The year 2020 will forever go down in history as being one like no other. It turns out there could be some major history made in college football before the year’s end as well. The second college football playoff rankings were released this week, and the Cincinnati Bearcats retained their spot at No. 7. Cincinnati is looking to become the first non-Power 5 team to make the playoffs since it began in 2014.
Do the Bearcats have a shot at breaking down the barrier and representing the American Athletic Conference and Group of 5 leagues in the College Football Playoff? There certainly is a case to be made and a logical path for Cincinnati to make the playoffs.
Cincinnati Football Season Review
Cincinnati throttled Boston College in the Birmingham Bowl to close out a 2019-20 campaign that saw them drastically overachieve relative to most expert predictions. Head coach Luke Fickell would turn down an offer to become the next head coach of Michigan State to return to Cincy for a 2020-21 season filled with high expectations. The Bearcats have rewarded Fickell’s decision to stay, rolling to an 8-0 record and putting up gaudy numbers in doing so.
Notable Games Played
Cincinnati was a short home favorite against Army in their second game of the season and pulled out a two-touchdown victory in a hard-fought defensive game. Three other AAC games, in which the Bearcats were expected to get tested, turned out to be laughers, as Cincinnati blew the doors off of SMU (42-13), Memphis (49-10) and Houston (38-10) in consecutive weeks.
The stiffest test Cincinnati has faced to date came on the road against American powerhouse UCF. Despite the Knights’ prolific offense putting on a show, the Bearcats were able to score enough to come away with a three-point win.
Cincinnati Football Statistics
- Cincinnati is scoring 38.9 points per game (PPG) this season (No. 2 in AAC and No. 14 in FBS)
- Cincinnati is surrendering 14.3 PPG this season (No. 1 in AAC and No. 5 in FBS)
- Cincinnati is averaging 465.7 yards per game (YPG) and 6.7 yards per play (No. 23 and No. 11 in FBS, respectively)
- Cincinnati is surrendering 301.7 YPG and 4.0 yards per play (No. 8 and No. 2 in FBS, respectively)
- Cincinnati has a strength of schedule rating of 1.8 (No. 3 in AAC and No. 64 in FBS)
Path for Cincinnati College Football Playoff Appearance
Can Cincinnati actually make the College Football Playoff? At this point, it’s impossible to count them out. Assuming they take care of business against Tulsa and add an American Athletic Conference championship to their resume, it would be impossible for the CFP committee to not give them serious consideration regardless of how the teams ahead of them in the rankings finish out.
Currently sitting at No. 7, Cincinnati does need to leapfrog several teams to make the playoff field of four. Concerning those teams between UC and that elusive playoff berth, here are some things that Bearcats fans should be cheering for over the next few weeks.
Ohio State Cancellations
In what has a fun little big brother-little brother script to it, the Big Ten’s Ohio State currently sits ahead of Cincinnati in the CFP rankings, despite only playing four games. With the Buckeyes program and other Big Ten schools continuing to have virus issues, more cancellations are a real possibility. A lack of games played combined with OSU not looking dominant in the games they have played would remove the Buckeyes from consideration.
Alabama SEC Championship
Alabama has looked dominant all season long and is set to collide with Florida in the SEC Championship Game. For the Gators, the SEC title game will also serve as a play-in for the College Football Playoff. Win and a one-loss Florida team with a conference championship on their resume will be in. The Crimson Tide would also likely get in, under those circumstances, giving the SEC two playoff berths. A Florida loss means the Gators will be out of CFP contention, leaving the door ajar for teams like Cincinnati.
Rooting against Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence and the machine that is the Clemson football program is not the easiest thing to do. But, since the Tigers lost to Notre Dame, a second loss in the ACC Championship Game would be the most beneficial outcome for Cincinnati. That would give the Tigers two losses and leave them without a conference championship. At that point, it would be hard to put them in the College Football Playoff, thus opening up a spot.