The Cincinnati Bearcats have put together one of the most impactful seasons in college football history. They have gone undefeated, threatening to break the hegemony of the Power 5 over the College Football Playoff. But they’ll have to get one last win over Houston in the AAC Championship to continue their run towards a national championship.
Cincinnati (12-0) currently ranks fourth in the CFP standings, while Houston (11-1) ranks 21st.
Bearcats on the verge of College Football Playoff
The fact that Houston rates at all in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee could be meaningful, however. If Cincinnati wins impressively, beating another quality opponent could help them fend off other potential CFP contenders and hold on to a top four spot.
If the other conference championship games go to form, Cincinnati should make the playoffs. That makes the AAC Championship critical for the Bearcats and their bid to make history.
“[Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen] and Houston will have a lot to say about that, but if [Cincinnati] does win, I would hope they would stay [in playoff position]. They would have earned it,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told reporters. “They’re undefeated. And boy, that win over Notre Dame looks more and more impressive.”
Cincinnati comes into the AAC Championship as a 10.5-point favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook. The Bearcats will also enjoy home field advantage, something both coaches acknowledge could be a factor.
“We want to enjoy what it is that these seniors in particular have created this buzz on our campus and in our stadium, but we can’t allow it to change us,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell told reporters. “The challenge to each and every individual is to find ways to eliminate the noise and make sure you know what it is that you have to be able to do.”
Houston red hot heading into AAC Championship
Houston comes into the game on an 11-game winning streak, losing only its season opener to Texas Tech. Since that time, the Cougars have dominated their opposition, and are as hot as any team in the country.
“I’m not gonna lie – I wish this was at a neutral site,” Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen told the media. “They haven’t lost there in a while but it’s a big challenge.”
Houston’s players say they deserve more credit for the season they’ve put together – another sign that the AAC Championship should rate more highly than most pundits see it.
“Really all year we feel like we haven’t bene getting the respect we deserve,” Houston linebacker Deontay Anderson told reporters. “I just feel like we’re disrespected, and we really have a chip on our shoulder from that. We can’t wait to go out there and keep proving people wrong.”
Even if Cincinnati beats Houston, the AAC Championship might not be enough to keep them from sweating on Sunday. The CFP committee has a history of keeping undefeated small schools out of the playoffs. However, should Georgia beat Alabama, that would probably leave the committee with no choice but to include the Bearcats in the playoff field.