CINCINNATI, OH – In front of arguably the biggest on-campus crowd in school history, the third-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats looked the part of a College Football Playoff team in a convincing 35-20 win over the 21st-ranked Houston Cougars.

Cincinnati, who came into the AAC title game following a 35-13 win over East Carolina, and questions regarding the strength of their conference schedule as well as their worthiness of being admitted into the four-team CFP.

Robert D. Cobb | INSC Media & Photography

Thanks to a balanced rushing attack led by tailback Jerome Ford, who finished the game with 18 carries for 191 yards and two touchdowns, and a passing game led by QB Desmond Ridder, who passed for 190 yards and three touchdowns, the Bearcats were able to break open a tight game, that was led by the Bearcats, 14-13 at halftime, and pull away in dominating fashion late.

In the first half, both teams played a relative tight game that saw Cincinnati miss a 23-yard field goal, that would have extended the Bearcats’ lead going into halftime. If not for Ford’s 79-yard touchdown run to give UC the lead following a Cougar touchdown, this could have been a very different game.

Robert D. Cobb | INSC Media & Photography

At 7:38 in the third quarter, Ford burst down the left sideline for another long touchdown run of 42 yards to give Cincinnati to clinch the AAC title and send the 37,000-plus packed into ancient Nippert Stadium into a frenzy.

While Ridder didn’t look Heisman-level sharp, he looked efficient in playing smart football and properly distributing the ball where it needed to go, in helping keep the aggressive Houston defense at bay, that only managed to sack Ridder once.

Robert D. Cobb | INSC Media & Photography

With their win, the Bearcats clinched the first CFP appearance for a non-Power 5 program, and effectively put an end to the conversation of teams not being able to play in the playoff.

As Bearcat fans began to storm the field, chanting “CFP, CFP, CFP!”, and victory all but clinched, once could sense the Bearcats made a solid case for their admittance into college football’s Final Four, normally reserved for the elite Power 5 bluebloods, now getting an unexpected party crasher in the scrappy and feisty Cincinnati squad from the plucky AAC.

Robert D. Cobb : INSC Media & Photography

Thoughts of facing defending national champion Alabama were the furthest thing on the minds of long-suffering UC fans and alumni as they enjoyed the program’s sweetest, most program-defining victory, all night long.

With their win, the Bearcats ended any non-Power 5 discussion for good.


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