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Morning links: Is Central Florida a national champion? BYU, Utah hoops overachieve

The official College Football Playoff national championship won’t take place until Monday night when Alabama and Georgia square off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are playing for second place, as far as Central Florida and the Knights’ supporters are concerned.

Central Florida staked claim to the national championship this week after the 10th-ranked Knights improved to 13-0 by beating No. 7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day.

The school celebrated winning a title on Twitter, even changing its name to 2017 National Champions. (They have a blue checkmark, so we’ll assume Twitter verifies the claim.)

The Orlando-based Knights are having an official championship parade at Disney World. They’re hanging a banner. The university is even happily paying $325,000 in national championship bonuses to coaches and staff.

“National champs!” an exuberant UCF athletic director Danny White exclaimed on live TV after the victory. “Undefeated!”

Central Florida did beat the only team that defeated both programs in the so-called national championship game and finished as the only undefeated FCS team.

“You can’t argue 13-0,” UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton said during a postgame interview. “I guess you can go ahead and cancel the playoff now."

This isn’t the first time someone has gone rogue in claiming a championship.

College football writer Marc Tracy of The New York Times eloquently summed it up:

“The top-tier college football championship has always been the most ephemeral of sports titles. In the decades when there was no official judge, two, three or more teams would frequently claim to be the champion of a single season. If other sports’ championships are as solid as gold-backed currency, this one has long felt closer to Bitcoin.

“In that light, Central Florida’s case is not that crazy. In fact, when you think about it, your reaction may resemble the popular GIF of the NBA star Alonzo Mourning: first, a head-shaking disbelief; then a raising of the eyebrows followed by a hesitant nod; and, finally, the universal sigh of acceptance.”

BYU football’s program and its fans certainly won’t agree, but the Pac-12 lists Washington as the national champion for 1984 on its website.

Though Washington (11-1) doesn’t claim the 1984 championship, it was one of four teams that finished No. 1 according to various polls (human and computer). The NCAA record book shows that BYU (13-0) was awarded the championship by the majority of pollsters — including the ones that mattered most (AP and coaches) — but Florida was deemed to be the national champion by seven polls, Washington by three and Nebraska by one.

(Perhaps the Huskies won't claim the 1984 title, unlike their conference, because they turned down an opportunity to play BYU in the Holiday Bowl and then got clobbered by the Cougars the following year.)

Clemson, Nebraska, Penn State, Pittsburgh, SMU and Texas each claimed the 1981 championship; and five teams did in 1935. The NYT article noted that from the end of World War II to 1998, there were only five national titles that were not claimed by more than one team.

Sorry, Utah fans. Even though Ute coach Kyle Whittingham broke protocol and voted for his undefeated Sugar Bowl-winning squad in 2008, everybody else tabbed Urban Meyer’s Florida team as the national champion.

"That's their call," Whittingham said after ignoring the American Football Coaches Association agreement that all voters would put the BCS National Championship Game winner atop their polls and choosing his Utes No. 1 overall. "I have to look out for my players."

Whittingham wasn’t punished for the lone-ranger vote, returning to the voting panel when it was his turn again two years later.

If the Pac-12 is going to recognize Washington for being champions according to Berryman (QPRS), Football News and the National Championship Foundation — all three of which are now defunct — the Utes might want to talk to the Pac-12 about honoring Whitt’s vote.


BYU's basketball team is having a much better season than it should be, according to an evaluation of on-court performance compared to recruiting class rank. The 13-3 Cougars, who followed a tough overtime loss to Saint Mary's in Provo by winning at San Francisco on Thursday, are outperforming all but one school in the nation by that rank differential criteria.

Wichita State is the country's biggest overachiever so far followed by BYU, Saint Mary's, Butler and VCU. Utah, which fell at home to Arizona on Thursday after a nice comeback, comes in at No. 16 amongst the overperforming programs.

Rutgers is the biggest underperformer.

The researcher who concocted this system explained the details in a blog.

Weekend planner

Friday, Jan. 5

NBA: Jazz at Denver, 7 p.m.

G League: Stars vs. Agua Caliente, 7 p.m.

ECHL: Grizzlies vs. Rapid City, 7 p.m.

Men’s basketball: Dixie State vs. Dominican, 7:30 p.m.

Women’s basketball: Dixie State vs. Dominican, 5:30 p.m.; Utah at Washington, 7 p.m.

Gymnastics: Utah vs. BYU, 7 p.m.

Men’s volleyball: BYU vs. Loyola-Chicago, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 6

ECHL: Grizzlies vs. Rapid City, 7 p.m.

Men’s basketball: Westminster at Colorado School of Mines, 3 p.m.; SLCC at USU Eastern, 5 p.m.; Snow at CSI, 5 p.m.; Utah Valley vs. CS Bakersfield, 7 p.m.; Weber State vs. SUU, 7 p.m.; BYU at Pacific, 8 p.m.; Utah State at UNLV, 8 p.m.

Women’s basketball: Westminster at Colorado School of Mines, 1 p.m.; BYU vs. Pacific, 2 p.m.; Utah State vs. UNLV, 2 p.m.; UVU at CS Bakersfield, 2 p.m.; Weber State at SUU, 2 p.m.; SLCC at USU Eastern, 3 p.m.; Snow at CSI, 3 p.m.

Men’s volleyball: BYU vs. Lewis, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 7

NBA: Jazz at Miami, 1:30 p.m.

G League: Stars at Reno, 5 p.m.

Men’s basketball: Utah vs. Arizona State, 6 p.m.

Women’s basketball: Utah at Washington State, noon

Skiing: Utah at Montana State Invitational