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Your Friday Bearcat Bulletin

College Football Playoff Edition - Week 1 Rankings

Photo by Dave Jenike

—Spread check: College GameDay vs. Tulsa on 11/6 – Cincinnati by 22.5

—Competing realities:

Now, it’s no secret that many observers are unhappy with the initial College Football Playoff rankings. At the same time, many are also seemingly satisfied with the feel-good headline that Cincinnati became the first Group of 5 team to receive a Top 6 CFP ranking in any week throughout the history of the committee’s rankings.

To its credit, the University has thus far struck a cordial and nonchalant tone regarding the re-rank situation in which we find ourselves. And campus is abuzz over the arrival of the College GameDay crew and upcoming broadcast on Saturday morning. There are lots of good vibes percolating around the program and school, but Luke Fickell & Co. want more.

While Fickell and the Bearcat Football are focused on Saturday, we fans watch and read the headlines, including those national commentators arguing the rankings are disrespectful and simply unbearable. Being in the midst of another undefeated season with nearly all metrics moving in higher directions, ranked #2 in both the AP and Coaches polls, and the only team in FBS ranked in the Top 10 in scoring and scoring defense, all while only ten months removed from a narrow game-ending field goal loss to current CFP frontrunner Georgia in the 2021 Peach Bowl, all of this feels like my old Chevy Trailblazer spinning its wheels in Outer Banks sand en route to an off-road winter beach retreat at midnight back in 2013. What else could I do in that situation but ask for help?

And that’s what the Bearcats are going to need, albeit many scenarios of perceived help might also have zero positive effect. Let’s say 1-2 UGA and ‘Bama continue their streaks and battle in the SEC Championship – two of the four playoff slots would likely be taken. At this point, who’s to say they will falter? And is it all that probable that 3-5-7 MSU-OSU-UM will each falter down the stretch? Not likely. One more slot taken, a stretch possibility of two. And what happens when/if any one of 8-11-12 OK-OKState-Baylor or 9 Wake Forest runs its respective table? In this first poll, 4 Oregon appears to be a likely placeholder for some other team below them in the Top 12. There are a host of other scenarios where X team moves up at someone else’s expense, including Cincinnati’s.

After seeing this initial CFP ranking, it is clear that other teams and conferences in the Power 5 continue to hold much more weight according to the committee, which reinforces the oft-proclaimed assertion that the Group of 5 need not apply. These teams are given more weight and their losses to one another help them stay high. So, as long as Group of 5 teams and conferences are considered less than, wins against one another will continue to hold very little weight and lend excuses for reinforcing their ceiling.

This holds true especially for Cincinnati - there are zero other AAC teams ranked in the CFP rankings i.e. no opportunities to gain another win versus a ranked team. Based on this alone, one wouldn’t be crazy to think Cincinnati has close to a zero chance of making the playoff this year because the committee has just told us what they think of the American Athletic Conference.

At some point, the wringing of hands among the Group of 5 will morph into a malaise of why-botherism unless the playoff is expanded. Despite another season of high success on the gridiron, including a road win against a Top 10 Notre Dame team, the top team in the Group of 5 – a team both the AP and coaches around the FBS believe to be the #2 team in the nation despite closer than expected wins the past two weeks – finds itself sitting at an adjacent table near the contenders with its chairs seemingly affixed to the cafeteria floor. If Cincinnati is staring at a #6 ranking with no other remaining games against any team the committee currently views as worthy of a ranking, how do we possibly improve our position?

The only answer is to control what you can control and hope for surprises. No team can control what happens to other teams unless they face them head-on. Cincinnati must win out to remain in this conversation and survive any potential chaos that ensues in the next few weeks. In addition to winning out, a viral case of the upset bug will need to take teams by storm if the Bearcats hope to rise in the rankings.

—CFP Week 1 observations: Two teams with three losses, ten teams with two losses, Big 12 undefeated leader ranked eighth, ACC undefeated leader ranked ninth, seven SEC teams, six Big Ten teams, three ACC teams, three Big 12 teams, two Mountain West teams, one Pac-12 team ranked, one AAC team, two Independents.