The Bearcats improved to 12-0 and completed their second straight undefeated regular season with a 35-13 road win over East Carolina on Friday. In the win, Cincinnati took a 21-3 halftime lead and never looked back.
There were a few second-half moments where it looked like East Carolina could cut into Cincinnati's lead, but UC made the plays it needed to get out of Greenville with the win. The most notable came early in the fourth quarter when cornerback Sauce Gardner returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown.
— American Football (@American_FB) November 26, 2021
In the win, Desmond Ridder threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns with Alec Pierce leading the way with eight catches for 136 yards and a score. The defense, meanwhile, limited ECU to 282 yards, including just 54 rushing yards.
What’s next for Cincinnati?
Cincinnati, No. 4 in the most-recent College Football Playoff rankings, will move on to the American Athletic Conference title game where it will host No. 24 Houston at Nippert Stadium on Dec. 4. Houston lost its season opener to Texas Tech but hasn’t lost since. The Cougars, 10-1 on the year, will face UConn on Saturday.
With a win in the AAC title game, Cincinnati could become the first program from a Group of Five conference to reach the four-team playoff. Despite a 9-0 record after winning the AAC, the Bearcats were ranked No. 8 in the final CFP rankings of the 2020 season.
Amid the pandemic, Cincinnati was doomed by the lack of marquee non-conference games. This year, though, Cincinnati’s resume is boosted by its road win over Notre Dame. It’s the only loss for the Irish, who are 10-1 entering their season finale against Stanford and ranked No. 6 in the CFP rankings.
At this point, Georgia and a one-loss Big Ten champion (Ohio State or Michigan) have a clear route into the four-team playoff. Alabama, if it beats Georgia in the SEC title game (and doesn’t lose to Auburn on Saturday), would almost certainly be in as well, giving the SEC two playoff participants. There’s also an argument to be made for a one-loss Big 12 champion, namely No. 7 Oklahoma State, squeaking into the field.
All that said, Cincinnati is sitting in a good position as long as it continues winning.