Cincinnati is the fourth AAC team to go undefeated since '17 but the first to reach the CFPGETTY IMAGES
Cincinnati is the first Group of 5 team to make the CFP, and AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco feels a "certain gratification for our league" to be the first to break through the Power 5's stranglehold on the playoff field, according to Chris Vannini of THE ATHLETIC. Aresco noted UC making the CFP is a "legacy for the Bearcats, but also for our league." He said, "You know how hard we've worked on it all these years. ... I couldn't be more pleased. We've spent a decade building toward something like this. We won a national championship in basketball, we've been in the Final Four. But having a shot at the football championship has eluded us." Vannini noted the CFP is "likely to expand at some point in the next four to six years," whenever the sport's commissioners "finally come to an agreement." That is "likely to guarantee at least one spot for a Group of 5 team." However, the AAC finally making the original four-team field is a "legitimizing feeling for everyone." UCF had undefeated regular seasons in '17 and '18, with UC matching that in '20, and none "got close to the Playoff field." Aresco "railed against the committee time and time again," calling the process a "Power 5 invitational." He admitted that he "wasn't sure if a berth would ever happen." Now that it has, he is "ready to take advantage of the moment." Aresco: "This obviously gives everyone hope, and that's what you have to have. So we'll see what happens down the road. I don't know if it's a glass ceiling, whatever you want to call it. The fact that it has been broken will, I think, give everyone a certain level of encouragement" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/5).
THE CFP'S FIRST CINDERELLA: In Dallas, Chuck Carlton notes until now, the CFP had been "reserved for the best teams from the biggest conferences, differentiated only by how blue their blood was." While UC making the field "isn’t the equivalent of a No. 1 vs. 16 matchup in the NCAA basketball tournament," it "certainly brings the Cinderella element that the playoff had lacked." Aresco said, “I always felt that there would be an opportunity. You just never know. You had to keep at it. And I had to keep making my points about how good I thought we were, how good I thought our teams were.” Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team will play UC in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31, said, "It’s good that we have a balance in college football in terms of people who can be successful. ... It’s good for the fans that they all have hope that their team has an opportunity to get in the College Football Playoff” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/6).