has a strong case as the best of the bunch - in that 2008 campaign, they won at #24 Michigan, against Oregon State, #11 TCU, and #14 BYU, as well as shocking #4 Alabama by two touchdowns. But this is a TCU blog, so we are going to focus on the Frogs and Knights for this particular exercise.

Led by senior QB Andy Dalton, the school passing leader at the time, the Frogs’ dangerous offense featured running backs Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, and Waymon James - all of whom rushed for at least 4.8 ypc. The wide receiving corp was dynamic - Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young were dynamic, Antoine Hicks was a freak with a nose for the end zone, and Curtis Clay and Bart Johnson were steady, reliable targets who always seemed to be on the right side of the sticks on third down. The offensive line was built around future NFL star Marcus Cannon, but was legitimately two deep at every position.

And the defense... hoo boy, that defense. Stansley Mponga and Wayne Daniels coming off the edge. Cory Grant and DJ Yendry stuffing the middle. Tank Carder and Tanner Brock at linebacker, with Colin Jones, Alex Ibiloye, Jason Teague, and Grey McCoy starting in the secondary - and TK Cuba and Elisha Olabode coming off of the bench.

That team was LOADED.

After a close win over Oregon State in the Kickoff Classic, TCU ripped off big wins over Tennessee Tech, Baylor, and SMU before posting back to back shutouts at Colorado State and at home vs BYU. The Frogs followed that up with four straight games of single-digit defense, defeating BYU 31-3, Air Force 38-7, UNLV 48-6, and most impressive of all, blasting #6 Utah 47-7 on the road. Their closest game of the regular season came the following week when they squeaked by San Diego State 40-35, but got back on track by humiliating New Mexico on their home field 66-17.

The Frogs had to sweat out their bowl assignment, and only a missed field goal by Boise State late in November opened the path to the BCS, and the Frogs locked that up with their beat-down of the Aggies.

That 13-0 season for TCU, one that ended with a Rose Bowl victory over #4 Wisconsin, also included wins over #24 Oregon State, #6 Utah, BYU, and Baylor. They gave up 10 points or less in eight games, allowed just 12 per contest, scored an average of 41.6, racked up over 475 yards per game while holding opponents under 230. They allowed 34 fourth quarter points - total. They finished the season with the country’s best defense and fifth best offense.

UCF, on the other hand, was pretty terrible defensively, allowing 24 points or more in six of their final seven games and over 425 yards per game overall. They did have the nation’s fifth best offense though, averaging 7.5 yards per play and over 530 yards per contest. They beat Memphis twice, a team that finished 25th in the final poll, and had a thrilling victory over USF in a back and forth affair - a team that finished 10-2 and ranked 21st. They lost their one shot at playing a Power Five team prior to the bowl due to Hurricane Irma, but finished the season with one of the most impressive victories of December by up-ending Auburn.

2010 TCU vs 2017 UCF

Conference Record Sagarin Rating SOS Opponent W-L Ranked Wins Best Win Team Scoring Opponent Scoring Total Defense Rank Total Offense Rank
Conference Record Sagarin Rating SOS Opponent W-L Ranked Wins Best Win Team Scoring Opponent Scoring Total Defense Rank Total Offense Rank
MWC 13-0 94.69 (4th) 3.3 (29th) 79-85 three #5 Utah, #4 Wiscy 41.6 12 1st 4th
AAC 13-0 87.11 (13th) 1.8 (54th) 91-73 two #7 Auburn, #25 Memphis 48.23 25.31 94th 5th

The other interesting factor is the BCS Era vs the College Football Playoff Era; UCF didn’t even finish in the top four this season - shoot, they couldn’t even reach the fifth spot despite their unblemished record. TCU finished second in 2010, but would they have won the room over undefeated Auburn, undefeated Oregon, one-loss Stanford, or one-loss Ohio State? Based on what we have learned in the years since, probably not. The difference between the Frogs of seven years ago and UCF of today is reputation - TCU started that season ranked sixth and climbed as high as third before the bowl announcements. The Knights didn’t enter the rankings until week five and did so at #25, and it wasn’t until week 14 that that cracked the top ten, at tenth. It was just too high of a mountain to climb for UCF, while the Frogs at least started halfway up the hill.

While there is no way to prove which team was actually better, or if either could have beat Auburn or Alabama, it’s certainly obvious that they were two of the best teams of their seasons and would have been fun to watch compete at the highest level. I stand by my assertion that TCU had the better year - just look at the numbers, the Frogs were downright dominant - but the Knights deserve our praise as well. Maybe, someday, a G5 team will get their shot. But I doubt it happens any time soon.

Poll

Which team had a better argument for the championship game/playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    2010 TCU Football
    (249 votes)
  • 10%
    2017 UCF Knights
    (29 votes)
278 votes total Vote Now