When Scott Frost leads his Central Florida team from the tunnel Saturday, it will be the Knights' first time playing in the Big House. Michigan football is playing for a top-five ranking, while UCF is playing for its first FBS win since 2014.
The teams are in completely different realms of the college football world, but there is one small, nearly two-decade old connection.
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The Wolverines won their last national championship under Lloyd Carr in 1997, finishing 12-0 with wins over seven ranked teams and four top 10 teams. After they knocked off No. 8 Washington State in the Rose Bowl, Michigan maintained its No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll.
But another major poll wasn't so sure.
The Coaches Poll dropped the Wolverines from the top spot despite their Rose Bowl win, instead crowing a 13-0 Nebraska team its national champion.
A Nebraska team led by quarterback Scott Frost.
Frost was very vocal about Nebraska deserving the national title. He openly asked voters to choose Nebraska based on its 42-17 Orange Bowl win over then-No. 3 Tennessee.
"You know, if all the pollsters honestly think, after watching the Rose Bowl and watching the Orange Bowl, that Michigan could beat Nebraska, go ahead and vote Michigan, by all means," Frost said after the bowl game. "But I don’t think there’s anybody out there that with a clear conscience can say that Nebraska, and especially that Tom Osborne, that great man, doesn’t deserve a national championship for this. At least a share."
Osborne coached Nebraska from 1973 to 1997 and retired following the team's Orange Bowl win.
Frost later said that if Michigan and Nebraska were to play after the bowl season that Nebraska would be favored by "seven, 10, 14 points."
Frost is finally getting the matchup with Michigan that he wanted, but it comes under very different circumstances.
UCF went 0-12 last season, and Frost has only coached one game at the college level. His Nebraska team was undefeated. His UCF team will be far from it.
"I don’t think my players are going to care at all," Frost told the USA Today Monday. "But there’s probably some people that care. Listen, it was a long time ago. It’s unfortunate that in that day and age, the two best teams in the country couldn’t play each other. And we feel we were the best team, they feel like they were the best team, and we’ll never know. It was a great year for me, and it has absolutely no bearing on this Saturday."
Michigan shared its 1997 championship with Frost, but he's unlikely to find these Wolverines as accommodating to his wishes as the Coaches Poll voters were.
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