It has finally happened. A team from the Group of 5 ranks has crashed the College Football Playoff party as Cincinnati secured a spot in this year's field as the nation's only remaining undefeated team. It won't matter to the Bearcats if nobody is giving them much of a chance because they have been looking to prove their doubters wrong all season. And now they have that oh-so-lucrative opportunity on New Year's Eve against No. 1 Alabama in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic/College Football Playoff Semifinal.
5 Reasons Why Cincinnati Will Win the College Football Playoff
1. This isn't your ordinary Group of 5 defense
The numbers show that Cincinnati has a top-10 defense, and that is always a plus for an underdog. And while the bulk of Cincinnati's defensive success has come against weaker competition than any other playoff team has faced this season, the Bearcats have been built to compete with higher-powered offenses.
The crown jewel of Cincinnati's perfect season thus far is a road win at Notre Dame, the only loss suffered by the Fighting Irish this season. Cincinnati held Notre Dame to just 13 points and 341 yards of total offense. Wisconsin is the only other team to limit the Irish to fewer than 343 yards this season (242 yards), and Cincinnati was the only team to hold Notre Dame to fewer than 28 points in a game this season.
The combination of first-team All-AAC defensive linemen Curtis Brooks and Myjai Sanders up front could cause some trouble, and first-team All-AAC linebackers Darrian Beavers and Joel Dublanko won't let much get by them either. The secondary can be a problem too with cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant and safety Bryan Cook all earning first-team All-AAC honors this season as well.
2. The most efficient offense in the playoff
Facing the defenses Cincinnati will or potentially will face in the College Football Playoff means the Bearcats must not let too many drives go by without putting points on the scoreboard. And fortunately for the Bearcats, they have one of the most efficient offenses in college football.
Coming into conference championship weekend, Cincinnati was tied for the fewest yards per point scored this season, with 11.0 yards for every point scored (Houston, whom Cincinnati beat in the AAC Championship Game, was tied for the lead prior to their game). Cincinnati knows how to capitalize on its opportunities, and the offense being this efficient is a confidence boost against some of the nation's top defenses. The Bearcats have scored a touchdown on 68.9 percent of red zone chances, which is 24th in the nation and second only to Alabama among CFP teams.
3. The second-best QB in the playoff is Desmond Ridder
Defense is great in the playoff, but teams that win it all have a quarterback they can count on making a big play at any moment. Alabama has Bryce Young, but Cincinnati has a veteran leader in Ridder who is not shy in the big moment.
Ridder is not going to overwhelm you on the stat sheet, but his decision-making tends to pay off in a big way. Although Ridder had just one 300-yard game during the regular season, his efficiency has been a big factor in Cincinnati's success. Ridder is a big reason why Cincinnati's offensive efficiency has been among the best in the nation. He has completed 66 percent of his passes, and he knows he can move the ball and score against a team like Georgia. Ridder completed 24 of 37 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in last season's Peach Bowl against the Bulldogs.
Ridder can also add to the running game for Cincinnati. He didn't have the big rushing games as he did at times in 2020, but Cincinnati knows Ridder won't be afraid to take off and run for some yards when needed or there is a chance to take what the defense is giving him.
4. Give Jerome Ford the ball and see what happens
Cincinnati will have to find a way to get the running game moving, especially against No. 1 Alabama. This may be easier said than done, but having a player like Ford to rely on is a nice luxury to have available.
Ford is averaging 5.8 yards per rushing attempt this season with 1,056 yards and 17 touchdowns to show for it. Like Ridder, Ford is a big part of an efficient offensive attack. His ypc average show the offensive line can give him some room to work, although Cincinnati will face its stiffest challenge in the trenches in the playoff.
5. It's been a crazy year. So why not Cincinnati?
This season of college football has been as unpredictable as any almost every single week, so why not have a few breaks go Cincinnati's way for two more games? The Bearcats have talent and are worthy of being on this stage. And they know one of the big threats will be out of the way by default in the national semifinal round.
And it's not as though upsets in the playoff don't happen. In fact, a handful of them has over the years, beginning in the first year of the College Football Playoff when another team from the state of Ohio won it all despite being the No. 4 seed.
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