American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco is reconsidering his position on playoff expansion, thanks in part to the way UCF has been ranked over the past two seasons.
UCF finished last season undefeated, but the Knights were No. 12 in the final College Football Playoff selection committee rankings. After a win over Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, UCF proclaimed itself the national champion, drawing widespread attention.
Another 9-0 start this season has UCF currently ranked No. 11, without any real shot at finishing in the top four and earning a playoff spot. UCF has the nation's longest winning streak at 22 games.
"As they continue to do this strength of schedule, we're somewhat at a disadvantage," Aresco told ESPN on Wednesday. "Because if certain teams, like Ohio State and others, maybe had the schedule UCF has and they ran the table, would they still be in the playoff? That's the question I would pose. I don't know. You can answer that.
"The point is, I hadn't really given a lot of thought to expansion of the playoff, but I'm giving more thought to it, only because it seems to me that if half of FBS is pretty much going to be left out of this. Then I think maybe you have to think more about it."
Aresco said the number of games played in a season for all teams would remain a concern, but he feels that an expanded playoff field should be discussed.
"I don't think there's much impetus for it now, but it might grow because also you've seen a couple of [Power 5] conferences left out," Aresco said. "This year, you could have a scenario where three could be left out. It's possible. If that's the case, you might even see some sentiment on that side to expand it, whether you go to six and have byes or whether you go to eight.
"I haven't made up my mind, but I'm giving it more thought than I did before."
UCF athletic director Danny White has been vocal in his support for playoff expansion.
"I keep saying the same thing over and over again, but it's the only sport in America that's not settled on the field," White told ESPN last month. "What are we doing? It's not that complicated to expand the playoff and make it a real national championship."
The main issue for UCF over the last two season has been its strength of schedule. Currently, it ranks No. 119, with zero wins over ranked opponents and only four wins against teams with winning records. The Knights face their biggest challenge of the season against No. 19 Cincinnati (9-1) on Saturday (8 p.m., ABC/WatchESPN) in Orlando, where College GameDay will also host its show.
"I know a lot of commentators said at the end of last year, 'If they do it again, they deserve to be in,'" Aresco said. "But then now that they're doing it again, they always point to strength of schedule, even though you look at the Pitt game, [which is a] perfect example.
"Pitt goes up to Notre Dame and Pitt almost won; it was 19-14. Pitt lost 45-14 against UCF. There's a common opponent. Pitt's been winning in the ACC now. ... Arizona is now ready to have a shot at the Pac-12 South, and they were absolutely destroyed by Houston. You have a bunch of these common opponents, so I guess the takeaway right now is we've still got work to do convincing the committee that UCF ought to be in [the conversation]."
One point of contention that Aresco and UCF supporters have with strength of schedule is the way the AAC is judged. UCF is behind six teams with one loss in the CFP rankings, and one team with two losses. In Cincinnati's case, the one-loss Bearcats are behind eight teams with three losses and four teams with four losses.
"I don't want to get into criticizing the committee," Aresco said. "... These are questions I would be asking [the committee] about our teams -- common opponents, not losing to mediocre teams and winning all your games ... how important that is.
"UCF may have played some teams that didn't have stellar records, but look at the decisive wins. If it's a decisive win, that should matter too. That shows how strong your team is, and I'm not talking about running up the score. I'm talking about a decisive win, and you've seen some decisive wins on the P5 side that impressed the committee, and I think that should be a factor too. So all I can do is say, 'Look, I hope these are factors.' I hope they consider them, and we'll leave it at that."