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Would College Football Playoff Be At Stake If BYU, Cincinnati Scheduled Each Other?

BYU plays Cincinnati in a football game at the LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU and Cincinnati have been the gold-standard for football played outside of the Power 5 conferences in 2020. The two unbeaten teams would love nothing more than an opportunity to play in the College Football Playoff.

They would need a lot of help for that to happen. But why don’t they help each other to improve their odds?

On Friday, the American Athletic Conference announced that Cincinnati’s game against Tulsa on Dec. 5 has now been moved to Dec. 12. Leaving Dec. 5 now open for Luke Fickell’s Bearcats. Who else has an opening? You guessed it, BYU.

Would a BYU/Cincinnati matchup benefit either program?

BYU wants to add another game and improve its case for the New Year’s Six and possibly the Playoff. Cincinnati wins out, and it’s in the NY6 with the automatic Group of 5 bid. But a win over BYU could bump the Bearcats into the Playoff conversation.

Would the College Football Playoff be at stake if these two teams met on Dec. 5?

It very well could be. We will get a clearer picture on Tuesday, November 24, when the Playoff Committee releases its initial Top 25 rankings. If both find themselves in the top 10 of the initial Playoff rankings, that could serve as the motivation to get this game scheduled.

If the Committee stays true to what the AP and Coaches Poll voters are saying, Cincy at No. 7 and BYU at No. 8, to me, there would be a lot of incentive for both to play this game.

BYU has shown an ability to put games together in short order, with matchups against Navy, LA Tech, Boise State, and San Diego State coming together in a matter of hours.

The Cougars have no guarantees when it comes to the New Year’s Six. BYU could qualify for an at-large bid in an NY6 bowl, but the Committee will ultimately have to decide whether or not to put BYU in one of the major bowls that have a $4 million payday.

For Cincinnati, the current system currently constructed has shown that a talented Group of 5 team from the AAC will not get into the Playoff. Case in point, UCF in 2017 and 2018. We’ve never seen teams outside the Power 5 conferences ranked in the Top 10 square off late in the season. Maybe this unconventional scheduling approach is needed to get a team outside the cartel to crash the Playoff system. It’s 2020; anything is possible, right?

BYU’s explosive offense against Cincinnati’s elite defense is a matchup that everyone in college football should be begging to see in the regular season.

There are downsides, sure. But there is plenty of upside for both teams. For BYU, if they lost, they would likely have zero chance of getting a New Year’s Six bid. That’s a big risk. But the benefits, far outweigh the risks. Especially if you’re looking to prove yourself as one of the best teams in the country. The same goes for Cincinnati.

Depending on how the game plays out, Cincy could have a shot at the automatic NY6 bid even with a loss to BYU as they will have a pair of games against ranked teams following the Cougars on Dec. 12 and the presumed AAC Championship on Dec. 19.

The exposure and buildup that a BYU/Cincinnati matchup would be the biggest thing anyone has seen for a matchup featuring teams outside the power conferences. It could also go a long way towards shaping narratives and making a case to position those teams for Playoff glory.

Here are some of the hurdles that are in the way for BYU and Cincinnati.

College Football Playoff hurdles for BYU and Cincinnati

  • Two ACC/SEC teams

A pair of teams from one conference would doom either BYU or Cincinnati’s chances of getting into the playoff. BYU and Cincinnati need Notre Dame to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship game or Notre Dame to lose a pair of games between now and Selection Sunday.

Florida in the SEC controls its destiny, win out, and they are in. If they beat Alabama in the SEC Championship game, Alabama probably remains in the Playoff as a one-loss at-large team. Florida will need to be defeated in the SEC title game.

  • Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a fascinating study in 2020. They’ve only played two games, but they look great. They’ve got a big game against Northwestern this weekend that will go a long way towards shaping the Badgers playoff resume.

  • Undefeated Pac-12 champ

If Oregon or USC run the table, how would the committee view them against undefeated BYU or Cincinnati? This is why BYU and Cincinnati squaring off on December 5th would be a smart move by both parties.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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