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Cincinnati provides path for fellow Group of 5 to crash CFP

Cincinnati making the CFP field is a historic moment for teams outside P5 and the first true opportunity for a CinderellaGETTY IMAGES

Cincinnati "beat a system designed to keep them out" by qualifying for the CFP, and the team's inclusion in college football's final four is a "cathartic moment" for the sport, according to Rodger Sherman of THE RINGER. While the sport has "always prided itself on being chaotic and unpredictable," it has "long been impossible for most of the teams in the FBS to compete for national titles." Fans now can "stop focusing" on UC being a "pawn in a debate in which they had no control." If UC loses to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl by double digits, it will "represent yet another boring semifinal" that is no different from previous years. Sherman: "But if Cincinnati wins? It will be the first true Cinderella in College Football Playoff history" (THERINGER.com, 12/5). THE ATHLETIC's Stewart Mandel wrote he "can’t wait to see the Bearcats on the biggest of stages." Mandel: "To the skeptics who say they’ll get destroyed by Alabama: Hey, at least it’s a change from Michigan State (2015), Washington (2016), Oklahoma (2018) and Notre Dame (2020) getting destroyed in a semifinal by Alabama" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/5).

BREAK ON THROUGH: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes UC making the playoff field is a "historic moment not only for the Bearcats but also for every team that does not own a membership to the exclusive P5 Lawn and Country Club." This is "evidence you can force your way onto the grounds." Whatever else happens this season, UC and every player and coach associated with this program "should rejoice" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/6). In L.A., Mark Whicker writes UC's inclusion "repudiated the last plausible criticism of the CFP." A Group of Five conference "can indeed win it all." While it may take a "little extra ... it’s not a closed shop" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/6). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote, "Here we go, a chance, at last, to see exactly what a very, very good team from outside the sports’ historical power construct can actually contend for a title" (12/5).

CARRYING A UNIQUE PRESSURE: ESPN's Greg McElroy said UC carries a "bigger burden than any other team in College Football Playoff history because there have been naysayers throughout the course of the last eight years saying the Group of 5 doesn’t belong.” If UC "goes out and lays an egg, they're going to prove all the naysayers correct that popped up out of nowhere in last eight years." McElroy: "They have to play well and they’re have to do so with a tremendous amount of pressure on their shoulders.” ESPN’s Matt Barrie said if UC gets “their doors blown off, that could impact College Football Playoff expansion.” McElroy noted the Cotton Bowl is a "monumental game for the programs that are viewed as slightly beneath … the Power 5” (“Rankings Reaction,” ESPN, 12/5). ESPN’s Heather Dinich said if UC can upset Alabama “just this one time, imagine what it’ll do for the Group of 5 moving forward, especially in an expanded playoff” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 12/6). 

NO REAL DRAMA THIS YEAR: In Knoxville, Blake Toppmeyer writes after "weeks of controversy," the CFP committee "enjoyed an obvious selection" yesterday for the four-team field. Toppmeyer: "Finally, a spicy four-team bracket after years of the playoff growing stale." It includes two first-time playoff qualifiers, "true blue blood" in Alabama and a "Group of Five darling" in UC. However, for the sake of future Group of Five playoff candidates, UC "cannot collapse under the weight of this opportunity" (KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL, 12/6). In DC, Chuck Culpepper writes under the header, "Turns Out There Was No Need To Fuss Over The College Football Playoff Selections" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/6).

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