Cincinnati Bearcats are 6-1 (3-0 in AAC) entering the final 5 games in November. Cincinnati has a real shot to win the American Athletic Conference for the first time since the conference became a thing in 2014.
If the Bearcats win the AAC Championship, there is a good chance they would represent the “Group of Five” conferences in the Cotton Bowl, as the highest ranked conference champion That’s obviously the best case scenario for how 2019 will play out. But if Cincinnati does not win the AAC or somehow does and doesn’t finish as the highest ranked G5 champion, the options aren’t as excited.
Latest bowl projections round up from major publications.
- Bonagura Projection - Bearcats vs Texas in Liberty Bowl
- Schlabach Projection - Bearcats vs NC State in Birmingham Bowl
Cotton Bowl is and will remain the goal. But if the Bearcats can play Texas??? And in the Liberty Bowl, which is more high profile than most of the AAC bowls? SIGN. ME. UP!
The Liberty Bowl would obviously be a best (non-Cotton Bowl) case scenario for Cincinnati. It’s currently an SEC vs Big 12 bowl game, but if the SEC puts two teams in the Playoffs (right now they are projected to do so) and two other teams in NY6 bowl games (Georgia, Florida, Auburn all options) than the SEC will likely be unable to fill their commitments, meaning another team could swoop in. Perhaps at 10-2 or 11-1 Cincinnati, would be intriguing enough to take.
NC State in Birmingham Bowl isn’t that exciting, but given how I, personally, believe the Bearcats would be one of the best teams in the ACC in 2019, beating an ACC team in a bowl game for the second straight season would help further validate that claim.
- Jerry Palm Projection - Bearcats vs Duke in Birmingham Bowl
Same notes would apply as above - it’s an ACC team and a chance to beat a power 5 school, even if it’s someone Cincinnati has already beaten in a bowl game in the past decade.
- Jason Kirk Projection - Bearcats vs Utah in Cotton Bowl
Jason Kirk is a smart man! He predicts Cincinnati to win the AAC and finish ranked higher than Boise State or Appalachian State, claiming the Group of Five bowl bid against an at-large team.
Bearcats have a long way to go and must win the next 6 games to make the Cotton Bowl. It’s very realistic and possible, but equally possible that they have one slip up somewhere.
The Entitlement is Real
Over 100 years ago (give or take), bowl games married themselves to specific conferences, like the Orange Bowl for example. In 2019, this is a problem.
Assuming Clemson wins out (fair assumption), the Tigers will make the CFB Playoffs, meaning the Orange Bowl would need to pull in the next best ACC team to fill the void. That would be....um....hold on, let me check my notes....Wake Forest?? Yikes!
This is why the bowl system, as currently constructed, is a joke. A potentially 8-9 win team, whether it’s Wake Forest or someone else, will make the Orange Bowl because of some ancient relationship between bowl game and conference. Cincinnati, Memphis, SMU, Boise State, and Appalachian State ALL deserve a NY6 bowl game in 2019. Only one of those teams will receive one, to the Cotton Bowl. Why not two? Would college football fans really prefer, as ESPN projects, Wake Forest vs Georgia in the Orange Bowl?? Over, say, Boise State vs Georgia? Or Cincinnati vs Georgia? Let the “little guys” have their shot. And if they fail, they don’t get another and they continue to be irrelevant and laughed at. But, I’m telling you that any of those teams listed (plus others, like UCF) would put up more of a fight against a powerhouse, than the ACC’s second “best” team.
The Barrier that is Appalachian State
It will get really argumentative and controversial if we are debating 12-1 Cincinnati vs 13-0 Appalachian State the first weekend of December for the Cotton Bowl bid. The truth is, if Cincinnati’s one loss is the week 2 Ohio State game, they deserve to be ranked higher than App State because of the strength of their schedule. Yes, App State would have two wins over “power 5” teams, North Carolina and South Carolina, but it’s possible both teams finish with no more than 6 wins (and possibly finish under .500). Wins over UCF and Memphis and possibly SMU, would be much more meaningful, in my opinion, than those two App State wins.
But here’s why I’m not worried about this argument - they won’t run the table. App State has 5 games remaining, 3 on the road. I guarantee they lose one of those three road games as they face South Carolina on 11/9, Georgia State the week after and at the season at Troy.
Yes, I don’t think South Carolina is that good and they have had an underwhelming season, but they somehow beat Georgia. And they are still an SEC team. And any SEC team that plays a Sun Belt team has a significant talent advantage. If the Gamecocks can take advantage of that, they should have no issues.
Georgia State is 6-2 and won at Tennessee earlier this year. They have a high powered offense that will provide difficulty for the Mountaineers. And last is Troy. Troy is a disappointing 3-4 so far, but they are always a tough out, especially at home and especially if the players know that they have a shot to ruin App State’s season.