Jan 1, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Central Florida Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton (10) runs the ball against the Auburn Tigers in the fourth quarter in the 2018 Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If UCF had lost to Auburn in the Peach Bowl on Monday, as expected, this would have been an ultra-successful season for the Knights, who cruised through their Conference USA slate to finish the regular season 12-0 and ranked No. 12 in the nation.

But in beating the Tigers 34-27, UCF finished off a truly historic campaign and, according to one extremely biased observer, staked a claim at a national title. After Monday’s game, Knights athletic director Danny White stared right into a camera and proclaimed, “national champs, undefeated.”

Now obviously UCF did not actually win a national championship, but in finishing the season 13-0, the Knights did at least force us to consider their case as one of the nation’s best teams.

UCF was never really in the running for a Playoff spot due to a lack of marquee victories. The Knights beat only one Power-Five opponent (Maryland, which finished 4-8), and their lone win over a ranked team came in double-overtime against No. 20 Memphis. That made it awfully hard to argue Scott Frost’s team ranked among the best in the country.

But in beating No. 7 Auburn, which defeated Alabama and Georgia when each was ranked No. 1, UCF put to rest the notion it can’t play with major-conference powers. If the Knights had a win over Auburn on their resume entering the CFP selection process, they could have at least entered the conversation for a Playoff bid. Because they waited until the postseason to pick up a marquee victory, they got left far behind.

Of course, there’s no going back now. UCF didn’t have the resume to compete for a national championship and will instead have to settle for a perfect record and a Peach Bowl title. And if White wants to claim a title for his undefeated team… well, more power to him.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.