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Can Cincinnati make the 2021 College Football Playoff with a loss to Houston this weekend?

Cincinnati sits at No. 3 in the AP Poll rankings after going 12-0 in the regular season. Next up, they’ll face Houston in the American Conference Championship.

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Update 7:12 p.m. While the Bearcats probably don’t have to worry, they’re probably not thrilled Georgia looks like it’s about to lose. Alabama leads UGA 38-24 with just under eight minutes left, and that means both SEC teams appear to be set for the Playoff.

But with UC leading 35-20 over Houston in a game they’ve dominated in terms of “game control,” they would appear to be a lock for the final four no matter what happens with Michigan and Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game later.

The Bearcats should (again, SHOULD) be the first Group of Five team to appear in the College Football Playoff. And if they aren’t, they should call in the lawyers immediately.

Update 3:50 p.m. It looks like this crazy goal line stand by the Baylor Bears has made the calculus simple for the Bearcats: Win the AAC Championship, and you’re in the Final Four.

No. 5 Oklahoma State falls back, No. 6 Notre Dame is idle and was already beaten by UC, and putting No. 7 Ohio State or No. 9 Baylor ahead of them seems unrealistic. Baylor just won the Big 12 Championship, but only gained 242 yards of offense and had two turnovers.

You cannot in good conscience put the Bears ahead of the Bearcats, even if they win unimpressively. It’s on Cincinnati’s racket to win.

The Cincinnati Bearcats have an opportunity to become the first Group of 5 team to advance to the College Football Playoff, but that is no guarantee. The Georgia Bulldogs and Cincinnati were the only two teams that ran through the regular season with a 12-0 record, and the Bearcats will host the one-loss Houston Cougars on Saturday as 10.5-point favorites on DraftKings Sportsbook in the AAC Championship Game.

CFP implications if Cincinnati loses to Houston

If Cincinnati comes up short in the conference title game against Houston, the Bearcats are highly likely to be out of the College Football Playoff. I don’t think there is any amount of chaos that could happen that would keep Cincinnati in the Playoff if they lose to the Cougars.

CFP implications if Cincinnati beats Houston

If Cincinnati beats Houston, it’s still not a guarantee the Bearcats would be a Playoff team. If the Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Georgia Bulldogs and Michigan Wolverines knock off the Iowa Hawkeyes, those three programs would likely remain ahead of Cincinnati.

This is where things could get interesting and drive Cincinnati supporters crazy. If the Oklahoma State Cowboys knock off the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 title, Oklahoma State could jump Cincinnati for the No. 4 spot, leaving the Bearcats out of the Playoff with an undefeated record for the second year in a row.

It’s hard to envision anybody outside of Oklahoma State jumping an undefeated Cincinnati. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish would’ve had a case had Cincinnati not beaten them earlier this season. If Baylor wins the Big 12, would the Bears jump the Bearcats despite having two losses? I think Cincinnati is safe in that scenario.