For the first time in the eight-year history of the College Football Playoff, a team from a Group of 5 conference has cracked the top four in the selection committee’s rankings, which would assure it a spot in one of the two semifinals games on New Year’s Eve.
Cincinnati, one of just three undefeated teams left in the FBS, is ranked No. 4 in the latest rankings that were released on Tuesday night, behind No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Alabama.
Michigan is No. 5, followed by Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Ole Miss and Oklahoma. The selection committee’s final rankings will be released on Dec. 5.
The Bearcats jumped one spot after Oregon, which was No. 3 in last week’s rankings, lost 38-7 at Utah on Saturday. The Bearcats blasted SMU 48-14 at home in one of their most impressive performances of the season. Cincinnati plays on the road at East Carolina on Friday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and ESPN App) and then will play No. 24 Houston in the AAC championship game on Dec. 4.
“We’ve got a big one this week, we’ve got to go on the road, and it’s always difficult on the road,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell told reporters on Tuesday. “I think that if you look at our league, and how teams have fared on the road, it’s been really, really tough, and ECU has been playing really well. I think that this is a really good football team that is hitting their stride at the end of the season.”
Ohio State, which suffered its only loss of the season to Oregon at home on Sept. 11, moved ahead of Alabama, the defending national champion, after another impressive performance this past weekend. The Buckeyes routed Michigan State 56-7 at home, scoring touchdowns in each of their seven first-half possessions. Ohio State has won nine consecutive games heading into Saturday’s road contest at Michigan.
The Crimson Tide dropped one spot from last week’s ranking after another so-so performance in a 42-35 victory against Arkansas at home. It was Alabama’s second close call in the last three games; it defeated struggling LSU 20-14 at home on Nov. 6.
Oregon and Wake Forest fell eight spots after ugly losses last week, while Michigan State dropped five. Utah moved up four spots, and Clemson joined the rankings for the first time after a 48-27 win against the Demon Deacons.
Undefeated UTSA remained No. 22.