Historic playoffs: Alabama-Cincinnati, Michigan-Georgia

IRVING, Texas – As college football’s postseason evolved from shoddy games against the BCS to the current four-team knockout, it never really accepted the underdog like the NCAA basketball league does.

From Tulane to Utah, Boise State to TCU and then UCF, the newcoms sometimes get the chance to play green in a big game, but they never head into the post-season with a legitimate chance. to win the national championship.

College football finally got its first Cinderella team: Cincinnati broke the glass ceiling.

The Bearcats will play Alabama in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve after being selected to the College Qualifiers on Sunday. Michigan will face Georgia in the Orange Bowl semi-finals on December 31, and the winners will play for the national championship on January 10 in Indianapolis.


Fourth seed Cincinnati is the first team to reach CFP from a non-Power Five conference in the eight-year history of the post-season format. The Bearcats (13-0) won the American Athletics Conference and advanced into the post-season as the only undefeated team in the country.

“It was a historic day. It really is like that. In the world of sports, this is history,” said AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco. “This is something many people probably never thought they would see.”

Previously, no team from the so-called Group of Five conference had even come close to reaching the knockout stages.

“We don’t want to carry the flag for schools that are not big, so to speak. We just want to be us,” said Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell.

When the Bowl Championship Series began in 1998, Tulane was undefeated in Conference USA and didn’t even win a spot in one of the blitz games. Former Tulane President Scott Cowen was one of the first to attack the BCS as an exclusion gang.


Under coach Urban Meyer, Utah went undefeated as a member of the Mountain West in 2004 and made it to the Fiesta Bowl, but only had to play against such a Pittsburgh team, meaning the Utes didn’t have a shot to finish in 1st place.

Boise State has made a name for itself from being a potential BCS during its time at the Western Athletics Conference, winning the remarkable Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma in 2007. TCU in Mountain West won the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin in 2010.

Utah and TCU wrapped up the Power Five conference. If you can’t beat them, ask them to join you.

The knockout stage doubled the number of teams that had a chance of winning the national championship from two to four in 2014, but it didn’t seem to help the little boys.

UCF won 25 straight games in 2017 and 18 and never had a better record than eighth in the selection committee rankings. The Knights have gone so far as to declare themselves national champions after they were the only team in major college football to finish the 2017 season unbeaten.


Cincinnati laid the groundwork for this season by going undefeated last season before losing to Georgia with a late goal in the Peach Bowl.

Aresco admits this match leaves him feeling bittersweet at times. Cincinnati, along with UCF and Houston, will soon be leaving the US to join the Big 12.

The Bearcats made history with very little controversy. Playoff selection committee chairman Gary Barta said there was a strong consensus for Cincinnati in fourth place against Notre Dame No.5, a team that had only one loss – at home to the Bearcats in early October. Ohio ranked sixth.

“This is going to be a real challenge for us in every aspect, shape and form,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban.

The Bearcats may not be as comfortable on the field as they are, but things look different at Saturday’s Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma State, 5th in the CFP standings when it came to the game, fell a little short of scoring a last-minute lead after a loss to Baylor.


Saban, who noted he played at Kent State during the Central American Conference, said Cincinnati’s achievement was a positive development for the sport.

“I absolutely think that everyone who participates in the college football league should feel like they have a chance of making it to the knockout stages,” said Saban.

This is the third time two teams from the same congress have participated in the CFP and the second time it has taken place with the Southeast Conference. Years ago, Alabama beat Georgia in extra time to win the national championship.

As conference leaders consider expanding the knockout round from 4 to 12 teams As early as 2024, only two Power Five tournaments will be represented this season: the SEC and the Big Ten. The Atlantic Coast Conference was missed for the first time. The Big 12 have been closed for the second consecutive season, and the Pac-12 for the sixth time will be without a team in the playoffs.


Other big bowl games are also set up:

Michigan State (10-2) vs ACC Champion Pitt (11-2) in Peach Bowl on December 30.

Notre Dame Cathedral (11-1) vs Oklahoma State (11-2) in the Fiesta Bowl on January 1st.

Pac-12 Champion Utah (10-3) vs Ohio State (10-2) in Rose Bowl on January 1st.

Mississippi (10-2) vs Baylor (11-2) in Sugar Bowl on January 1st.

Cincinnati’s reward for making history is a match against the defending national champions at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.


The Crimson Tide is in the playoffs for the seventh time after handing Georgia its first defeat of the season in the SEC title game on Saturday.

Alabama (12-1) looks set to lose out of the playoffs heading into the game against Georgia. Instead, Bryce Young and Tide lit up the Bulldogs’ vaunted defense to claim the top seed.

Saban’s Alabama dynasty has won three playoff championships and three BCS titles since 2009.

Georgia (12-1) managed to stay on the field as the third seed, becoming the second team to lose a championship game and make it to the playoffs. Notre Dame did the same last season, losing a rematch with Clemson in her only season playing in the ACC, a move prompted by the pandemic’s shifting schedule.

The Bulldogs will get their second CFP appearance when they meet second seed Michigan (12-1) in the Orange Bowl. Coaches Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are in the playoffs for the first time after winning the Big Ten for the first time since 2004. Michigan, which lost 2-4 last season, is also the first team to make it to the playoffs. after not being ranked in the pre-season Top 25 AP.



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Huynh Nguyen

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