Cincinnati ran up the score, looking to humiliate ECU. There’s no pretending they didn’t. Now, some may call this bad sportsmanship, and it probably is, but Cincinnati has every right to run up the score. More than having the right to run up the score, Cincinnati has a need to run up the score. A requirement, even.
No, this isn’t some grumpy, “If you don’t like it, stop them,” situations. This doesn’t even come down to the simple fact that the game lasts 60 minutes, not 45, and this is major competitive football.
This comes down to who Cincinnati is this season versus who ECU is this season.
The Bearcats are fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff, which their conference mate UCF couldn’t sniff despite a 25 game winning streak. They just fell in the polls despite a 28 point win against the defending conference champion. ECU, on the other hand, is a one win team. They’ve been beaten, and beaten badly all season and frankly for the last five seasons have been a doormat.
We all know the College Football Playoff Committee doesn’t spend their Friday nights watching Group of 5 football, even if it’s branded as Power 6 football. All they’ll see is the box score. If that box score doesn’t show annihilation against teams like ECU more and more Power 5 teams with a loss will jump past Cincinnati in the rankings.
It’s nothing against a rebuilding ECU program. It’s just the reality of the power structure inherit within college football. It’s a problem that goes beyond 2020 Cincinnati, or 2017-18 UCF, or even the College Football Playoff. In the BCS era Boise State needed to dominate the WAC to even play in a major bowl game. Hawaii in the June Jones Colt Brennan years couldn’t afford a bad first quarter or voters would go to bed under the assumption they weren’t as good as their record.
It’s reality that there are too many college football games to watch all of them. This means that voters are going to be paying attention to final scores and box scores for the games they haven’t watch. They’re going to assume the brands they know are better than new brands, because those known brands are the ones they actually saw.
We’re in a year where the G5 has its best shot ever to make the College Football Playoff. The PAC-12 is a mess. The Big 12 keeps beating itself. There’s room for a team like Cincinnati to make it, but they still need to impress the committee more than any G5 team before them. They still need to dodge the possibility of the SEC or ACC being a two bid conference this season.
So, apologies to teams like ECU who have become sacrificial lambs, but these blowouts are necessary.