Cincinnati is ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2009. How high can they climb, and most importantly, can they stay there?
Not since Brian Kelly's final year coaching the Bearcats in 2009 has Cincinnati been ranked a top 10 team, rising to #4 that season. Now Cincy finds themselves at #8 and looking at jumping up even further after this weekend with #7 Oklahoma State's game being postponed, and #2 Alabama playing #3 Georgia. Not to look past a Tulsa squad that took down UCF earlier this year, but Cincinnati has the gauntlet to run of SMU, Memphis, and Houston after this week before closing out the season with UCF and Temple. SMU is ranked #17 and is the third highest ranked Group of 5 team; should Cincy lose then BYU becomes the G5 favorite. Unlike BYU however, Cincinnati has the opportunity to redeem itself for any potential loss by winning the AAC Championship game.
Will Cincy survive undefeated though? I don't see the Bearcats making in out of the regular season without a loss. In fact, I see SMU in two weeks as their most likely loss. Shane Buechele has been on fire lately, and though the Cincy defense has been stellar, Desmond Ridder has not been consistent enough offensively to match the Mustangs output. Pounding the rock will be crucial to the Bearcats burning the clock and limiting Buechele's possessions. Again, this is not to look past Tulsa, a team that held a lead over #7 Oklahoma State until the very end of the game and then took down #11 UCF. Suffice to say, they're dangerous. I still believe Cincy can make the NY6 Bowl but their defense is going to have to play lights out for the rest of the season. Their schedule is far superior to their biggest Group of 5 threat BYU, and even with one loss, Cincinnati will still be playing on New Years.