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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Wicker: Cincinnati proved the college football playoffs are no closed shop

The University of Cincinnati had seven head football coaches between 1969 and 1993. One left for Harvard. Another left for rice.

The Bearcats also won a conference championship between 1964 and 2008, and if you’re not immediately sure which conference, don’t worry. There were many.

Everyone can win in basketball. Gonzaga proved it. Not everyone can win in football, or at least turn victories into championships.

When Cincinnati was drafted into the college football playoffs on Sunday, it shrugged off the CFP’s last laudable criticism.

A “group of five,” or Triple-A, conference can really win it all. It takes a little extra, sure, but it’s not a one stop shop.

When Cincinnati went 13-0 with their US Conference Championship win over Houston, a Bearcats fan held up a sign that said, “Power Five is an opinion. 13-0 is fact.” This was made possible with a 24–13 victory over Notre Dame, which was otherwise undefeated.

That’s all the selection committee demanded from the Group of Fives. Win all his games, make a huge schedule and kill him. The 2015 UCF team that remained unbeaten and knocked out Auburn in the Peach Bowl didn’t have that spectacular regular-season success.

Furthermore, Cincinnati gained credibility, right or wrong, after losing to Georgia 24-21 in the final three seconds of last year’s Sugar Bowl. The Bearcats have won 23 of their last 24 matches.

Six bowls of such New Years as Sugar last year, with all the money, was how CFP bought a group of five and recognized their viability. A sudden powerhouse like Cincinnati shouldn’t be held responsible for its convention status. But neither should be able to cruise it to the throne room while the strong conference runners-up are left behind.

This meant that Cincinnati had to thread an extremely narrow needle, and knew it well in advance. Thanks to a roster that is projected to send at least five players to the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, it happened.

Ask Pittsburgh if going undefeated is easy. The Panthers are celebrating an ACC Championship win at Wake Forest and are also dismayed when they learn they lost 11-2 to Central Michigan and Miami at home. If they win those two Chippies, they will advance to the playoffs.

There were some who shouted that Notre Dame should somehow replace Georgia after the Bulldogs were trapped in the SEC Championship, but that was just being respectable. Georgia scored 83 points in 12 regular season games and was 5–0 against teams at the time, including Clemson in the opener. Notre Dame defeated the two ranked teams.

Alabama beat five ranked teams, won an SEC West that serves as college football’s toughest mine, and only lost by three points to Texas A&M.

The Big Ten East is similar, and Michigan beat Ohio State and Penn State and lost only four to Michigan State.

Two SEC teams are in the playoffs for the second time. It almost feels right. There were many reasons for Lincoln Riley to coach USC, perhaps $100 million, but one was Oklahoma’s greedy decision to bolt the Big 12 to the SEC.

There was no reason for Oklahoma to head with SEC West, especially since the Sooners would be recruiting into the SEC region, a place that has no roots or clear advantage.

There were no cultural ties either. Why should Oklahoma be in the same league with Florida or Kentucky, especially when it affects thriving secondary sports like baseball and volleyball?

This could become an issue if and when TCU and Houston join the Pac-12, but Oklahoma’s SEC move was a successful result, and coaches like Riley don’t get much input.

Meanwhile, college football proceeds without a concrete expansion plan. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlesby said it was unlikely a plan would be approved until 2024, and that the CFP contract would expire in 2025. Any changes must be approved by the 10 convention commissioners and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick.

World Nation News Desk
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