With the vast changes in the landscape of college football, UCF head coach Gus Malzahn is ecstatic to join the Big 12 Conference.
After the football world got to witness the first Group of 5 school make the College Football Playoff this past year, with Cincinnati finishing the regular season 13-0 before going on to lose to the Crimson Tide in the semifinals, Malzahn is beyond ready to show that the AAC can compete on a Power 5 level.
In 2023, UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, and BYU will join the Big 12 and finally show that Group of 5 schools have been slept on for far too long. These schools are set to fill the void that will be left when both Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC by 2025 and keep the league as competitive as it has been in previous years.
UCF head coach joined the Paul Finebaum Show this past week and discussed how he believes these teams will fit into the new Big 12 Conference. Malzahn has already seen the effects on the recruiting side of things, as UCF signed the No. 1 recruiting class in the AAC and the 47th overall class nationally according to On3’s Team Rankings for 2022.
“As of right now, it looks like this will be the last year. You’re absolutely right that Cincinnati had a great team. You’re talking about Houston, SMU, Memphis — there’s some really good teams in this league. It looks like we’ll be going to the Big 12 in 2023. We’re really looking forward to that. That’s a big step. It’s really helped us in the recruiting world, so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Malzahn stated that the move to a Power 5 conference has gave UCF a chance at players that the Knights previously fell short of landing. “There’s no doubt (it means more to recruits). The first year, we went after the top players in the country in the state and we’d hear, ‘Hey, coach. Y’all are non-Power 5.’ Whether we liked it or not, that’s real for recruits. Since the announcement has been made that we’re going to the Big 12, it really opened the door to the top players in the country. We really recruited very well last year and I think we have a chance to really have a great class this year.”
UCF can be considered as the team that broke ground for the College Football Playoff expansion discussion, finishing the 2017 season undefeated but getting snubbed out of the playoffs. Since then, there has been arguments of when and how often a Group of 5 school should be included in the College Football Playoff, but soon the Knights will no longer have to worry about that with the move to the Big 12.
There is fear amongst fans of how much competitive the league will be once these schools are added and Oklahoma and Texas part ways with the Big 12 and head south, but if you’ve watched these past years, it should reassure you that the Big 12 will be in good hands.
Although change brings uncertainty, Malzahn and the rest of the schools set to join the Big 12 are eager at the opportunity to show that their universities’ are capable of being just as competent in competing at the highest level.