ATLANTA (AP) — Cincinnati will try to win respect for Group of Five conference champions again left out of the College Football Playoff when the No. 6 Bearcats face No. 11 Georgia in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1.
Cincinnati (9-0) was only No. 8 in Sunday's CFP ranking, so the Bearcats were not close to becoming the first non-Power 5 team to make the playoff after beating No. 20 Tulsa 27-24 on Saturday night for the American Athletic Conference championship.
Even so, Gary Barta, who chairs the CFP selection committee, says his group “felt strongly” the Bearcats deserved to be picked over another unbeaten team, No. 9 Coastal Carolina, as the top Group of Five team when making a choice for the New Year's Six bowl game in Atlanta.
“The committee just believed that Cincinnati was a better team,” Barta said Sunday.
Barta mentioned dual-threat quarterback Desmond Ridder as one reason the committee liked Cincinnati. Ridder rushed for 609 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 2,090 yards with 17 TDs.
The Bearcats relied on their strong defense. Cincinnati ranks No. 7 in the nation with its average of 16 points allowed per game.
Georgia (7-2) saw its streak of three consecutive appearances in the Southeastern Conference championship game end this season. The Bulldogs have not played since a 49-14 win at Missouri on Dec. 12.
Georgia's scheduled home game against Vanderbilt on Dec. 19 was canceled after the COVID-19 issues cut into the Commodores' available players. When Georgia could not schedule a replacement game, the Bulldogs were left with only three home games and no senior day.
The Bulldogs have had there players start at quarterback in only nine games. D'Wan Mathis opened the season as the starter before former walk-on Stetson Bennett took over.
Finally, coach Kirby Smart switched to Southern Cal transfer JT Daniels and suddenly the Bulldogs found balance in their offense. Georgia has averaged 41.9 points and 498 yards in three games, all wins, with Daniels at quarterback.
Georgia was No. 9 in Sunday’s CFP ranking, one spot behind the Bearcats.
Georgia is 2-0 against Cincinnati but the teams haven't played since 1976, when the Bulldogs took a 31-17 home win.
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