November 23, 2021
CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati football team made history on Tuesday night by being ranked No. 4 in the fourth College Football Playoff Rankings. The Bearcats are the first non-Power 5 team to crack the Top 4 in the history of the CFP (since 2014).
Head Coach Luke Fickell made a live appearance on ESPN’s CFP Show following the rankings announcement.
“I think it’s awesome,” Fickell said about Cincinnati’s No. 4 ranking. “I think it’s great for our entire team, our program, our community and our campus. We know, and we keep trying to stress to our guys, that we have a ways to go, and we have two really big games coming up here. All and all, the excitement about it and the recognition is well-deserved for a group of guys that have really fought and battled all year.”
There are two more rankings, next Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. and the final rankings on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 12 p.m.
The two “really big games” Fickell is referring to are East Carolina this Friday at 3:45 p.m. in Greenville, N.C., and No. 19/15 Houston in the American Athletic Conference Championship next Saturday, Dec. 4 (4 p.m., ABC).
The site of that conference championship game is still being determined, but Cincinnati can lock it up with a win at East Carolina on Friday.
The Bearcats will also look to complete a perfect 12-0 regular season for just the second time in school history, joining the 2009 team.
Cincinnati has won three straight over ECU, including a 55-17 win at Nippert Stadium last season that featured 402 total yards and four touchdowns from senior quarterback Desmond Ridder.
In their last trip to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the Bearcats overcame a 12-point deficit with 9 minutes left to win 46-43 in 2019 with Ridder rushing for two scores and throwing for another, cornerback Ahmad Gardner recording a 65-yard pick-six with 4:38 remaining and Sam Crosa kicking a 32-yard field goal as time expired for the victory. ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers threw for a school-record 535 yards in the game.
East Carolina (7-4, 5-2 in the AAC) has won four straight, including back-to-back close road victories over Navy (38-35) and Memphis (30-29, OT).
Cincinnati is coming off arguably its most dominant game of the season in the 48-14 win over SMU on Senior Day last Saturday. Ridder totaled five touchdowns, while UC’s defense held SMU to just 199 yards of total offense and 66 passing yards.
Friday’s game will be televised nationally on ABC with Jason Benetti (pxp), Andre Ware (analyst) and Paul Carcaterra (sideline) on the broadcast. Fans can also listen on the Bearcats Sports Network on 700 WLW-AM and on satellite radio (Sirius Ch. 136, XM 207) with Dan Hoard (PxP) and Jim Kelly Jr. (Analyst) calling the action.
CINCINNATI PROVES IT IS ELITE
Cincinnati and current-No. 1 Georgia are the only two teams in the nation that rank in the Top 10 in both scoring offense (UC – 40.0 ppg, 8th) and scoring defense (UC – 16.0 ppg, 6th). Cincinnati is one just three undefeated teams, joining Georgia and UTSA. UC has nine wins by double digits. Cincinnati sports a 20-1 record (.952) since the start of 2020 with the Bearcats only loss over the last 23 months coming by three points, 24-21, to Georgia in the 2020 Peach Bowl. UC is the only team with a double-digit victory over a CFP Top 10 team (24-13 at current CFP No. 7 Notre Dame). The Bearcats have won 20 straight regular season games – the longest streak in the nation.
Defensively, the Bearcats rank No. 1 in pass efficiency defense (94.92), No. 2 in opponent completion percentage (52.8%), No. 2 in pass yards allowed (155.5), No. 3 in interceptions (16), No. 4 in yards per play allowed (4.35), No. 4 in TD passes allowed (7) and No. 6 in total defense (305.2). Cincinnati ranks No. 3 in the country in turnovers gained (26) and No. 5 in turnover margin (+11).
SENIORS LEAD UC PAST SMU
Cincinnati improved to 11-0 by routing SMU 48-14 to clinch a spot in the conference championship for the third straight year. UC honored 34 seniors on Saturday by jumping out to a 48-0 lead on SMU. Ridder became the first Bearcat with a TD pass, rush and reception in the same game, while senior wide receiver Alec Pierce had two touchdown receptions and senior defensive tackle Curtis Brooks made two sacks.
NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR THE BEARCATS
Several Bearcats are earning national accolades for their play this season. Senior cornerback Coby Bryant was named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, on Tuesday, while senior linebacker Darrian Beavers was named a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award on Monday. The Butkus Award is given to the nation’s top linebacker.
Ridder was previously named a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given to the top senior quarterback. He was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for the seventh time in his career.
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