As far as UCF athletic director Danny White is concerned, Monday’s Peach Bowl against Auburn was the national championship game.
The Knights topped the SEC West champs 34–27 to complete an undefeated 13–0 season, the only team in the nation to go unbeaten this year. After the game, White had a succinct message to the rest of college football: UCF is the national champion.
The Auburn game was UCF’s toughest of the season, by far. It was only the Knights’ second game against a Power 5 opponent (they also beat Maryland in September) and their second against a ranked opponent. Under a different playoff system UCF might have been given a shot to play for the actual national title, but the College Football Playoff committee didn’t seriously consider the Knights for a spot in the four-team playoff. They entered the game ranked No. 12.