According to the record books, Alabama won the national championship this year. But according to fans in Orlando – and beyond – that honor belongs to UCF.
“We’ve been calling ourselves national champs (since) Georgia and Alabama played in that national title and Auburn beat them – and we beat Auburn,” UCF safety Tre Neal said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “We take that personally, saying we’re the best team in the country and we don’t think we got a fair shot. So this past week, we’ve been celebrating like national champions. We’ve had parades and celebrations downtown, and it’s been amazing and fun just to experience with these guys. . . . I don’t think we’re going to get the respect that some of these other big-time programs get, (but) I think we’re a big-time program – and we’ve proven it.”
UCF went 12-0 during the regular season before beating Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl. Auburn, by the way, defeated Georgia and Alabama by a combined 35 points in November.
“During the season, we try to focus on the next game and we just try to handle what we can handle,” Neal said. “But looking back on it now, we feel like we were kind of cheated or slighted. Alabama, they’re a great football team, but they didn’t even win their conference championship. That just goes to show that there’s other stuff to take into consideration. There’s biases and stuff as far as choosing who gets in that playoff, but we feel like we did everything we were supposed to do. We won all of our games, and in a lot of those games, we blew teams out. There weren’t a lot of close games. They were convincing. We have the stats behind all that stuff. No. 1 scoring offense in the country, an undefeated conference champion – I don’t know what else we can really do to get in there. We just hope that they even the playing field.”