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No. 7 Cincinnati vs. No. 9 Notre Dame College Football Playoff implications

Two of the Top 10 teams in the country battle in South Bend on Saturday.

Desmond Ridder of the Cincinnati Bearcats calls out instructions in the first quarter against the Murray State Racers at Nippert Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats and No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish are both undefeated, and enter Saturday’s action with a path to the College Football Playoff. And while UC is the higher-ranked team in the AP Poll for now, they might have a slightly tougher journey to making the Final Four because of their much easier schedule the rest of the way.

This will be the Bearcats best chance to impress on a national stage, as their schedule after this game eases significantly. While SMU and UCF are still on the schedule, there are no ranked teams remaining on the rest of their slate. And with Indiana not living up to preseason expectations, this is likely UC’s only chance to get a win over a Top 25 team.

But with two early-season losses by Clemson and Ohio State falling to Oregon, the path for Group of Five teams to make the field hasn’t been this strong since Houston in 2016. There’s a chance, but it’s a slim one, and it’s virtually non-existent with a loss on Saturday.

For the Irish, although they have an early win against Wisconsin, the expected schedule boost from Florida State isn’t there because of the Seminoles actually being 0-4 with a loss to an FCS team. USC has also lost twice now, and even Virginia is 2-2. They might need to be 12-0, but if we have continued chaos at the top, they could still sneak in with an 11-1 record depending how the season shakes out.

A 12-0 record likely gets Notre Dame in however, but 12-0 still might not be enough for Cincinnati based on history.