Championship Saturday: American Athletic Conference pits two great offenses and defenses against each other, #24 Tulsa at #9 Cincinnati tonight at 8

Saturday, Dec. 19• 8 p.m. ET • ABC

Nippert Stadium (40,000/UBU Speed Series 55-M)
Cincinnati, Ohio

Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy and Holly Rowe

Satellite Radio
SiriusXM 108/203/966 (Tulsa)
SiriusXM 206/202/965 (Cincinnati)

Tulsa Radio
KXBL-FM 99.5 (flagship)

Cincinnati Radio
WLW-AM 700 (flagship)

Saturday’s game will be the 35th meeting between Cincinnati and Tulsa in a series that dates to 1946 … Tulsa holds a 17-15-2 series lead, but Cincinnati has won six of the last seven, including a 24-13 win at Nippert Stadium last year …  Cincinnati is making its second consecutive appearance in The American Championship, while Tulsa is in the championship game for the first time … Tulsa becomes the seventh American Athletic Conference team to play in the championship game since 2015 … Cincinnati won a share of The American title in 2014, the year before the introduction of the conference championship game, while Tulsa will be looking for its first league title under The American’s banner … The schools tied for first place in The American’s regular-season standings with 6-0 league records, but Cincinnati is serving as the host institution for Saturday’s game based on a higher showing in the Dec. 8 College Football Playoff rankings … Tulsa’s undergraduate enrollment of 3,269 is the smallest of NCAA FBS programs, while Cincinnati has an enrollment of 46,338 … This year’s game marks the sixth time in as many years that The American Championship is carried live on ABC … The American Championship has drawn a combined television audience of 15.3 million viewers in its first five years

20/20 TULSA
6-1, 6-0 American

Head Coach 
Philip Montgomery (Tarleton State ’95)
31-38, sixth season

Tulsa has won eight of its last nine games dating to last season as the Golden Hurricane shook off an Opening Day loss to Oklahoma State to reel off six consecutive wins entering The American Championship … Tulsa’s six conference wins are the most for the Golden Hurricane as an American Athletic Conference member … Tulsa is looking for its first conference title since 2012, when the Golden Hurricane topped UCF 33-27 in overtime in the Conference USA Championship Game … Tulsa is playing in its fifth conference championship game and is looking for its third championship game victory … Tulsa has come back from double-digit deficits to win four times in seven games this season … Tulsa is ranked No. 20 in both national polls this week, marking the fifth straight week that Tulsa has been in the top 25 … The last time that Tulsa was ranked in five consecutive polls was in 1945 … The Golden Hurricane was picked ninth in The American’s preseason media poll, while Tulsa defeated the teams picked first (UCF), fourth (SMU), fifth (Navy) and sixth (Tulane) in that poll … Tulsa has been outscored 46-12 in the first quarter, but has outscored its opponents by a 182-92 margin the rest of the way … LB Zaven Collins continues to establish himself as one of the nation’s top players and a bona fide candidate for national postseason honors … Collins, who became the first player in American Athletic Conference history to be unanimously chosen as a conference player of the year, has 51 tackles to go with 4.0 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and a conference-leading four interceptions … Colllins is one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player … Perhaps most incredibly, Collins was chosen as a national defensive player of the week three times this season, despite the fact that Tulsa has only layed seven games … QB Zach Smith has thrown for 1,434 yards and 11 touchdowns with six interceptions … RB Deneric Prince (59.3 yards per game), RB Corey Taylor II (54.8 ypg) and RB TK Wilkerson (52.8 ypg) all average better than 50 yards per game … WR Keylon Stokes is the leading receiver with 35 catches for 508 yards and two touchdowns, while WR Josh Johnson has 35 catches for 484 yards and a team-high six TD … S Kendarin Ray leads the squad with 52 tackles … DT Jaxon Player earned first-team all-conference honors and is second to Collins with 3.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss … K Zack Long has made 9 of 11 field goal attempts, while P Lachlan Wilson averages 42.7 yards per punt

8-0, 6-0 American

Head Coach 
Luke Fickell (Ohio State ’97)
34-13, fourth season at Cincinnati
40-20, fifth season as collegiate head coach

Cincinnati is making its second consecutive appearance in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game after the Bearcats fell to Memphis in last year’s contest … The Bearcats will be playing for the first time after a 28-day layoff that included an open week and two games canceled due to COVID-19 issues … Cincinnati’s last game was a 36-33 win at UCF Nov. 21… The Bearcats ended the home portion of their regular-season schedule having won 19 straight at Nippert Stadium … Cincinnati is 8-0 for the fourth time in program history, joining the 1951, 1954 and 2009 Bearcats … Saturday’s game will be the latest date during a season for a game at Nippert Stadium, surpassing a Dec. 7, 1918, matchup against Xavier … Cincinnati is ranked No. 6 in the national polls, but have fallen to No. 9 in the CFP rankings during the layoff … The Bearcats had a school-record 17 all-conference players this season … Leading the way was QB Desmond Ridder, who was chosen as The American’s Offensive Player of the Year … Ridder became the first Cincinnati player to be a conference offensive player of the year since Isaiah Pead won Big East honors in 2011 … Ridder has thrown for 1,821 yards and 16 touchdowns and has rushed for 526 yards and a team-high 11 TDs … Ridder has passed for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns ad has 455 rushing yards with 11 more TDs in the last five games, becoming the first player since Lamar Jackson in 2018 to enjoy a similar five-game stretch … RB Gerrid Doaks has a team-high 660 rushing yards with seven touchdowns … TE Josh Whyle leads the team with five touchdown receptions … Cincinnati’s defense ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense (15.0 ppg), second in pass efficiency defense (94.74) and 10th in total defense (308.1 ypg) … Three members of the Bearcat secondary were chosen as first team all-conference selections as CB Ahmad Gardner, CB Coby Bryant and S James Wiggins earned the honor … Gardner and Bryant both have three interceptions and nine passes defended in 2020 … LB Jarell White is second in The American with 8.5 tackles per game on 68 stops in eight games … DE Myjai Sanders has 5.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss … The Bearcats have only attempted six field goals this season, but K Cole Smith has gone 5-for-6 … P James Smith is a four-time all-conference selection who has averaged 43.7 yards per punt, good for fourth in The American.