The No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats survived a late comeback attempt by the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday, walking out of South Bend with a 24-13 victory. This victory gives Cincy the exact ammo needed to make a case for a College Football Playoff bid as a Group of Five power should they run the table.
Clinging onto a 17-13 lead late, Bearcat quarterback Desmond Ridder marched his team down the field and took a QB-keeper six yards for the dagger touchdown. He finished the day going 19-32 through the air for 297 yards and two passing touchdowns. Receiver Alec Pierce was the star for the Bearcat offense throughout the afternoon, catching six of nine targets for 144 yards.
Cincinnati (4-0) established early leverage through their defense, first with All-American cornerback Ahmad Gardner picking off Irish quarterback Jack Coan on the opening drive and then Deshawn Pace picking off backup QB Tyler Buchner to set the offense up on the ND 8. Ridder would hit Leonard Taylor for a one-yard TD for their first score.
Notre Dame (4-1) trailed 17-0 deep into the third quarter but got some luck when forcing a strip sack off Ridder. Four plays later, running back Kyren Williams punched in a three-yard TD to put them on the board. Backup quarterback Drew Pyne would hit Braden Lenzy for a 32-yard TD in the fourth to bring them within a score, but that was officially nullified by Ridder’s game-icing score.
As so now the question turns to how high can Cincinnati rise. We’re still about a month out from the first playoff ranking and the committee has notoriously stiffed undefeated G5 times in the past. The American has been a bit wonky this season, so they’ll need to rack up some impressive wins to build their case. But considering that they started the season ranked No. 8 in the AP poll, they’re definitely in the mix.