ORLANDO, Fla. -- For the second straight season, UCF went into College Football Playoff selection day with an unbeaten record. For the second straight season, the selection committee never really considered the Knights for a top-four spot.
That did not necessarily come as a shock to UCF. Coach Josh Heupel said his players knew they would most likely get left out. Still, he described the players as "disappointed" that they would not have an opportunity to prove themselves on the field.
"We'd like to be somewhere else, but we're excited for another opportunity to play the game," offensive tackle Wyatt Miller said.
When asked where they would like to be, all Miller said was, "I think you know the answer to that one. We'll just leave that one unsaid."
UCF has won 25 straight games, clinching its second straight AAC championship on Saturday. Yet the Knights finished No. 8 in the final rankings. Committee chairman Rob Mullens said UCF's strength of schedule "just didn't hold" up when it came to consideration for the top four.
The Knights don't have a win against a ranked opponent, and their strength of schedule ranks No. 104 in the country.
UCF (12-0) will face No. 11 LSU (9-3) in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. Although they did not make the playoff, the game presents another huge opportunity for the Knights.
Last year, they faced Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and won to finish a 13-0 season. Afterward, athletic director Danny White self-declared UCF national champions.
"Of course, we look at it as an opportunity to show what we can do," defensive end Titus Davis said. "We've done it all year, so it's one more time."
Although UCF knew it would be left out of playoff consideration, Heupel was asked what more his team could do to convince the committee it deserved a chance to be in the top four, like the other three unbeaten teams in the country.
"I'm not sitting in that room, so I don't know what else this program needs to do," Heupel said. "We're going to continue to compete at a high level and continue to go play football games, and hopefully win a bunch of them."
After UCF's win over Auburn, there were some pundits who questioned just how motivated the Tigers were in the game. LSU coach Ed Orgeron heaped praise on the Knights and said motivation is not a concern.
"We're highly motivated," Orgeron said. "This is where our team wanted to go. We have complete respect for UCF. We're not happy with the way the season ended. Our guys are going to be ready to play."
So is UCF. This marks the third time UCF has been to a BCS or New Year's Six game. The Knights have won their two previous appearances, starting with the 2014 Fiesta Bowl over Baylor.
"No doubt we're excited against a good opponent, getting to showcase the talent that we have and just another opportunity just to play the game," Miller said. "A lot of people don't get to go to a bowl game, especially a New Year's Six bowl, so we're excited for this opportunity, especially against an SEC power. We're grateful for the opportunity, and we're going to make the most of it."