American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said Wednesday that No. 15 UCF "isn't getting a fair shake" from the College Football Playoff selection committee because it is ranked behind three-loss No. 14 Mississippi State this week, and he's also "very, very upset" that USF isn't ranked at all, he told ESPN.com.
"I just don't think our league is garnering the respect it deserves, period," he said. "I feel strongly about it. The evidence is in."
Aresco, one of the 10 FBS commissioners who compose the College Football Playoff's management committee along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, pointed to Houston's wins over Oklahoma and Louisville last year, as well as the Memphis wins over Ole Miss (2015) and UCLA this year and a 30-6 regular-season record against other Group of 5 opponents over the past three seasons, as examples.
"Those kinds of performances have to count for something," he said. "We've tried to prove for five years how good our conference is. What do we have to do is my question, to prove that we're a really good league, especially at the top? I just don't like the notion that, well, strength of schedule, I don't like to see UCF behind three- and two-loss teams, and I think they can play with anyone. I just don't know what more we can do."
Aresco said UCF should be "somewhere in the top 10, I'm not sure where," and he questioned any two-loss teams ahead of the school that have convincing losses, such as Ohio State. Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt has said repeatedly that UCF's strength of schedule is holding it back, and he reiterated that in his weekly Tuesday teleconference.
"We have gone through in great detail the schedule that Central Florida has played," Hocutt said. "In comparing it this week, we put it side-by-side with the schedule that Mississippi State has played, because Mississippi State holding that No. 14 position, and I just mentioned on the previous question, the three losses that Mississippi State has are to Alabama, Georgia and Auburn, teams 1, 6 and 7 this week. In the selection committee's conversations, we're not sure any team in the country would be undefeated if they had to play teams No. 1, 6 and 7 in this week's ranking."
Aresco said the conference commissioners aren't allowed to talk to the 13 committee members during the season outside of their periodic calls with the two people who are assigned to monitor their conference, and those calls aren't supposed to be lobbying opportunities. Instead, they're for the committee members to gather as much relevant information as possible. Robert Morris University president Chris Howard, who played at Air Force, and former coach Tyrone Willingham are the AAC's point people this fall.
"We gave them a lot of information and they were great and they asked us to send it to them," Aresco said. "We put our best foot forward; we talk about what our league's been doing."
South Florida is No. 22 in the Associated Press poll this week and No. 19 in the coaches' poll, but the committee members typically aren't influenced by those. Hocutt has said in the past he doesn't even look at them.
"What is USF supposed to do?" Aresco said. "Their schedule is their schedule and they've dominated it. ... The fact that they're not ranked really, really troubles me because they are ranked in all the other polls. It really troubles me. They are a very good team. You've got Charlie strong coaching them. They lost one game to a good Houston team with 11 seconds left in heartbreaking fashion. What are you going to do?"
Aresco said he plans to raise these issues again at the CFP's annual spring meetings. Until then, he said he plans to continue to make his case through the media. The AAC will have the national spotlight -- and the committee's full attention -- on Friday night when UCF and USF play to determine the AAC's East Division winner.
"Central Florida is having a fine season and certainly has the committee's respect," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said. "The committee evaluates each team fully and deliberately each week. Two weekends of great football remain, and the committee will continue to closely observe each team's performances."