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Cincinnati Still #4 in Penultimate CFP Rankings

The Bearcats are seemingly one victory away from a playoff berth

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The College Football Playoff Committee released their latest rankings on Tuesday evening ahead of this weekend’s conference championship games. There were no real surprises towards the top of the rankings following this past weekend’s results.

With the Cincinnati Bearcats completing their regular season with a 12-0 record thanks to last Friday’s 35-13 defeat of East Carolina, they maintain their ranking of #4 that they achieved in last week’s rankings.

Cincinnati’s next opponent will be the #21 Houston Cougars at 4 PM ET on Saturday, December 4 on ABC in the American Athletic Conference Championship.

“Winning a conference championship is an additional part of our protocol that the committee follows when we put together our rankings,” CFP Selection Committee chair Gary Barta said on Tuesday. “It’s not the only factor we consider but it is an important piece of information. And obviously we’ll be able to review that for the first time once the champ games are all done.”

With the departure of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly for the LSU job, Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell has been brought up several times when considering Kelly’s potential replacement. If Fickell were to leave Cincinnati for some reason immediately following a victory in the AAC championship, that could potentially affect their chances of being selected for the playoff. Barta added some thoughts about this on Tuesday evening.

“After the championships are all played and for our final ranking, referring to the committee, does have in our protocol the ability to consider any players that won’t be available or any coaches that won’t be available and then factor that in along with our other protocol, our other criteria...When the championships are done and if anybody is in our conversations that has a player that won’t be available, and the committee deems that it’s likely it will affect the outcome, but that’s the words in the protocol, then that can be discussed and can be considered.”

Barta went on to add that, essentially, members of the playoff committee may make presumptions about how teams will perform without certain coaches or players should they make the playoff.

“There might be one committee [member] who thinks, hey, this team might be more motivated with their new coach. Or I’ve seen games where a quarterback who starts or running back that starts, they put in the next person and the team actually plays better. So it’s a piece of information that the management group has said the committee is able to use but all 13 members may end up using it slightly differently when they place their vote,” Barta stated.

Barta was also asked specifically about the potential of Cincinnati being left out of the playoff even if they are able to secure a convincing win against Houston on Saturday. He offered the following response.

“I’m consistent in telling you that we as a committee don’t project. So they’re going to play a champ game against Houston. Georgia and Alabama are going to play. Michigan and Iowa are going to play. Oklahoma State and Baylor. We’re going to watch all those games. And then until that occurs, until the last game is played, we won’t be having any conversations about who is going to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, et cetera, and that’s the way we go about it. So until those games are played, there’s really no way to predict who is going to go into those spots.”

BYU’s inclusion at #12 means their shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game is not dead, but it’s a long shot. If #9 Baylor loses, then the Bears likely will drop below BYU. In which case, BYU would need need Oklahoma State to win but not be in the College Football Playoff in order to best position themselves to make it to one of the New Year’s Six games. If that sounds confusing, welcome to this era of college football.

Also of note for Group of Five enthusiasts, San Diego State comes in at #19. The Aztecs face Utah State on Saturday, December 4 at 3 PM ET on Fox for the Mountain West title. Aztec head coach Brady Hoke was named the league’s Coach of the Year earlier this week. If Cincinnati does not win the American Conference Championship, San Diego State could still get in to the New Year’s Six, but it is also a long shot based on their current resume.

NCAA Football: Boise State at San Diego State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Sun Belt West champion Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, coming in at #24, will play East division champions Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Championship game on Saturday, at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN. This game will serve as head coach Billy Napier’s final home game with Louisiana before he officially moves into a new role as head football coach at the University of Florida. It is undetermined if Napier will coach the Cajuns’ bowl game.