Winning six-straight games to start a season will do a lot to raise the profile of your program. That is certainly true for the Cincinnati Bearcats, who went from a possible bowl contender to a team with a real chance at winning its conference and, in an ideal situation, making the College Football Playoff. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Bearcats have a 14 percent chance of claiming the American Athletic Conference title and a less than one percent chance of making the playoff. While less than one pretty much means zero, it hasn’t officially been ruled out.
For the Bearcats to make any of these goals/dreams/fantasies occur, they will need to keep up the momentum they created in the first half. After taking a week off this past Saturday, they will be back in action right away and won’t stop until the end of November. Here’s what the road to a potential league title (and more) looks like.
Oct. 20 at Temple
Record: 4-3, 3-0 AAC
Offensive S&P+: 26.3 (91st nationally)
Defensive S&P+: 19.2 (15)
The Owls have really turned things around after a rough start to the season. After dropping their first two games to Villanova (a FCS program) and Buffalo, they have won four out of five games and are right in the middle of the AAC title chase thanks to a perfect mark in league play.
Home-field advantage has not really been there for Temple, which will host the Bearcats next Saturday, but despite a 2-2 mark at Lincoln Financial Field, the Owls are a on a run that makes them a frightening challenger to UC’s perfect record. On top of that, the fact that the two teams are jostling for position in the stacked East Division of the AAC makes this a critical game.
Oct. 27 at SMU
Record: 2-4, 1-1 AAC
Offensive S&P+: 23.3 (108)
Defensive S&P+: 33.0 (101)
The Mustangs also had a bye this past weekend, but that break was probably needed since this has not been the best year for them. Despite a host of talent on both sides of the ball, the Mustangs are not a top 100 team in the country, at least going on S&P+. They somehow stunned Navy in overtime on Sept. 22 but returned back to earth against UCF in their most recent contest, falling 48-20. This is another road game for the Bearcats, but should be a bit easier than the trip to Philadelphia.
Nov. 3 vs. Navy
Record: 2-4, 1-2 AAC
Offensive S&P+: 29.9 (59)
Defensive S&P+: 37.9 (113)
Back in the summer, I picked this as a big win in an otherwise mediocre season for the Bearcats. While the prestige of beating Navy might not hold as much weight as it would have in year’s past, the Bearcats will need to keep themselves in a solid position for the two-game stretch following this game. Navy just lost to Temple on Saturday and has dropped three-straight games. Making matters even more difficult is the fact that it will play three-straight ranked teams from Oct. 27 to Nov. 10 (Notre Dame, Cincinnati, UCF) and that’s after playing Houston on Oct. 20. The Bearcats may very well be facing a team that has been beaten down too often by the time Nov. 3 comes around.
Nov. 10 vs. USF
Record: 6-0, 2-0 AAC
Offensive S&P+: 32.6 (36)
Defensive S&P+: 24.9 (44)
This game will begin a two-week stretch that will decide the AAC East and the Bearcats’ fate as a whole. USF is also undefeated this season (6-0) and has a much more recent track record of success in the league. However, the Bulls did show a great deal of weakness this past Friday against Tulsa. If not for a furious 15-point comeback in the fourth quarter, the Bulls would have lost pace with the other three undefeated (in league play) teams in the East. If Tulsa can bring the Bulls to the brink, then the Bearcats should be able to push them over. Still, this is a game that will be both meaningful and extremely difficult.
Nov. 17 at UCF
Record: 6-0, 3-0 AAC
Offensive S&P+: 40.0 (9)
Defensive S&P+: 23.7 (37)
This is easily the biggest game of the season. The Knights are the defending national champions (depending on who you ask) and the team the Bearcats will need to leap in order to win the East division. The Knights haven’t lost a game since the 2016 season, but, like USF, they showed that they are not perfect. Memphis gave UCF all it could handle this weekend, before ultimately folding in a 31-30 decision. Halftime adjustments helped there, as UCF held the Tigers scoreless in the second half, so the Bearcats need to bring it from the top of the coaching staff to the bottom of the depth chart.
Nov. 23 vs. East Carolina
Record: 2-4, 0-3 AAC
Offensive S&P+: 23.3 (108)
Defensive S&P+: 33. (101)
The odd man out in the East division, East Carolina still hasn’t won a league game and should serve as a welcome respite for the Bearcats after the gamut they’ll face from the two Florida schools. This importance of this game will ultimately be decided by the ones that come before it. The Bearcats could just be trying to earn a better bowl bid, or, in a perfect world, they could be playing for a chance to cement a spot in the AAC title game.
Based on who is left to play, the Bearcats could really land anywhere at the end of the season. Another stunning 6-0 run would seriously put them in the playoff conversation, but even a 3-3 or 4-2 mark would give them a shot at a solid bowl and maybe, if other teams falter as well, the AAC championship game. ESPN has the Bearcats projected to finish 10-2 overall, which would mean a 4-2 record in the second half. That seems spot on to me, but what say you, dear reader?
What will Cincinnati’s final regular season record be?
This poll is closed
12-0. BRING. ME. BAMA.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly said UC, UCF, USF, Temple and East Carolina were in the AAC West and not the AAC East. This has been corrected.