No. 5 Cincinnati needs an impressive win over SMU in the CFP hunt

No. 5 Cincinnati needs an impressive win over SMU in the CFP hunt

No. 5 Cincinnati could snatch a spot in the American Athletic Conference Championship game by defeating visiting SMU on Saturday.

Of course, in terms of the Bearcats (10-0, 6-0 AAC), the Mustang (8-2, 4-2) presents the next hurdle in the larger pursuit: trying to become the first Group of Five to earn the College Football Extension berth since the standings began in 2014.

After SMU, the Bearcats finished the regular season in East Carolina and could face #24 in Houston in a conference title match on December 4.

“We have a really tough game this week. We have a really tough game the next week,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said on Tuesday. “If we’re lucky enough to get a third chance, we’re going to have another really tough chance that’s going to give us every chance we want, and I really believe in that.

“I know you have to be in the world to have any chance, and all we care about is that we’re in the world, and now we have to take care of business.”

Cincinnati can’t afford a slip. Not being one of the Power 5 schools leaves the Bearcats not only needing to win but also to do it admirably.

SMU looms as a challenge because its attack rate is 41.6 points per game, and sixth nationally. Leading the Mustangs is Tanner quarterback Mordechai, who fired for 377 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-28 win over the UCF last week to end a two-game losing streak.

Those two losses – 44-37 for Houston and 28-25 for Memphis – were on the way, and the Mustang would face another hostile environment on the Bearcats’ bigger day.

“If you want to win a championship, you have to play well on the road. I think that’s the deal,” said SMU coach Sonny Dykes. “There are all these things that you have to do, and I think playing well on the road is one of them. If we want to try to keep our hopes in the championship, we have to play well on Saturday and win his game.

“Our guys are excited,” Dykes added. “They like challenges, and obviously that’s a challenge, which is a good metric for us to see where we’re at.”

32 Cincinnati seniors will be honored including quarterback Desmond Ryder, who has a 41-5 record as a rookie.

Last week, in a 45-28 win in South Florida, Ryder threw two touchdown passes. The second is his 79th career tie-breaker with Bearcats quarterback coach Gino Guidogli for the most in the school’s history.

The senior class is 41-6, and Year 5 seniors are 45-14 with Ryder Athletic 24-0 at Nippert Stadium.

“There are some special people who have done some special things, and I don’t just mean winning football matches,” said Fickl. “I really mean kind of change the locker room and create expectations, create fraternity and create a lot of amazing things.

“Now, they have to be able to balance the feelings. It’s a huge, huge game.”

–Field Media Level

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