Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Cincinnati Make College Football Playoff

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But, he said, “The first answer would be: Don’t leave people uncovered.” He added: “Let’s cover them, and then try to win some one-on-ones and get balls down. Because look, now, they’re going to throw and complete balls. They’re really good at doing that. At the end of the day, you have to put a body on a body and cover them. Some of the plays we gave were gifts.”

Cincinnati (13-0) experienced nowhere near as much heartburn on Saturday, when it beat Houston, 35-20, in the American’s league championship game. It had fixed a course for the playoff in October, when it went on the road and beat Notre Dame, 24-13.

The Bearcats have scored about 39 points per game and have averaged 429 yards of offense. The Cincinnati quarterback, Desmond Ridder, had a game this year that saw him throw three touchdown passes, run for a score and catch a throw for another touchdown.

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But the Cincinnati defense has been particularly sturdy and has allowed an average of 4 yards per play this season. Cincinnati’s opponents have scored a total of 25 touchdowns — the Bearcats have scored 70 — helping Cincinnati to lock down the conference lead for fewest points allowed per game (16.1).

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In an interview this season, Luke Fickell, Cincinnati’s coach, had suggested that his team would not be distracted by playoff debates and whether their squad should, or should not, make the field as a Group of 5 program.

“You control your own destiny,” he said ahead of the Notre Dame game. “I mean, your destiny might not be going to the playoff if you win every game. But you control it.”

The Group of 5’s playoff berth, and the final rankings, came about six months after some college sports executives publicly floated a proposal to expand the playoff to a dozen teams. But divergent views on some details, like automatic qualifiers, have left negotiators without a consensus — and with diminishing confidence that the format will change before the 2026 season.



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