Cincinnati Bearcats have two football games remaining in the 2019 season. We know for sure that one of them is this Saturday at Memphis in the AAC Championship Game. The other one is very much to be determined.
There is no clear cut answer as to what bowl game the Bearcats will play in, whether they win or lose on Saturday.
Obviously, the best case scenario is a win over Memphis and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl as the highest ranked group of five team. AAC commissioner Mike Aresco and all of Bearcats twitter has done a great job of pushing for this to happen - that an 11-2 Bearcats team should be ranked ahead of a 12-1 Boise State team. We’ll see where these teams fall in the CFP poll on Tuesday. The easiest scenario is having Boise State lose to Hawaii (certainly a possibility given Hawaii’s offensive capabilities).
If the Cotton Bowl is not an option, then what?
In order to get a sense of what to expect, here is a look at the bowl games that the AAC champion and runner up each participated in, since the origination of the AAC Championship game inn 2015.
UCF (champ) - Fiesta Bowl vs LSU
Memphis - Birmingham Bowl vs Wake Forest
UCF (champ) - Peach Bowl vs Auburn
Memphis - Liberty Bowl vs Iowa State
Temple (champ) - Military Bowl vs Wake Forest
Navy - Armed Forces Bowl vs Louisiana Tech
Houston (champ) - Peach Bowl vs Florida State
Temple - Boca Raton Bowl vs Toledo
Barriers the Bearcats Face
There are two obstacles facing the Bearcats pursuit of a good bowl game.
One, is that there is precedence for the championship game runner up to play a fellow group of five opponent. Temple did it in 2015 and Navy did it in 2016. It would be a pretty dull and disappointing ending to a great season, if Cincinnati goes 10-3 and winds up facing a team from C-USA or the MAC. This team deserves better.
The second barrier is that two potential bowl games are played at AAC stadiums. Liberty Bowl has a secondary AAC tie-in that could come into play in 2019. It’s where Memphis plays their games, so it makes a ton of sense for them if they lost the Championship Game to potentially play there over Cincinnati.
And the Military Bowl, where Cincinnati played last season, features the AAC vs ACC and would likely include Navy, as it’s at their own stadium as well. There’s little doubt that a 10-2 Navy team hosting the game would be more appealing than repeating Cincinnati. Although, many projections include Louisville from the ACC. I’m sure if that were the case, Cincinnati fans would excuse the repetitiveness and flock to Annapolis in a hurry.
A roundup of what some of the top publications and media companies are predicting for the Bearcats’ bowl game in 2019.
ESPN - Liberty Bowl vs Iowa State, Frisco Bowl vs Toledo
Liberty Bowl is awkward. It obviously represents a bigger game and a Big 12 opponent, which I’m sure everyone would welcome. But it would be the third consecutive game played in Memphis for Cincinnati. Would the bowl committees welcome that? Would Cincinnati (not that they’d really have a choice). Personally, I think this game would be an excellent opportunity to get a win against a Big 12 team, which means more than the redundancy of the stadium played in.
CBS - Gasparilla vs Louisiana Tech
No. Literally anything other than the bow game sponsored by the Bad Boy Lawn Mowers. Louisiana Tech is an excellent team, but the 10 (or 11?) win Bearcats really deserve a “P5” opponent.
Stadium - Birmingham Bowl vs Florida State
YES PLEASE!!! Sign me up for this. I don’t care if the Seminoles are coach-less or went 6-6. They are a name brand and this is a game that would certainly be appealing to a national audience.
SB Nation - Birmingham Bowl vs Miami
For the same reasons listed above, YES PLEASE!!! Sign me up!
247Sports and Athlon Sports - Gasparilla Bowl vs Florida Atlantic
No thank you. Although, FAU coach Lane Kiffin is likely on his way to a better job so we would face a vulnerable opponent. But this game might move the needle in reverse. Not forwards.