Ahmad Gardner uc football

On Dec. 31, the top four teams – according to the College Football Playoff (CFP) Committee - will compete in the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl for the chance at the National Championship game. In the meantime, the CFP committee will rank their top 25 weekly. The University of Cincinnati (UC) Bearcats football team has been ranked No. 6 in the first CFP poll, four spots lower than the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll.

"I would say the Committee has great respect for Cincinnati," CFP Committee Chairman Gary Barta said. "When you look at their schedule after [Notre Dame], who else did they beat? That was the other question."

Some say disrespect has been shown in the direction of Cincinnati from the jump, which confirms the question that has been on College Football fans' minds all season: Are the Cincinnati Bearcats really in control of their destiny?

Even though Cincinnati is the only top-ten program that has beaten a top-ten team and remains undefeated, they still find themselves outside the top five in the eyes of the CFP Committee. Georgia, Alabama, Michigan State, Oregon and Ohio State are the five schools that find themselves ranked higher than Cincinnati, and three of them have losses. 

So, if one loss isn't good enough to hurt the contention hopes of multiple programs compared to, say, three undefeated teams ranked in the bottom half of the top ten, what will?

The undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats, who have arguably the second-best win out of all ranked teams on the road against Notre Dame, could go undefeated and finish with barely a top-five ranking in the country. Unfortunately for Bearcat fans, what is uncontrollable is uncontrollable, which means a lot of dominoes are going to have to fall in the right direction to land the Bearcats in one of those two Bowl games. 

In terms of the Georgia Bulldogs, the path couldn't be clearer. ESPN has given Georgia a 93% chance to make the College Football Playoff. With four easy regular-season games remaining, all the Bulldogs have to worry about is Alabama in the SEC championship. Even with a loss to the Crimson Tide in that game, the CFP Committee will have a hard time fielding a top four without Georgia's name in it. 

"The reality is this: if you're a Cincinnati fan, you're pulling for the Georgia Bulldogs to win the rest of their games, including the SEC Championship that would eliminate Alabama," ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on ESPN.

Speaking of Alabama, their one loss to No. 14 Texas A&M wasn't enough to keep them outside the top two in the eyes of the CFP. Alabama has a bit of a tougher schedule remaining with No. 13 Auburn to close out the regular season, giving Cincinnati fans a reason to be Auburn's number one supporter come that week. Even if Alabama loses to Auburn in that game, the CFP Committee will still likely be persuaded to leave them in the top four. 

A two-loss Alabama brings more monetary value to the National Championship Game than Cincinnati, meaning two losses won't cut it. The best chance to see Alabama out of contention comes by losses to both Auburn and Georgia, who they are expected to meet in the SEC Championship. 

If both of those defeats don't happen and they finish with only one or two losses, expect the Crimson Tide to be competing on New Year's Eve for a chance at the National Championship. 

Coming in at No. 3 in CFP's first rankings is Michigan State, fresh off a win over bitter rival Michigan. What does Michigan State have going for them? They are undefeated. The good news? They aren't Alabama. Losses will blemish the Spartans significantly more than it would the Crimson Tide, especially if it comes at the hands of any team not named Ohio State. 

Michigan State still has Ohio State and Penn State on their regular-season schedule and could potentially match up with Wisconsin or Iowa in the Big 10 Championship Game. The question that will need to be answered by the CFP Committee when talking about Michigan State: Does a loss to Ohio State keep them out of the top four, if it is their only loss?

More bad news for Cincinnati fans: it doesn't. Michigan State will need to lose two games to be knocked below the Bearcats and out of contention. Ohio State is simply too massive of a powerhouse in College Football this season to consider a loss to them detrimental. 

It is hard to believe that any scenario doesn't result in Ohio State finishing within the top four, mainly because of their offensive prowess, and their name. 

While it is unlikely that the Buckeyes lose another game this season, it's not impossible. They play Michigan State, Michigan, and potentially the best team from the Big 10 West. If a loss gets handed to the Buckeyes by anyone other than Michigan State, expect them to be out. If the L is dished out by Michigan State, though, the CFP Committee will have a tough decision on their hands.

"[The Big 10] potentially works itself out with one of those (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State) surviving as a Big 10 Champion," Herbstreit said on ESPN. 

The Oregon Ducks and Oklahoma Sooners make an interesting case because winning out makes it difficult for the CFP Committee to leave them out of the top four. Oregon has the best win of any top 25 programs in the country over Ohio State in The Shoe, and Oklahoma has two more ranked matchups remaining this season.

If either team loses a single game, consider their championship hopes over. If both win out, the Bearcats will have no choice but to watch the National Championship Trophy slip from their fingertips. Bearcat fans should be rooting for the Ducks and the Sooners to lose at least one game in the coming weeks.

All of this is to say that they are out if the University of Cincinnati does not win every single game from now until the rest of the season. They can only be in control of their performance on the field. The national spotlight will be brighter than ever while it's shining down on Nippert Stadium, so the Bearcat athletes will need to take the remainder of the season one game at a time and focus on the game at hand. 

"It's not as much as to ignore it, it's as much as don't let it change who you are and how you do things," head coach Luke Fickell advised his team about the media.