Can Cincinnati Make the College Football Playoff?

Desmond Ridder has a chance to become a Heisman finalist in 2021.
Desmond Ridder has a chance to become a Heisman finalist in 2021. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer via Imagn

The College Football Playoff is expected to expand to a 12-team bracket sometime in the near future, which means if there’s going to be a Cinderella team from a non-BCS conference to make the four-team playoff, it has to happen soon.

The team that will present the best chance of pulling off the feat will be this year’s Cincinnati Bearcats team. After an undefeated 9-0 season last year, the Bearcats fell just short of beating the Georgia Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl on New Year's Day.

While last season didn’t end the way they would have wanted to, the dream isn’t dead yet. The large majority of starters from last year’s Cincinnati team is set to return in 2021, most notably quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has a strong chance of being a Heisman candidate in 2021.

Will Cincinnati make the playoff? Likely not. Despite being heavy -230 favorites to win the AAC, WynnBET is still only giving the Bearcats +15000 (150/1) odds to win the National Championship.

Not only will Cincinnati need to have a perfect season once again, but it will also need some help and luck from the rest of the College Football world. At least two of the top teams, including Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, Georgia, or Ohio State will need to stumble enough during the regular season for the playoff selection committee to deem them unworthy.

One thing that the Bearcats do have going in their favor, is that they face two ranked teams on the road in Notre Dame and Indiana. If they have an undefeated season that includes impressive wins against those two schools, it will be enough for the committee to at least seriously consider Cincinnati for the playoff.

No team from a non-BCS school has ever made the playoff, and that includes the 2017 UCF team that went undefeated including a bowl game victory over Auburn.

The inability for teams from smaller conferences to even have a shot at the playoff, despite going undefeated, is a main driving factor in the NCAA looking at expanding the playoff to 12 teams.

Cincinnati is ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, ahead of schools like Notre Dame (No. 9), UNC (No. 10), Oregon (No. 11) and Florida (No. 13).

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