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Cincinnati finishes their perfect season, beats Tulsa for AAC Championship

The Bearcats hang on at home to finish 11-0 season while awaiting their bowl bid.

Desmond Ridder of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs the ball while being chased by Jaxon Player of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane during the American Athletic Conference Championship at Nippert Stadium on December 19, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

A 37-yard field goal by Cole Smith in a driving rain storm was the difference as the Cincinnati Bearcats defeated the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 27-24 to win the American Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday night at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Junior quarterback Desmond Ridder was 19-29 for 269 yards and a touchdown for UC, and led a 12-play, 51-yard drive late that ended in Smith’s game-winner as time expired. He added 16 carries for 83 yards and a score as well. It was the 20th straight win for Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium, and finished a 9-0 season that will likely still leave them short of the College Football Playoff.

Tulsa once again made things tough on a top-ranked team, but weren’t able to bring home their first AAC trophy. Quarterback Zach Smith was 13-30 for 166 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. TU averaged 5.4 yards per play, but allowed 6.3 as well.

For Cincinnati, they’re likely off to the Peach Bowl as the Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Six. Tulsa will have multiple bowl options, although with the lack of tie-ins in 2020 it’s tough to project where the might land.