CFP: Bearcats break through and top-seeded Tide awaits

Dec 4, 2021, 9:23 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2021, 11:25 am
Alabama head coach Nick Saban waves to fans after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA col...

Alabama head coach Nick Saban waves to fans after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Georgia and Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. Alabama won 41-24. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Cincinnati is the first outsider to make the College Football Playoff. Alabama is the standard bearer.

The two will meet in a semifinal game deep in the heart of Texas on New Year’s Eve in the Cotton Bowl.

American Athletic Conference champion Cincinnati (13-0), the only remaining undefeated team, was fourth in the CFP rankings released Sunday to become the first non-Power Five confernce team to make the final four. Top-seeded Alabama (12-1) is making its seventh appearance in the eight seasons of the four-team format and will play its 12th playoff game.

“I can’t say that I’ve studied much of anything that they’ve done, but obviously just watching from afar this year at times, you know they’re a great football team,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said of the Crimson Tide on ESPN. “They’ve got great talent across the board.”

The Bearcats finished fourth even with only two victories this season over Top 25 teams, though one of those was 24-13 on Oct. 2 at Notre Dame. That was the only loss this season for the Fighting Irish, who were fifth in the CFP, the first team left out of the playoff. Cincinnati won the AAC title game Saturday 35-20 over Houston, which had an 11-game winning streak.

“We certainly think Cincinnati belongs in the playoffs and they’re a really good team, based on their resume, who they beat, whether it’s Notre Dame, Indiana,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN. “We have to have the proper respect.”

Alabama has won six national titles under Saban, three of those coming in the short CFP era. This is the fifth time the Crimson Tide is the No. 1 seed.

The Tide won the SEC championship game 41-24 over previously unbeaten Georgia, which is the No. 3 seed and will play Big Ten champion Michigan in the Orange Bowl, the other playoff semifinal. The championship game is Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

This will be the third CFP semifinal game Alabama will play inside AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, after winning the first two during national championship seasons. The Tide beat Michigan State 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl six years ago, and last Jan. 1 beat Notre Dame 31-14 in a Rose Bowl game that was relocated from California because of the pandemic.

It is Alabama’s ninth Cotton Bowl overall, though that semifinal shutout of the Spartans on Dec. 31, 2015, was its first in 10 years.

Cincinnati is playing in the Cotton Bowl for the first time, but will playing in its second New Year’s Six game in 2021. Last New Year’s Day, the Bearcats lost 24-21 in the Peach Bowl when Georgia kicked a 53-yard field goal with three seconds left in the game in Atlanta.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) stands on the field during an NFL football...
Associated Press

Browns’ Garrett recovering from crash, unclear if he’ll play

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns defensive end Myles Garrett stayed home to rest and recover from injuries suffered in a car crash as his status for Cleveland’s game on Sunday at Atlanta remains in doubt. Garrett was not at the team’s facility Wednesday, two days after the All-Pro rolled over his Porsche in a single-car […]
1 day ago
An investigator works the scene where multiple people were shot near Roxborough High School in Phil...
Associated Press

Police search for 2 suspects in high school football ambush

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police searched Wednesday for at least two people they believe were behind a shooting outside a Philadelphia high school that killed one 14-year-old and wounded four other teenagers after a football scrimmage. Nicholas Elizalde, of suburban Havertown, was killed in the ambush as he and the other teens, all football players, walked […]
1 day ago
Shale Harris, 15, throws a pass as she tries out for the Redondo Union High School girls flag footb...
Associated Press

California eyes making girls flag football a school sport

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Elsa Morin gripped the football and launched a perfect spiral. Then the 17-year-old dodged in and out of cones and yanked the flag hanging from another girl’s belt for a key defensive play. “Something about football just gets me really excited,” said the senior at Southern California’s Redondo Union High […]
1 day ago
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against...
Associated Press

Wilson cleared by doctors, will start for Jets at Pittsburgh

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson is back under center for the New York Jets. Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday the second-year quarterback will make his season debut at Pittsburgh on Sunday “if all goes well this week” at practice, six weeks after having knee surgery. “Absolutely, yeah,” Saleh said. Wilson had been ramping […]
1 day ago
Denmark's Kasper Dolberg, second left, celebrates scoring with teammates Christian Eriksen, center ...
Associated Press

Denmark to wear World Cup jerseys that protest host Qatar

GENEVA (AP) — Denmark will wear team jerseys at the World Cup that protest the human rights record of host nation Qatar, with a black option unveiled Wednesday to honor migrant workers who died during construction work for the tournament. “The color of mourning,” kit manufacturer Hummel said in a post on Instagram releasing the […]
1 day ago
Australia's Lauren Jackson poses for a selfie with a young fan following their win over Japan at th...
Associated Press

Lauren Jackson, Aussie fans enjoying her World Cup finale

SYDNEY (AP) — Thirty minutes after Australia knocked off Canada in the preliminary round of the women’s basketball World Cup, Lauren Jackson was back on the court signing autographs and posing for selfies with hundreds of adoring fans. They couldn’t get enough of the Australian star and she reciprocated the love, not wanting to leave […]
1 day ago
CFP: Bearcats break through and top-seeded Tide awaits