College Football Playoff Delivers, UCF Questions, 'Noles Now And Leftovers

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU

Photo: Getty Images

For eight hours on New Year's Eve college football delivered. Debates over who belonged and who should be playing who do not matter today. After years of awful semifinal games, this year's doubleheader had it all. Big plays, dramatic comebacks and fantastic finishes were all about these two games. 

I don't care that Alabama destroyed Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl, the College Football Playoff committee was asked to judge teams based on the body of work of the regular season. Alabama is good but they didn't belong in the playoff this year, TCU did. The Horned Frogs were the team that people tried to find warts as the season went along. They kept on winning and winning all the close games and worked their way up the rankings.

They did lose to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game but they lost on the same day USC lost for a second time to Utah. But there were doubters once TCU was paired against Michigan. Jim Harbaugh's team throttled Ohio State and then won the Big Ten championship and everyone talked about their power and talent and how they would roll into the National Championship. Instead, the team with a first year coach and a quarterback who lost the starting job early in the year looked faster than Michigan, stronger than Michigan, better coached than Michigan and in the end beat Michigan 51-45 to advance to the title game. The Horned Frogs' defense had two pick sixes and the offense ran for 263 yards against the Wolverines' defense.

The game featured a 44-point third quarter, a 69-point second half and one last shot for Michigan with the ball before TCU's defense shut the door. But don't treat TCU like Cincinnati last season. The Bearcats became the first G5 team to make the playoffs. TCU does not have the recent pedigree of Alabama or Georgia, but they are and have been a P5 team for a while and competing in a league that from top to bottom may have been the deepest league in the country...

In Atlanta, it felt like a national title game as Georgia rallied and survived in beating Ohio State 42-41. The Buckeyes, who got a second chance after USC's lost, made the most of the opportunity by pushing the defending champs to the final seconds. CJ Stroud was incredible with four touchdown passes and 348 yards and his arm and precision was high first-round worthy. But Stetson Bennett's dream continued as he threw for 398 yards and three scores and when his team needed him the most he delivered. In a game where receivers were open all night, big plays highlighted a memorable game. And yet, the Buckeyes had their chance to have a national title where neither team won their conference championship but a 50-yard field goal goes wide left.

Ohio State fans enter the off-season questioning a coach that is 45-6, but that's college football. Georgia's Stetson Bennett- who is 25 years old- has a chance to win another title and the Bulldogs are heavy favorites over TCU. 

I don't know if next Monday's game will live up to what we watched this past Saturday. Georgia looks for back-to-back championships and TCU looks to cap off a Cinderella season. But it's why we watch and here's hoping we get a classic to cap off the season...

It was eerily fitting that UCF's season ended playing in Navy's stadium. November 19th is the date where everything changed for UCF's season in a game against Navy. The Knights were coming off a big road win at Tulane and stood 8-2 controlling their destiny in the American. UCF needed to beat a 3-7 Navy team and then beat their rival South Florida Bulls the following week and they would host the conference title game and have a chance to get back to a major bowl game. They lost 17-14 that early Saturday and things changed. UCF survived in Tampa and quarterback John Rhys Plumlee's injuries became a bigger factor and the team ended the year going 1-3 in their final four games and finished 9-5.

UCF is bringing in, arguably, its best class of high school recruits and Gus Malzahn has once again hit the portal to add to areas of need. His list of incoming players is not yet done but there are questions headed into the off-season. Is Plumlee a lock for the job in 23' or is there a competition starting in the spring with the return of Thomas Castellanos and transfer Timmy McClain? Plumlee had his moments where his run-pass threat produced a high octane offense. But his health became an issue late. Another off-season working on his game will make Plumlee better and Malzahn now gets a better look at what McClain can do in his offense and Castellanos will also have benefitted from playing this season. 

UCF returns plenty in the backfield and adds former five-star recruit Demarkus Bowman, who redshirted. They have added receivers and offensive linemen via the portal and tight end Alec Holler returns. Defensively, UCF brings in its best group of high school linemen ever and they add experience in the secondary via the portal but also saw what the future brings with the performances of freshmen Nikai Martinez and the Henderson twins in Demari and Ja'Cari(who got a lot of play in the bowl game). 

The schedule will be a challenge for UCF because the depth of the Big 12 is significantly better than the AAC. They will play nine conference games and are expected to be one of the teams that play five conference road games and there is the road trip to Boise State. It will be a busy off-season for the Knights to get ready for their debut in their new league but like all college football teams it comes down to production at quarterback and that makes for a very interesting eight months before kickoff...

Nuggets: Props to Mike Norvell who had many rooting for him to fail and instead he stayed focused and his team won 10 games and should be a top-10 team going into next season...I know why the NFL played on New Year's Day because it was Sunday but I prefer my New Year's Day to be filled with college football. It didn't even feel like New Year's Day...And memo to the CFP: do not end games at midnight on New Year's Eve...I always feel that by the team we get to the semifinal games it feels like there was little buzz. That will change in two years when we get a 12-team playoff. The beauty of the NFL playoff tournament is the season ends and we go right into four straight weeks of games and hype and all the buzz...Happy for Josh Heupel and Danny White as Tennessee celebrates their 11-win season and Orange Bowl win. I like them both and respect what they have done and I am happy for people who earn big things...If you were reportedly worth billions and running many businesses, would you spend so much time during the holidays on twitter arguing with fans and critics and I'm not talking about Elon Musk. If you had the reputation of being an NIL guy throwing millions and millions at athletes and boasting about your school, why would you sit for hours responding to people on twitter taking shots at you?...Go South Dakota State Jackrabbits who face North Dakota State this Saturday in the FCS National TItle game. It's personal for me. My mother-in-law went to South Dakota State and was a big Jackrabbit fan. She passed this weekend so we root with a heavy heart this weekend...

Final note: 63% of us keep leftovers for another meal when we pick up or have food delivered. 

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