The University of Central Florida is winning championships and new fans. The Knights defeated the Memphis Tigers 62-55 in double overtime to claim the American Athletic Conference Championship. UCF will now be the favorite Group of Five team to make a New Year’s Six Bowl, likely the Peach Bowl Bowl But this championship goes beyond football. Knights head coach Scott Frost has brought UCF to a new established program level in college football. In his second season, the Knights now have a perfect record and a conference championship. The season before Frost arrived, this team finished 0-12 under George O’Leary. Memphis was ranked #20 and the Knights came in at #14, respectively.
UCF Winning Championships and New Fans
This conference championship establishes Central Florida as the premier team in the AAC, after finishing 6-7 last year. A lot of adversity was overcome by the team this season. With the coaching rumors of Frost leaving for Nebraska, UCF players have built a personal bond with their coach. Earning the win on Saturday meant that the Knights would finish as the highest-ranked Group of Five team and get that NY6 bowl game. Had Memphis won, the case would be different. Over the past few months, the UCF fan base has grown tremendously. The team is earning new fans with every passing day; “Hopping on the bandwagon,” as it is called.
The two teams combined for nearly 1,500 total yards in the game and the 117 combined points makes it the highest scoring conference championship game in college football history. The two starting quarterbacks, (Riley Ferguson for Memphis and McKenzie Milton for UCF) combined for more than 900 yards passing combined.
The End of the Scott Frost Era
This type of fire power has made UCF an exciting team to watch all season. Sadly, for the Knights, it appears that Scott Frost to Nebraska has become a done deal. During the game, ESPN reported that the deal was complete. Frost has significant ties to Nebraska, and it has long been thought to be his dream job. After spending two years at Stanford, Frost Frost transferred to NU, serving as scout team quarterback on the 1995 national title team. He would eventually start 26 games in Lincoln, winning 24 of them. While he was never a fan favorite, he did lead the Huskers to a 1998 Orange Bowl win over Tennessee and a share of the national championship.
The UCF players have reportedly become close to Frost, as he built a program from the ashes of his predecessor. But, if anyone doubted that college football is a big business, they need only look at the last week with no fewer than eight major coaching changes. Frost is reportedly set to have a seven year contract worth $35 million.
This was Frost’s first head coaching job, after six years as an assistant at Oregon. After resurrecting a G5 team, he is now set to take over the helm of one of the blue blood programs in the country.
What Lies Ahead
Up next for UCF is preparation for their bowl game. The search for a head coach will likely begin immediately. This will be one of the most intriguing jobs out there this season. The success of this year’s team has given the program unprecedented momentum. With many coaching openings, and teams jockeying for the big names, this will be a job that draws one of the next up and comers. UCF has a bright future ahead. Quarterback McKenzie Milton is only a sophomore. Starting running back Otis Anderson is a freshman. Leading receiver Tre’Quan Smith is a junior and likely to return for his senior season. All in all, UCF is set up for success within the AAC for the next few seasons.