That’s reasonable, considering FAU travels to No. 16 UCF for Friday night’s game and not No. 1 Alabama.
Central Florida ran the table last season, completing an undefeated season by beating Auburn, but the Knights – the nation’s lone undefeated team – weren’t invited to participate in the national championship playoffs.
Alabama eventually defeated Georgia in the national title game, an outcome that hasn’t stopped UCF from claiming the 2017 national championship as its own.
“They did what they did,” Kiffin said. “I’m sure Alabama doesn’t think that UCF is the national champs. It is what it is. Obviously they set up a system of, a playoff system, and so I don’t know how you really could be the national champs if you didn’t go into that playoff system. And they have voting too. But more power to them. They got some big bonuses.”
The argument for UCF’s national title, at least as far as Group of 5 fans are concerned, is that if an undefeated UCF team can’t qualify for the playoffs, can any non-Power 5 team – a group that includes FAU – ever begin the season with a realistic shot at the national championship?
Kiffin, who came to FAU after three years as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, wouldn’t offer an opinion as to whether UCF earned a chance to join last year’s playoff.
“I don’ know enough to study the teams at that point,” Kiffin said. “It would all depend on what other teams have done. And they’re going to look at how you win games, too. Do you just barely get by or are you blowing everybody out? They factor all that in. It’s not a perfect system by any means. They are supposed to be the experts picking the top four teams and 1-to-4, how they picked them was exactly opposite of how they finished. The three and the four [seeds] beat the two and the one, and then the four beat the three. What does that say?”
UCF extended its winning streak to 15 games by defeating UConn and South Carolina St. by a combined 94-17 margin. The Knights received extra time to prepare for FAU when Hurricane Florence prompted the cancellation of Saturday’s game at North Carolina.
Whether FAU players buy into the idea of upsetting the mythical national champion doesn’t matter to Kiffin.
“I don’t think we need to add a motivation,” he said. “We need to tackle.”
Kiffin’s responses to media questions on Tuesday reverted back to Alabama a couple times.
Former Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram, currently serving a four-game suspension by the NFL for a PED violation, joined the Owls on the practice field in preparation for his return to the New Orleans Saints.
“He’s Bama family too,” Kiffin said. “Even though we weren’t there at the same time, he came back a lot and we had a chance to spend some time together.”
Ingram’s stop at FAU isn’t the first time an NFL player joined the Owls for a day. Kiffin said the Owls have hosted Robert Griffin II and Reuben Foster, among others, over the past year-and-a-half.
“I think it’s pretty neat that they want to come with us,” Kiffin said. “It’s not like they just come to lift weights. They are running routes and going through individual drills and trying to help them get better.”