This is the first of a series where I will be exploring future non-conference opponents that I would like to see Miami face down the road. This list is based on the likelihood of actually happening, the prestige of the opponent, and the potential benefits (i.e., recruiting exposure) that could come from it. I’m not including Florida and Notre Dame on this list because A) Miami already is set to face them in the coming years, and B) they are major rivals and I would OBVIOUSLY be in favor of facing either of them routinely.
Overview: Yeah, yeah, I can already hear your fingers angrily pounding the keyboard. Let’s make this crystal-clear from the outset: I’M ONLY ADVOCATING FOR THIS MATCHUP IF ITS A TWO-FOR-ONE. If Miami can secure a two-for-one with the self-proclaimed 2017 national champions, then this post stands. If they won’t agree, then move along.
These two intrastate foes have been on opposite trajectories in recent years. Miami trended up from 2016-2017, but fell back to earth hard in the following two seasons, as we all sadly know. Conversely, went from winless to Colley-Matrix “national champions” in 2017. They followed that up with a Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU following the 2018 season and have fallen off since, but they’ve established themselves as a top-level group of five opponent.
UCF isn’t exactly the type of opponent a Power Five team would normal welcome, and I’m sure that many Miami fans wouldn’t welcome this matchup nearly as much as I would (and at times, I even wonder if the benefit is high enough), but it’s unmistakable that UCF has made itself relevant. They’re a next door neighbor to Howard Schnellenberger’s “State of Miami”, so there’s certainly the potential for competition in recruiting certain players. They’ve also upgraded at head coach with the arrival of Gus Malzahn, so it doesn’t appear they’ll be going away any time soon.
And, well, UCF’s fan base has been getting attention for what many folks think are all the wrong reason: a faux title. Look, UCF has been worthy of increased attention by winning games, and has put some good players in the NFL over the past few years. But the Colley-Matrix formula awarded Notre Dame the top spot in 2012 after it got absolutely mauled by Alabama in the BCS title game. It’s a clown shoe metric not worthy of mention. The fact the NCAA put an asterisk in the record book is irrelevant to me.
So yeah, getting to knock their block off and keep them cemented as the fourth team of the Big Three would be something I would welcome.
All-time record: Miami 2-0 (2008 and 2009)
Last matchup: Miami rolled the Knights 27-7 in 2009, improving to 5-1 on the season and reaching a season-high #9 in the polls. Jacory Harris found Leonard Hankerson for an early touchdown on a dazzling fingertip grab, and the Canes’ defense held the Knights offense to 229 total yards.
Potential for recruiting: Significant, but even more so for UCF. This series would be a litmus test for both programs as far as where they’ve come over the past decade. We know Miami has fallen over the past two decades, but are they now on the level of a team like UCF? Knight fans clamoring over their faux national title would argue it’s already the case. Being able to beat Miami would given them a selling point in recruiting that they are more than just an asterisk in the NCAA record book and a Twitter punchline. For Miami, being able to put UCF in their place would be helpful in recruiting the state, especially in the Orlando area. That said, Miami seem to go head to head with UCF for top recruits all that often. That doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen though.
Likelihood of happening: moderate. I could see it happening, given the proximity, and especially if UCF actually recognized its place and agreed to a two-for-one. UCF held firm on it’s home-and-home requirement when Danny White was AD and was negotiating for a home-and-home with Florida. White has since moved onto Tennessee, so it remains to be seen what stance UCF’s new AD Terry Mohajir will take regarding UCF’s scheduling.