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Guilbeau: Cincinnati Did Not Want To Carry Flag For Non-Power Fives, And That’s A Good Thing

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Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell kept repeating something during the month-long build-up of his College Football Playoff semifinal game against No. 1 Alabama Friday.

“For us and our program, we don’t want to think we’re carrying some flag for the non-big schools, so to speak,” he said.

That ended up being a very good strategy as Cincinnati, the first non-Power Five conference school to reach the CFP, dropped the flag and the ball from beginning to end of its 27-6 loss to the Crimson Tide in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The No. 4 Bearcats (13-1) deserved to be in the game. There is no question about that. And they played no worse than some other national semifinal victims to Alabama that are brand names, such as, Notre Dame, which fell 31-14 last year, or Power Five programs, such as Clemson, which lost 24-6 in the 2017 season, or Washington, a 24-7 loser in 2016, or Michigan State, a 38-0 loser in 2015.

Like those, Cincinnati never quite showed up and was not able to get that flag, so to speak, into the end zone once after scoring 38 points a game coming in. The Bearcats, averaging 429 yards a game, managed a season-low 218 yards and rushed for a season-low 74 on 26 carries for 2.8 yards a carry.

The game itself was a season low.

“It rarely ends how you envision it,” Fickell said after the game. “It’s very difficult.”

Cincinnati’s longest gain was 28 yards. It registered 13 first downs. Quarterback Desmond Ridder threw for 144 yards after entering the game averaging 245 a game. Alabama tied a season high with six pass breakups.

Alabama (13-1) scored all the points it needed to win on a 75-yard drive in 11 plays in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.

The first 10 plays of that drive were runs with tailback Brian Robinson carrying six times for gains of 6, 3, 5, 5, 7 and 9 yards. What year is this? Bear Bryant would have been so proud as coach Nick Saban went retro.

Forget Cincinnati’s top-ranked pass defense. Alabama just gave it to Robinson 26 times for a Bama bowl and career-high 204 yards behind his behemoth offensive line that outweighed Cincinnati’s front six by an average of 70 pounds a man.

Alabama even lost starting right guard Emil Ekiyor to a shoulder injury early in the game, and right tackle Chris Owens went down. But they found others, and just kept pounding. Saban was not sure if Ekiyor will return for the national championship game on Jan. 10 against either Michigan or Georgia. Regardless of which team wins that one, it will have to watch for Alabama’s run and its pass and its defense.

The Tide led 17-3 at the half, and Robinson had 134 yards, which was more than he had in 10 entire games this season. Alabama’s 172 yards rushing in the first half were more than it finished within eight games on the season.

“Those guys deserve the very best,” Fickell said. “It doesn’t feel that way right now.”

New rule: A first-time entry into the College Football Playoff can’t play Alabama in the semis.

Follow along on Twitter: @LSUBeatTweet

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

8 Comments

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    • No kidding. I do NOT think we need to expand the playoffs any further. Out of the 16 first round playoff games that have been played since 2015, only THREE games have been decided by 7 or less. The “average” margin of victory in these games has been 21 points. Expanding it will result in even more blowouts and IMO needlessly exposes the top teams to greater likelihood of injury by adding on multiple extra games after an already long season.

    • you’re 100%, A+!!!

      ANY “playoff” OVER 4 teams gets three SEC teams in the “Final Four” 2 out of 3 years… even this year, in a 8- or 12-team format, how do you leave out OleMiss?? IF they beat Baylor today, then we’d have my scenario in action THIS YEAR! If FLA, LSU OR TN regains some of their former prowess, you might see as many as 5 SEC teams in an 8-team playoff; definite in a 12-team+ playoff… The SEC can EASILY produce as many as 6 teams with a 10-1 record before the SEC Champ game — 4 would be enough to blow-up ANY playoff expansion over 4 teams…

      for the record, I am in the low minority that wants the OLD bowl format back. Why vote on the “Top 4” when we can just vote on the “Top 1,” like we did 20 years ago? Either get rid of the voters and put in a “playoff mechanism” like every other sport in the world or just vote for #1 on Jan. 2nd.

      • That’s an interesting point. Two problems re-emerge with that. 1)Georgia is left completely out of the major bowl picture, 2)the top ranked teams never play each other. The champion is then left up to the press, most of whom now think sex changes are progress, to apply their judgment to decide. Yikes. At least back then more weight was placed on the conference title winners with the automatic conference champ tie-in for the 4 major bowls. That is one thing I do miss. That made the New Years Day bowls themselves a huge crowning achievement for teams. I think that also led to far better games in the bowls, because there was no let down if you didn’t make the playoff. Here’s probably what it would look like in the old school system.

        Rose Bowl – #2 Michigan vs #10 Utah
        Orange Bowl – #11 Pittsburgh vs #4 Cincinnati
        Sugar Bowl – #1 Alabama vs #7 Ohio State or #5 Notre Dame
        Fiesta Bowl – #7 Ohio State or #5 Notre Dame vs #6 Baylor
        Cotton Bowl – #3 Georgia vs #9 Oklahoma State

  1. ?? … Is the frantic rationale to “Expand The Playoffs” to get a For Real National Champion ??
    .
    Does anyone of rational mind (which eliminates a high % of highly-partisan overly-caffeinated lunatic fringe fans) NOT think Alabama & UGA are the two best College FB teams in America this year? … The current 4-team Playoff has delivered that result consistently since its beginning.
    .
    Those aforementioned “lunatic partisans…” HATE Nick / Kirby / Dabo / Harbaugh / Urban / ? et al because they build consistently top quality football programs but “hating them because …” doesn’t alter the reality that their teams are consistently better than “your team”.
    .
    Expand to 8 – 12 – 24 – 32 – 64 Whatever … it just means more $$$$ for ESPN which apparently needs “more $$$” as it is rapidly “woking itself to death”. I’m just fine with the way it is …
    .

  2. Yes for once there was no real controversy on the top 4 teams. Yes Alabama and Georgia are clearly the top two teams. However over the last 8 years this year is the exception not the rule. Expansion needs to happen. 6-8-12 whatever works best. There have been teams in previous years that could have made a run. Yes it’s more money for msespn/Disney, but it also is significant more money in athletic departments to be spread around.
    Hell use it to get the Trans group off the girls teams by creating their own team.

  3. I don’t know what the answer is but it’s not as good as it used to be. Tons of empty seats at most games. Even a big bowl like the Fiesta Bowl hardly had anyone in the upper deck and tons of empty end zone seats. The Rose Bowl has a second place team with a bunch of players opting out. I’m sure the Sugar will look like the Fiesta.

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