By Marc Weiszer
ATLANTA — Scott Frost was at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel this weekend, where the College Football Playoff national championship coaches final news conference was held Sunday morning.
Either Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Alabama’s Nick Saban, not the outgoing UCF coach, will lift the trophy Monday night.
Frost was there to pick up the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award for a team that went 13-0 and beat SEC West champion Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
On Sunday, a parade was scheduled at Disney World for UCF, which is claiming a national championship and will hold a championship celebration Monday evening.
“Everybody’s got their own opinion,” Georgia safety Dominick Sanders said. “They did have a pretty good team. Us two are in the championship. Whoever is going to go out with the bang, that’s who’s going to win.”
Said Alabama defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne: “They can do what they want to. We’re playing for the national championship right now.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was asked what he makes of UCF’s claim as national champion.
“The national championship game will be played Monday night Jan. 8 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia,” Sankey said matter-of-factly like you might expect Siri to on your iPhone. “The winner of that game between the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia will be the national champion.”
Smart and Saban were asked this weekend about UCF.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think about it,” Smart said. “I’m thinking about Alabama. If I was at UCF, I’d probably do the same thing.”
Saban said about UCF saying it is national champs: “I’m fine with it. Doesn’t mean anything to anybody but them. I mean, I’m fine with it. I mean, they should be proud of the season they had. I know how hard it is for — we’ve only had one undefeated season, I think, in all the time I’ve been around. It’s a difficult accomplishment. I think when players accomplish that, they should feel good about what they’ve accomplished.”
UCF defeated an Auburn team that beat both the national championship games teams in November, but lost a rematch with Georgia in the SEC title game.
“I don’t know if our team deserved to be in the playoff or not but I think we deserved to be ranked higher and I think we proved that in the Peach Bowl,” Frost, now Nebraska’s head coach, said in a video posted on a Nebraska Land of 10 website.
Sankey said there is enough access for non-power five conference programs in the four-team playoff.
“Look at our men’s basketball situation,” Sankey said. “Two years ago, we had two top 50 teams out of 14. We had three teams in the NCAA tournament. One played in Dayton on Tuesday night. We said, you know what, we have to change. So we put in scheduling policies, expectations for nonconference schedule.”
Now, he said, the SEC has six of the top 25 in the latest RPI.
“In football, those that may not have the rigor of a conference schedule will have to look at their nonconference schedule,” Sankey said. “We have the most rigorous conference schedule and still added the ninth game expectation. Look at Georgia who played at Notre Dame and played Georgia Tech. They played 10 of their 12 games if you will against autonomy five conference opponents. There are lessons for everyone as it relates to the future.”
UCF’s strength of schedule is No. 72, according to the Sagarin Ratings. Alabama’s is 47th and Georgia is 18th.
“Alabama hasn’t played a true road game since 2011 at Penn State,” Frost said.
Ralph Russo, the AP national college football writer, sent an email to voters before the final poll voting takes place with this reminder: “You are under no obligation to vote the playoff winner No. 1. That is always the case, but we think it’s a good time to make that clear.”
Frost said he favors expanding the playoff to eight teams.
“The closer you can get to deciding it on the field and not decided in a boardroom, the better the sport will be,” he said.
Georgia outside linebacker Davin Bellamy isn’t so sure that’s a good idea.
“Man, it’s week 15,” he said. “I don’t know if I can do another week. That’s a great season for that team. I think it was just two years ago they lost every game. It was a great turnaround for them.”