No. 6 Cincinnati and No. 20 Tulsa finally meet for the AAC title

CINCINNATI (AP) – After four previous attempts, Cincinnati and Tulsa are finally set to play against each other, and this time it’s for the American Athletic Conference championship.

No. 6 Cincinnati (8-0, 6-0 AAC, CFP No. 9) will appear in the conference championship game for the second time in a row at Nippert Stadium on Saturday night, while it will be the first time for No. 20 Tulsa ( 6-1, 6-0, CFP No. 23).

Tulsa and Cincinnati were scheduled to play on October 17th, but the game has been postponed to December 5th due to COVID-19 cases in the Bearcats program. The game was postponed for television to December 4th and then again postponed to December 12th before being canceled altogether last week due to further COVID issues in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati hasn’t played in a month. The Bearcats once had hopes of getting into the college football playoffs, but they will likely have to settle for an unbeaten season and a Choice Bowl game if they can win on Saturday.

“This whole season has been such a whirlwind,” said Cincinnati manager Luke Fickell. “We wanted a season and the opportunity to play for a championship.”

If this game is canceled, the Bearcats will be crowned the AAC Champion for the New Year’s Six Bowl Trial as they are the higher tier team.

“I think our entire team is now back from the logs largely because of a lot of things,” said Fickell. “Hopefully we’ll be in good shape with almost everyone by (season).”

Tulsa have won six games in a row since losing 16: 7 to the then No. 1. 11 Oklahoma State at the season opener.

“You’re battle-tested,” said Fickell.

Tulsa’s head coach Philip Montgomery, who led his team to the conference championship game after three straight defeats, said players are excited to finally take on the undefeated Bearcats.

“Our team did a really good job of staying focused and focusing on what we can control,” said Montgomery. “We have to understand that we are playing for a championship. We want to turn those emotions into something that is productive. “


Despite not playing a game, Cincinnati has dropped from 7th to 9th in the College Football Playoffs rankings in the past two weeks. Fickell said his team’s main goal has always been to win an AAC championship because they can control that, but he’s not immune to the playoff hype. “I can’t lie and say I don’t care,” he said. “We use it in recruiting. There are many things that can increase or decrease my blood pressure. It’s not one of them. “


Cincinnati had 17 players to take home all AAC awards that season, including quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was named Attacking Player of the Year. Fickell was named Coach of the Year. The 17 selections for all conferences are the most in the AAC this year. Eight Bearcats players received the first team award, also a school record.

Turn around

After three straight losses, including a 2:10 season in 2017, Tulsa has reversed the fate of its program under Montgomery. “This team was resilient,” he said. “I’ve seen our team keep making progress to get better. We’ve been very close in many games over the past few years. But now we’ve made victories out of it. “


Tulsa would have played the championship game at home on Saturday if they beat Cincinnati in the canceled regular season finals. Cincinnati was awarded a home game for the championship because it is ranked higher in the CFP. The Bearcats have won 19 games in a row at Nippert Stadium. More than 5,800 fans are allowed to participate after the school receives a waiver from the state of Ohio.


AP sports journalist Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma contributed to this.

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