At long last, the fourth-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats were handsomely rewarded for their undefeated regular season on Sunday afternoon, as they became the first non-Power 5 team in history to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. A national semifinal matchup against top-ranked Alabama awaits them.
But if sixth-ranked Ohio State -- which lost the Big Ten East title to archrival second-ranked Michigan on Nov. 27 -- hadn't faltered at home against 14th-ranked Oregon in mid-September, CBS Sports college writer Chip Patterson believes that Cincinnati wouldn't have reached the New Year's Eve playoff.
"I think we would've had two SEC teams and two Big Ten teams -- Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan. And then what do you do about rematches?" Patterson told The DA Show on Monday. "If Ohio State hadn't lost to Oregon and every other result had been the same -- including the loss to Michigan, Michigan goes on to beat Iowa -- Ohio State is a one-loss team that has looked like one of the best teams in the entire country.
"C.J. Stroud, billion yards passing, all of these impressive wins. The Michigan State score is exactly the same, then Ohio State would've been a one-loss, non-conference champion that looked awesome, being compared with a 13-0 Cincinnati. I wonder if Ohio State would've won that battle... We have talked about Cincinnati since July. I'm just happy, truly, that we got to this place where Cincinnati's in. We got it over with..."
The Bearcats, which haven't lost a regular season game since 2019, took care of business in the American championship game on Saturday, defeating 20th-ranked Houston, 35-20. Senior quarterback Desmond Ridder completed 11 of 17 passes for three touchdowns, while junior halfback Jerome Ford rushed for a whopping 187 yards on 18 carries with two scores. The history-making win clinched the team's second straight AAC title.
Cincinnati (13-0) and Alabama (12-1) are scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 31, in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Although the SEC champion Crimson Tide are listed as overwhelming 14-point favorites, their fourth-ranked scoring offense (42.2 average points) could face issues against the Bearcats' fifth-ranked scoring defense (16.1 average points).
According to FiveThirtyEight projections, Cincinnati has a 29-percent chance to defeat Alabama and just a 9-percent chance to win the national title game. The entire college football conversation between Patterson and DA can be accessed in the audio player above.
You can follow The DA Show on Twitter @DAonCBS and @CBSSportsRadio, and Tom Hanslin @TomHanslin.