Cincinnati had somewhat of a Cinderella season, pulling off what seemed impossible in earning a College Football Playoff berth. A place that seemed to only belong to Power 5 teams, now infiltrated by a Group of 5 team. I hated on Cincinnati for as long as they were in the running to make it to the playoffs. Upon doing a little bit of research, I concluded that if a Group of 5 team made it to the playoffs, it would have to be this Cincinnati unit.
Over the last four seasons, Cincinnati has been elite, and could without a doubt, run with some of the best. We saw this season Notre Dame take a loss from the Bearcats when, at the time, they were ranked #9 in the country. Furthermore, after the 2020 season, we saw the Bearcats go undefeated all season until eventually losing to Georgia by three points in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. On rare occasions since the 2017 season, we saw the Bearcats lose a game against a Group of 5 opponent.
The stars did have to align for Cincinnati to make it into the playoffs this year, and I will put a significant portion of the blame on my Oklahoma Sooners and the Clemson Tigers. Generally speaking, the College Football Playoff Committee has selected the champions from each Power 5 conference (or Notre Dame) minus one. Since the Sooners and Tigers were not as dominant as in years past, two Power 5 conferences had no representation in the playoffs. The choice was clear since Cincinnati beat the only other team outside of the Power 5 that could make it into the playoffs. Had the Pac-12, ACC, or Big 12 had an undefeated team, I would have said Cincinnati has no place in the playoffs, but as we know, that is was not the case.
Despite not scoring a touchdown against Alabama, they were at the very least not shut out like the 2016 Michigan State and 2017 Ohio State teams. Maybe this tells us a lot about the Big 10. The Bearcats did hold Alabama to their second-lowest points scored in the Semi-Finals, which says a lot about their defense (24 points is Alabama's lowest scored).
That all being said, I would like to formally apologize to the Cincinnati Bearcats community for saying you did not belong in the College Football Playoffs. I will consider a Group of 5 team to be amongst the best in the future. Unless you are UCF. If you are UCF, you went 6-7 the season before you went undefeated. You do not deserve to be in the conversation of the College Football Playoffs. Cincinnati's only losses in the last two seasons have been to top SEC teams. Case closed.