UCF’s greatest season in its football history was not enough to earn it a spot in the preseason top 25 of the preseason Amway Coaches’ Poll on Thursday. The same day they began fall practice for the 2014 season, the Knights landed in the ‘Receiving Votes’ category at #28 with 102 points, three spots from the top 25.
UCF finished 12-1 and won the inaugural American Athletic Conference football championship with an 8-0 league record last season, culminating in a 52-42 victory over Big XII champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day. That resounding victory helped the Knights peak at #12 in the final Coaches’ Poll, and #10 in the Associated Press poll – the highest finish in school history.
However, the loss of starting QB Blake Bortles and leading rusher Storm Johnson as early entrants into the NFL Draft undoubtedly factored into the coaches’ decision to leave UCF out of the season’s initial top 25.
Last season, UCF did not climb into the top 25 in either the Coaches’ or the AP rankings until October 20th, following a thrilling 38-35 comeback victory at then-#8 Louisville. That win catapulted UCF into the national picture, leading to their third conference title and eventual first BCS bowl victory in Arizona.
UCF has never been ranked in the top 25 of the preseason Coaches’ Poll. However, the Knights have received votes coming into each season since 2011. At 28th, this is the best head start UCF has ever had in the poll.
The Coaches’ Poll was not kind to UCF in 2013. In addition to finishing two spots behind its AP rank at season’s end, the Coaches poll ranked the Knights equal to or lower than the AP poll ranked them in every week after they entered the top 25.
With the advent of the College Football Playoff and its selection committee this year, the Coaches’ Poll no longer directly factors into deciding who plays for the national championship. However, the team ranked at the top of the Coaches’ Poll following the conclusion of the Playoff will receive the famed crystal football trophy.
No teams from The American were ranked in the poll. UCF received the most votes of teams in the conference with 122 points, followed by Cincinnati with 6 and Houston with 2. Louisville, which left the American for the ACC this summer, is also receiving votes with 32.
UCF head coach George O’Leary is listed as one of the 62 voters in the Coaches’ Poll this season. In addition to O’Leary, Bill Blankenship of Tulsa, Bob Diaco of UConn, Justin Fuente of Memphis, Matt Rhule of Temple, and Tommy Tuberville of Cincinnati are the only other coaches from the American Athletic Conference who have votes in the poll.
Florida State, the defending National Champions, will start the year ranked #1, winning 56 of the 62 first-place votes. They are followed by Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn in the top five. Oklahoma received three of the remaining first-place votes, with Oregon, #6 Ohio State, and #9 South Carolina each receiving one.
In the state of Florida, the Florida Gators, coming off a disastrous 4-8 season in 2013, are unranked, but receiving votes with 122 points, one spot ahead of UCF. Miami is the only other in-state squad receiving votes with 45 points.