The Knights’ palette-cleansing 2016 season is over, washing away the taste of a winless 2015 with a bowl game birth after finishing both the regular season and conference play with an even .500 winning percentage.
Five teams in the American finished with nine wins or more, theoretically claiming the top spots slotted for the 2016 season, and automatically sending Navy to the Armed Forces Bowl.
Conference officials will be charged with assigning matchups based on both potential matchups and geography, weighing heavily the obligation to keep schools from losing money upon earning bowl-game eligibility. (Remember, UCF returned 10,000 of their allotted 17,500 tickets to the Fiesta Bowl; a steep price for the AAC to subsidize).
At 6-6, backing into bowl eligibility has made the decision a bit easier for the AAC officials regarding the Knights, limiting their assignment to the handful of games remaining.
That leaves Bahamas Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl and the Cure Bowl as UCF’s most likely landing places – with conference competition limited to Memphis (8-4) and SMU (5-7) and a consideration for the Miami Beach Bowl a distant possibility.
The Cure Bowl has had representatives all season long at Bright House Networks Stadium, a perfect storm of opportunity, geography and season record likelihood. It stands to reason that both the bowl and the University stand the most to gain from this situation with the obvious maximization of attendance and win potential for UCF.
Geography is likely the key factor in weighing other landing spots for the Knights, considering the Boca Raton Bowl, the Miami Beach Bowl and the Bahamas Bowl are all within just a few short hours and feature matchups that prevent a pre-determined outcome. Even still, expect an aggressive push from Cure Bowl officials to reign in the local team.
Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl will not be a possibility, as the other side of that coin brings in a Power Five opponent from the ACC; a matchup of talent and production that UCF simply did not earn.
Navy Contractually Obligated Bowl
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl [Ft. Worth, vs. Big 12]
AAC Prediction: If bowl eligible, Navy was signed on to play in the 2016 Armed Forces Bowl before the season started. The AAC has the rights to the 2018 game as well.
Top Tier Bowls
Possibilities: USF (10-2), Houston (9-3), Temple (9-3), Tulsa (9-3)
BBVA Compass Bowl [Birmingham, vs. SEC]
AAC Prediction: USF
Beef O’Brady’s Bowl [St. Petersburg, vs. ACC]
AAC Prediction: Houston
Miami Beach Bowl [Miami, vs. MAC]
AAC Prediction: Tulsa
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman [Annapolis, vs. ACC]
AAC Prediction: Temple
Possibilities: Memphis (8-4), UCF (6-6), SMU (5-7)
Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl [Nassau, vs. MAC]
AAC Prediction: SMU
Boca Raton Bowl [Boca, vs. C-USA]
AAC Prediction: Memphis
AutoNation Cure Bowl [Orlando, vs. Sun Belt]
AAC Prediction: UCF