If you didn't take the Cincinnati Bearcats seriously before, you sure better now. After a double-digit win on the road at No. 9 Notre Dame, Cincinnati may be in the best position of any Group of Five team in the College Football Playoff era to earn a chance to play for a national championship.
When people opined for the Bearcats to get into the dance last season, I wrote why that wasn't a realistic expectation, but more importantly why they hadn't earned that opportunity: they didn't play anybody. Now, it's a different story. Cincinnati went to Bloomington a couple weeks ago and knocked off Indiana before going into South Bend today and taking down the Fighting Irish.
As I mention in that linked blog, Houston would have been in the Playoff in 2016 had it simply taken care of its business in the AAC. The Cougars started the season with a win over No. 3 Oklahoma. They also thumped No. 3 Louisville later in the season. But Houston dropped games to SMU, Navy and Memphis to torpedo any chance at a Playoff spot.
No G5 team with CFP hopes had been willing to play a comparable non-conference schedule since — until Cincinnati this year. I'll say this unequivocally today: if the Bearcats go undefeated, they should probably be in the College Football Playoff.
There remains a lot to be seen in regards to what will happen to teams like Oregon and Oklahoma, but if that fourth spot is truly up for grabs, I'd have a hard time arguing against a 13-0 Cincinnati squad. Desmond Ridder is the real deal. The Bearcats' defense flies around the field. Cincy is right there in the mix for the best team in the country not named Alabama or Georgia.
They also talk that shit and back it up.
We've got a long time between now and December, but if you're someone who has been clamoring for a Group of Five team in the Playoff, this might just be the year for you.