Cincinnati’s undefeated season and breakthrough run to the College Football Playoff. No non-Power Five program has ever been part of the sport’s final four to play for a national title. The Bearcats must continue to win — and win big — to make that dream a reality. East Carolina has qualified for its first bowl game in seven seasons and can enhance its destination by beating the Bearcats.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder against East Carolina’s pass defense. Ridder is having a stellar season for the Bearcats with 2,899 yards and 32 touchdowns. The Pirates are middle of the pack in the AAC, giving up 226 yards per game and 15 touchdowns through the air this season. Ridder passed for four TDs in beating East Carolina 55-17 a year ago.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cincinnati: RB Jerome Ford has powered the Bearcats ground game and is 29 yards away from 1,000 on the season. The one-time Alabama tailback has 16 touchdowns this season to lead the AAC.
East Carolina: RB Keaton Mitchell leads the AAC with 1,077 yards rushing and in all-purpose yards with 1,335 yards. It’s the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Pirates since Tay Cooper did it in consecutive seasons (2012, 2013). If the Pirates have a chance, it will come from Mitchell getting going on the ground.
FACTS & FIGURES
Cincinnati is looking to finish 12-0 in the regular season for the second time ever, joining the 2009 team. … A win would let the Bearcats host the AAC Championship game against No. 19 Houston on Dec. 4. … Walk-on kicker Owen Daffer hit a 54-yard field goal in the final seconds in East Carolina’s 38-35 win at Navy last week. Afterward, Pirates coach Mike Houston said he’d already decided to put Daffer on scholarship. … Cincinnati leads the nation in pass defense efficiency, is second in passing yards allowed (155.5) per game and third in interceptions (16). … East Carolina hasn’t hosted a top-four opponent since losing to No. 4 West Virginia 27-10 in 2006. … The Pirates are 0-10 all-time against top-five teams. They’ve lost 10 straight since their last win over a ranked team, a 70-41 victory over No. 25 North Carolina in 2014.