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10 Greatest Cincinnati Football Teams of All Time

Cincinnati Bearcats Football - 2021 American Athletic Conference champions

The 21st century has seen the Bearcats enjoy their most success on the gridiron

While Cincinnati lost to Alabama in this season's Cotton Bowl Classic, the Bearcats became the first non-Power 5 team to make the College Football Playoff. It goes without saying that the program is in its best era. When one looks at the 10 greatest teams, all but one of them are from the 21st century.

Before we dive in, we say goodbye to the 2014 squad. Tommy Tuberville's best Bearcats team went 9-4 and lost its four games to eventual national champion Ohio State and three bowl teams. It also won a share of the AAC title.

Now here are the 10 best Cincinnati teams of all time.

10. 2011

Record: 10-3
Finished: Beat Vanderbilt 31-24 in the Liberty Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 25 (AP), No. 21 (Coaches)

The Bearcats won their third Big East title in four years and averaged 33 points a game. Cincinnati then upset Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl.

9. 2018

Record: 11-2
Finished: Beat Virginia Tech 35-31 in the Military Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 24 (AP), No. 23 (Coaches)

Cincinnati opened the season by upsetting UCLA and new head coach Chip Kelly in his first game 26-17 in the Rose Bowl. In the Military Bowl, the Bearcats beat Virginia Tech for their first bowl win since 2012.

8. 1951

Record: 10-1
Finished: Beat Miami (Ohio) 19-14 in final regular-season game
Final Ranking: Unranked

Led by offensive genius Sid Gillman, the Bearcats posted their first 10-win season in program history and shut out six of their opponents. The fact that the AP and Coaches polls only ranked 20 teams back then is likely why they finished the season unranked.

7. 2012

Record: 10-3
Finished: Beat Duke 48-34 in the Belk Bowl
Ranking: No. 22

Cincinnati's three losses were by a combined total of 16 points, and the Bearcats won a share of the Big East title. In the Belk Bowl, the Bearcats came back from being down 16-0 to beat Duke in a shootout.

6. 2007

Record: 10-3
Finished: Beat Southern Miss 31-21 in the Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 17 (AP), No. 20 (Coaches)

In Brian Kelly's first full season, he led Cincinnati to its first 10-win campaign since 1951 and first ranking in more than 30 years. (The Bearcats were ranked No. 20 for one week in 1976.) Cincinnati then beat Southern Miss for its sixth bowl win in school history.

5. 2019

Record: 11-3
Finished: Beat Boston College 38-6 in the Birmingham Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 21

In Luke Fickell's third season, Cincinnati upset UCF and won the AAC East for the first time. Unfortunately, the Bearcats could not get past Memphis, who beat them 34-24 in the last game of the regular season and 29-24 in the AAC Championship a week later. Cincinnati was able to take solace in a beatdown of Boston College in the Birmingham Bowl.

4. 2008

Record: 11-3
Finished: Lost to Virginia Tech 20-7 in the Orange Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 17

Cincinnati overcame a loss on the road to Connecticut to win its first Big East title outright. In the Orange Bowl, the Bearcats were unable to overcome four turnovers in a loss to Virginia Tech.

3. 2020

Record: 9-1
Finished: Lost to Georgia 24-21 in the Peach Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 8

The Bearcats weathered COVID-19 and beat three ranked opponents to finish the regular season undefeated. In the Peach Bowl, Cincinnati led Georgia 21-10 in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored 14 unanswered points to eke out the win.

2. 2009

Record: 12-1
Finished: Lost to Florida 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl
Final Ranking: No. 8 (AP), No. 9 (Coaches)

This Cincinnati team went 12-0 in the regular season and finished third in the BCS to earn a shot at Florida in the Sugar Bowl. There, the Bearcats were no match for the Gators and Tim Tebow in his final game.

1. 2021

Record: 13-1
Finished: Lost to Alabama 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl Classic/College Football Playoff Semifinal
Final Ranking: No. 4

This year’s Bearcats team was the best in school history not just because it made the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati also beat Notre Dame in South Bend, won the AAC, and finished the regular season undefeated. Its No. 4 ranking also is the highest finish in the history of the program.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.