UCF or Alabama? FAU coach Lane Kiffin makes his national-champion choice

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida on December 19, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The often-controversial Lane Kiffin has lent his opinion to college football’s latest controversy: Who is the real national champion?

While Alabama, where Kiffin served under Nick Saban from 2014-16 as the team’s offensive coordinator, won its second College Football Playoff in three years last month, Central Florida has proclaimed itself the “true” national champion after going 13-o under Scott Frost. UCF was the only FBS team to finish the season undefeated, with win No. 13 coming against SEC powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

So who does Kiffin, entering his second season at Florida Atlantic after posting an 11-3 record in his first year, believe to be the champion? He opted for the Crimson Tide, as Kiffin explained in a podcast appearance on “The Mitch Davis Show.

Still, Kiffin has loads of respect for what UCF did on the field.

“I don’t know that we would [claim the national title like UCF], but they see that they had a great season,” Kiffin told Davis in an episode released Wednesday. “Finishing up by beating Auburn and they think they can beat the two teams from the SEC (Georgia and Alabama) who went to the national championship. There’s something to it.”

Several times this past season, Kiffin praised UCF’s sudden turnaround from 0-12 in 2015 to undefeated two years later, including saying he wanted his own team to follow the Knights’ model.

Kiffin also spoke about FAU’s non-conference schedule, which includes a Sept. 1 matchup with CFP semifinalist Oklahoma and a showdown with none other than UCF on Sept. 21 in Orlando. UCF and the AAC announced last week that the FAU-UCF game, originally scheduled for Sept. 22, would be moved forward one day in advance to accommodate national television.

“(We have a) very competitive schedule, but you never know when you schedule things how good teams are going to be because teams stay up and down,” Kiffin said.

FAU will begin its spring camp on March 20 and will hold its annual spring game on April 21. Kiffin announced earlier this week that the Owls will hold road practices in Ft. Lauderdale’s Carter Park (April 7) and Miami’s Charles Hadley Park (April 14).