It's time to consider Cincinnati something more than a curiosity. It's time to consider the Bearcats a College Football Playoff contender. Blasphemy, you say? In this crazy season of COVID-19, why not? The Bearcats moved into the top 10 of the Power Rankings (up 10 spots) after a dominating win at SMU.
If you assume -- as you should -- that three of the playoff spots are all-but-spoken for (Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State) then that leaves a possible opening for the first entry from a Group of Five team. In that scenario, Cincinnati would likely be battling a second team from a Power Five conference for that spot unless the Big 12 winds up with an undefeated team.
Regardless, coach Luke Fickell (30-13 at Cincinnati) is positioning himself for the next Big Ten opening. The former Buckeyes linebacker and assistant under Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer has the chops right now to command a Power Five program. Fickell has done it with recruiting classes ranked 63, 49, 79 and 41, according to 247Sports.
If the Bearcats (4-0) win out, they'd absolutely be in the discussion for a playoff. Looking at the remaining schedule, there is a chance Cincinnati could play five ranked teams this season. The AAC is that good this eyear. Commissioner Mike Aresco would get his wish of his conference making it a "Power Six."
Assuming (once again) the Big 12's chances are diminished and the Pac 12's are less than that, why not dream a little? The last time the Bearcats were this good, Brian Kelly was leading the 2009 team to the Sugar Bowl. That was the only top 10 finish for the program in its history.
The way things are trending this season, there is more history to be made on the banks of the Ohio River.
Let's take a look at the rest of the Power Rankings after Week 8.
|Syracuse failed in its attempt to bookend Clemson's ACC win streak. The last ACC team to beat the Tigers became just another victim. Cuse cut the margin to 27-21 early in the third quarter then coughed up the ball three times in the second half. Clemson's ACC winning streak reached 26 games.||--||8-1|
|The biggest news in a 48-17 cigar-chomping win at Tennessee was the season-ending injury to Jaylen Waddle. Backup Slade Bolden took over and was productive. Says a lot that Bama can lose the nation's best receiver (arguably) and still be on track for the playoff. Nick Saban has already seen the future.||--||8-0|
|Idle. Trying to figure out whether J.T. Daniels is mobile enough to play, Stetson Bennett IV is consistent enough to keep going, there is enough depth at receiver, Florida will succumb in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party again.||--||6-2|
|How good was Justin Fields in a 52-17 rout over Nebraska? Ryan Day suggested the only thing that might stop his quarterback may be the elements. "Once we get into December, we're going to be playing into some tough weather. It will be cold. It will be windy. It will be rainy." It will be hard to beat the Buckeyes after their 13th consecutive double-digit Big Ten win.||--||4-0|
|Clemson comes up in two weeks as the Fighting Irish are rounding into form. The defense has allowed all of 49 points in five games. In 12 of the 20 quarters played, opponent has been shut out. No team has scored in the fourth quarter. Before a 45-3 walloping of Pittsburgh, the Irish had only two receiving touchdowns. There were three receiving scores alone Saturday.||--||9-0|
|This isn't your grandfather's Oklahoma State. You know, the one that would beat everyone except who they were supposed to. Mike Gundy has won at least 10 games in six of the last 10 seasons. He has been at Okie State for 16 years. He has won one Big 12 title (2011). All that might be changing after the Cowboys' 24-21 win over Iowa State. Four games in and Gundy has one of the nation's 13 undefeated teams. The Cowboys have a defense that limited the Cyclones to 162 pass yards. Spencer Sanders returned from injury to throw for 235 yards.||--||6-2|
|Any discussion about the best Group of Five team is done. Following a 21-day layoff, Cincinnati and quarterback Desmond Ridder accounted for a 305 yards of total offense in a 42-13 win at SMU. Ridder vomited in the third quarter, avoided a delay of game penalty in collecting himself and finished the game. The Bearcats shut down one of the most explosive offenses in the country then shoved it down the Mustangs' throats with more than 300 rushing yards.||10||8-0|
|Idle. The Gators are in limbo, quarantined while hoping to play this week against Missouri. When Florida returns, it will have to deal with a Mizzou program that has righted itself. Consecutive wins over LSU and Kentucky have made Eli Drinkwitz an SEC Coach of the Year candidate. That will make it three weeks between games for the Gators. After that, it's Georgia.||1||7-1|
|The Cougars continue to roll with a 38-point win over Texas State. Zach Wilson threw for four more touchdowns, enhancing his Heisman Trophy campaign. BYU at 45 points per game is averaging more than a touchdown more per game that it has in the last decade. The Cougars are Cincinnati without the conference schedule and thus without the schedule strength to challenge for a playoff spot.||--||9-0|
|Saturday's scrimmage was canceled after five players tested positive for COVID-19. Those are the first positives since daily testing began. The Ducks open in 13 days as the Pac-12's best chance to get to the playoff. Five players have opted out, but Oregon still has the best talent in the conference.||--||3-1|
|D'Eriq King was D'Eriq King (350 yards total offense) in a closer-than-expected 19-14 win over Virginia. The Hurricanes (5-1) began the second half of the season with a 9-1 season in sight. After an open date, the season concludes with NC State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina. Cumulative record: 16-11.||--||7-1|
|OK, it was only Kansas, but the Wildcats are 4-0 in the Big 12 for the first time since 2014. That puts K-State on top of the conference standings. Chris Klieman is coaching his ass off. He has had to dodge COVID-19 while losing his starting quarterback. K-State returned two punts for touchdowns in a 55-14 rout.||3||4-5|
|The Tar Heels had caused only two turnovers through their first four games. NC State coughed it up four times in a 48-21 loss. Javonte Williams and Michael Carter combined to run for 266 yards. Dyami Brown caught seven balls for 105 yards. The Heels are in the top 10 in total yards, rushing yards and yards per play.||--||6-3|
|It became so fashionable to bash Jim Harbaugh we forgot he could coach a little. Quarterback Joe Milton has a little Braxton Smith in him (15 of 22, 225 yards). "Joe was great. Big Saturday night stage. The whole she-bang," Harbaugh said of the redshirt sophomore. There were also 256 rushing yards. Harbs did it all without his signature khakis. Maybe something is changing in Ann Arbor after a wholly-satisfying 49-24 season-opening win over Minnesota.||4||2-4|
|Idle. Call it a must-win for Jimbo Fisher this week. You can't start 3-1 beating a top 10 Florida and then lose to Arkansas. You just can't. Sure, the Razorbacks are a handful defensively, but this is one the Aggies have to win. So far, the Hogs have not been kind to Jimbo. He got his first SEC win two years ago against Arkansas in Arlington, 24-27. His team held on 31-27 last year.||1||6-1|
|The Graham Mertz era started with more of a bombshell than a bang. The redshirt freshman quarterback missed on only one of his 21 passes throwing for five touchdowns in a 45-7 thrashing of Illinois, but he may now miss the Badgers' next three games after a positive COVID-19 test. After one start, it's obvious Mertz has a chance to be Wisconsin's best quarterback since Russell Wilson.||2||2-1|
|The Hoosiers played the role of Gene Hackman's "Hoosiers" in coming from behind to beat Penn State. Michael Penix Jr. may or may not have crossed the goal line in overtime for the winning two-pointer. It doesn't matter. Penn State's Devyn Ford should have never scored a touchdown to stop the clock with 1:42 left in regulation. Penix drove down to tie it and send the game into overtime with 22 seconds left in regulation.||NR||5-1|
|In an empty stadium, you can actually hear the "doink" of the ball when it hits the goal post. That missed chip-shot field goal at the end of the first half was among the sins committed by the Nittany Lions in their opener. Penn State missed three field goals, committed three turnovers and ultimately lost in overtime to Indiana. The season hangs in the balance this week with Ohio State coming to town.||10||1-5|
|This is what we were looking for all season from the Sooners. They went on the road against a significant opponent (TCU) and dominated, 33-14. The defense posted nine tackles for loss and picked off three passes. TCU has lost its first three home games for the first time in the Gary Patterson era.||2||6-2|
|The Tigers tied a school record with their 12th straight home win, 41-29 over Temple. Heck, Alabama (three in a row) hasn't even done that. Calvin Austin III finished with a career-high 184 receiving yards. Temple gave up their first sacks (four) of the season. In an absolutely loaded AAC, the Tigers are tied for fifth place.||2||6-2|
|Don't sleep on the Golden Hurricane. They've only played three games in the last six weeks and had two of their five games postponed. But when they have played, they have played well. Now if the lonely Hurricane could play at home. They open there Friday against East Carolina.||2||5-1|
|What a disappointment. The Golden Gophers were ground up by Michigan in what promised to be the game of the week. P.J. Fleck's fourth-down fake was a disaster. For a night, it looked like the old Minnesota in a 49-24 loss to Michigan. The Gophers were without starters in all three phases including both kickers and their punter on special teams.||10||2-3|
|No Grayson McCall? No problem. The Chanticleers' starting quarterback wasn't available because of a lower-body injury. In the program's first game as a ranked team, junior Fred Payton led a 28-14 win over Georgia Southern. That's Teal Appeal.||2||9-0|
|Marshall's magic season continues. FAU's season can't seem to get started. Grant Wells rallied the Thundering Herd back from a third-quarterback deficit to win, 20-9. The Owls were without both starting offensive tackles and traveled only 57 players.||NR||7-0|
|Cincinnati did a number on the Mustangs. That number would be 29, the margin of defeat. The 42-13 result was SMU's worst home loss since the second game of the 2018 season. Shane Buechele was sacked five times. The Mustangs were held 30 points and 273 yards below their average.||5||7-3|