College football rankings 2021: Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State vie for No. 1 in way-too-early Top 25

Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide. (USA Today)
Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide. (USA Today) /
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College Football Rankings
Cincinnati Bearcats. Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports/Syndication: The Enquirer /

After a perfect season in the AAC in 2020, the Cincinnati Bearcats pleaded their case that they should’ve been in the College Football Playoff. Of course, they were left on the outside looking in, eventually ending up with a New Year’s Six date with the Georgia Bulldogs. They acquitted themselves well but came up short in that high-profile contest.

If the Bearcats go undefeated in the 2021 season, though, it may be enough to earn them more serious consideration as a CFP team. The Bearcats have to visit both Indiana and Notre Dame, two teams ranked in this way-too-early top 25, as part of their non-conference slate. Winning those games and then dominating the conference would be an impressive feat.

Cincinnati should have at least a shot of doing exactly that, however. Quarterback Desmond Ridder has matured tremendously throughout his time as the starter under head coach Luke Fickell and he’s back for one final run with the program. The offense should be the same dangerous rushing attack we saw this year with Ridder and Jerome Ford back in the fold.

The deciding factor in Cincinnati’s success might be how the loss of defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman affects them. While they retain a number of key defenders from a stalwart unit, not having the general on the sidelines and having to plug some holes in the front seven could be a tall task. But after this past year, there’s reason to believe in what the Bearcats are capable of.