Can Cincinnati start college football?

The states of Alabama and Ohio were lost. Clemson lost twice. Georgia is in a huge position for its first national title in more than 40 years. But in a college football year of surprises, perhaps the most startling is this news: Cincinnati is currently the number two football team in the country.

With a record of 6-0, the Bearcats are now ranked as the first non-Power 5 team to make it to the four College football tournament. (Notre Dame is an independent company in football, but its long history, huge fan base and big budget mean it’s considered the equivalent of a Power 5 team.)

But can Cincinnati do it? And how does this happen in a sport where some elite team always seems to be on top?

Cincinnati doesn’t have a long football history. It has never won a bad game – the Bearcats have an 8-9 record in bowl games – and was most recently 4-8 in 2017, coach Luke Fickell’s first season. But under Fickell, the team has since risen to the top of the college football rankings with just two, three and one loss over the past three seasons.

Last year, Cincinnati was unbeaten in the regular season but was dropped in the playoffs and lost to Georgia at the Peach Bowl. The team ranked 8th in the Associated Press’s Top 25 goes into this season, a sign that they have at least been on the radar of fans and the media.

Just about everyone agrees that Cincinnati must finish the regular season unbeaten to qualify for the knockout stages.

The Bearcats have ended their non-conference schedule and now only have to compete against fellow American Conference Athletics teams. Most of those teams aren’t particularly strong: Cincinnati, for example, is favored with 28 points at the Navy this weekend.

The biggest danger of the remaining six games on Cincinnati’s regular-season schedule is Southern Methodist, with a score of 6-0 and the only other ranked team in the US in 21st place. However, the game goes on. out in Cincinnati, and the Bearcats could easily be a two-touch down favorite. After the season, Cincinnati has to play in the conference championship match, most likely to meet SMU again. If the Bearcats take the regular-season crown, they’ll also host the game.

There’s another problem to Cincinnati’s playoff hopes beyond the results of the games. When the first official playoff rankings were announced on November 2, there was no guarantee that Cincinnati’s position would match its place in the AP poll, because the playoff committee is a different groups of voters. In the past, the playoff committee has shown reluctance to rank teams from the smaller conventions very highly.

Fickell concedes that the bigger teams, even if they lose, may be given priority: “Now, can Georgia draw on a losing streak? We have seen it. Alabama? – Right. Ohio State? We’ve seen it already,” he say. “That’s what it is. I think those teams get benefits for what they’ve done. And I’m not saying they don’t deserve it, because they do.”

A lot of Power 5 followers are doubting that any team from the other conference can legitimately land 2nd. Cincinnati have played with some weak teams to start the season, and their opponents are far behind. compared to the quality found in the Southeast Conference.

But the team has a huge plus, which is a 24-13 win over Notre Dame in South Bend. Notre Dame, by contrast, 5-0, ranked 13th and beat Wisconsin. Before the Cincinnati loss, Notre Dame was widely supported as a playoff possible.

However, computer rankings, which take into account win percentage and fixture strength, tend to rank Cincinnati slightly lower. Jeff Sagarin ranked the Bearcats fifth, and Kenneth Massey is only ninth. Model of Fivethirtyeight gives the team a 37% chance of making it to the playoffs, the fourth-highest behind Georgia, Oklahoma and Alabama.

And as Cincinnati continues to compete in the AAC framework, the strength of the schedule may decrease a bit compared to the participating teams.

Look deeper into the stats and Cincinnati has some good numbers: It is scoring 43.5 points a game, sixth best in the country and conceding just 13.7, third best. Jerome Ford’s 12 quick hits ranked second in the nation.

No team from a conference outside of Power 5 – the Atlantic Coast, Southeast, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences – has ever made it to the knockout stages and not even a team. particularly close.

The playoff first picks of the 2014 season set the tone: No non-Power 5 team was higher than Boise State, all of which dropped to 20th.

Central Florida was the first team to really make an impact in the playoff rankings, placing 12th in 2017 and eighth in 2018. And it took the undefeated season to rank so high, still being knocked out. top four positions.

Then, last year, Cincinnati won 9-0 in the abbreviated regular season and overtook Central Florida’s eighth place. However, it seems unlikely that even an undefeated team from one of the smaller tournaments will ever make it to the knockout stages.

Conferences is expected to extend the knockout round the future is 12 or eight teams. While most of the additional slots are also likely for Power 5, there may also be more room for smaller conference schools with featured seasons.

But not much point. In the seven years of the playoff rankings, only four non-Power 5 schools have made the top 12. Proposals for the extended knockouts suggest a minimum slot for the smaller conventions. When things settle down, it doesn’t seem like two or more often get involved.

However, Cincinnati wouldn’t really mind. By 2024, it will move to the Big 12. Can Cincinnati start college football?

Dustin Huang

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