Historic Playoff: Alabama-Cincinnati, Michigan-Georgia | WGN 720 radio

IRVING, TX (AP) While the college football playoffs evolved from disconnected bowls at BCS to the current four-team playoffs, they never really embraced the underdog like the NCAA basketball tournament does. .

From Tulane to Utah, Boise State to TCU and then to UCF, upstarts have occasionally had the chance to play blue blood in a big bowl game, but they never entered the playoffs with a legitimate opportunity. to win a national championship.

College football finally has its first Cinderella team: Cincinnati shattered the glass ceiling.

The Bearcats will face Alabama at the Cotton Bowl on New Years Eve after being selected for the college football playoffs on Sunday. Michigan will face Georgia in the Orange Bowl semi-finals on December 31, and the winners will play for the national championship on January 10 in Indianapolis.

Fourth-seeded Cincinnati are the first team to reach the CFP from a non-Power Five conference in the eight-year history of this postseason format. The Bearcats (13-0) have won the American Athletic Conference and are heading to the playoffs as the only undefeated team in the country.

“It’s a historic day. It really is. In the world of sport, that’s a thing of the past, ”said AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco. “It’s probably something a lot, a lot of people never thought they would see.”

Previously, no team in a so-called Group of Five conference had ever come close to qualifying for the playoffs.

“We don’t want to carry the flag of the non-grand schools, so to speak. We just want to be us, ”Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said.

When the Bowl Championship Series began in 1998, Tulane went undefeated at Conference USA and didn’t even secure a spot in any of the glitzy bowl games. Former Tulane chairman Scott Cowen was among the first to attack the BCS as an exclusionary cartel.

Under then-coach Urban Meyer, Utah went undefeated as a member of Mountain West in 2004 and reached the Fiesta Bowl, but could only play an average Pittsburgh team. , which meant the Utes had no chance of finishing No.1.

Boise State made a mark by being a potential BCS breaker during his time at the Western Athletic Conference, winning a remarkable Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma in 2007. TCU was in Mountain West when he won a Rose Bowl against the Wisconsin in 2010.

Utah and TCU ended up being picked up by the Power Five conferences. If you can’t beat them, ask them to join you.

The playoffs doubled the number of teams that had a chance of winning the national title from two to four in 2014, but that didn’t seem to help the little guys.

UCF won 25 consecutive matches in 2017 and 2018 and have never done better than eighth place in the selection committee standings. The Knights have gone so far as to declare themselves National Champions after being the only major college football team to finish the 2017 season undefeated.

Cincinnati laid the groundwork for this year’s race by going undefeated in the regular season last year before losing to Georgia on a late field goal in the Peach Bowl.

Aresco admitted that this race had at times been bittersweet for him. Cincinnati, along with UCF and Houston, will soon be leaving the American for the Big 12.

The Bearcats made history with little debate. Playoff Selection Committee chairman Gary Barta said there was strong consensus for Cincinnati at No.4 ahead of No.5 Notre Dame, who suffered just one loss – at home against the Bearcats in early October. Ohio State was sixth.

“It will be a real challenge for us all around,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban.

The Bearcats might not have been so comfortable on the pitch if things had turned out differently in the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday. Oklahoma State, which was No. 5 in the CFP standings before the game, almost scored a touchdown in the last minute of its loss to Baylor.

Saban, who noted he played at Kent State during the Mid-American Conference, said Cincinnati’s achievement is a positive development for the sport.

“I absolutely think everyone who participates in Level I college football should feel like they have the opportunity to make the playoffs,” said Saban.

This is the third time that two teams from the same conference have participated in the PSC and the second time that this has happened with the South East Conference. Years ago, Alabama beat Georgia in overtime to win the national title.

While conference leaders plan to expand the playoffs from four to 12 teams as early as 2024, only two Power Five leagues will be represented this season: the SEC and Big Ten. The Atlantic Coast Conference failed for the first time. The Big 12 have been shut out for the second season in a row and the Pac-12 for the sixth time will not have a playoff team.

The other big bowl games have also been set up:

Michigan State (10-2) vs. ACC champion Pitt (11-2) at the Peach Bowl on December 30.

Notre Dame (11-1) vs. Oklahoma State (11-2) at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan.1.

The Pac-12 champion Utah (10-3) vs. Ohio State (10-2) at the Rose Bowlon on January 1.

Mississippi (10-2) vs. Baylor (11-2) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.

Cincinnati’s payoff for making history comes a clash with the defending National Champions at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Crimson Tide are in the playoffs for the seventh time after handing Georgia their first loss of the season in the SEC title game on Saturday.

Alabama (12-1) seemed to be at a loss to be eliminated from the playoffs before their game against Georgia. Instead, Bryce Young and The Tide lit up the Bulldogs’ vaunted defense to earn the seed.

The Saban Dynasty in Alabama has won three playoff championships and three BCS titles since 2009.

Georgia (12-1) managed to stay on the pitch as a third seed, becoming the second team to lose their conference title game and advance to the playoffs. Notre Dame did the same last season, when she lost a rematch with Clemson in her only season playing in the ACC, a move prompted by pandemic-altered schedules.

The Bulldogs will make their second CFP appearance when they meet second-seeded Michigan (12-1) in the Orange Bowl. Coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are in the playoffs for the first time after winning the Big Ten for the first time since 2004. Michigan, which went 2-4 last season, is also the first team to make the playoffs. playoffs after being unranked Top 25 AP preseason.

Follow Ralph D. Russo on https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen on http://www.appodcasts.com

More AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25. Sign up for the AP College Football Newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

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