For No. 7 Cincinnati, historical past means that its path to the College Football Playoff seems to be like this, and solely this: Beat No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday, then win the final eight video games of the common season, then win an American Athletic Convention title.
Fail at any of these issues, and the dream is completed. Pull all of it off, make it to 13-0, and perhaps the playoff choice committee will invite a Group of 5 group into the postseason’s premier video games for the first time.
In fact, an undefeated document simply will get the Bearcats into the dialog. Cincinnati performed an ideal common season in 2020 and by no means moved increased than seventh in the playoff rankings. By the time the committee launched its closing picks for the four-team event, Coach Luke Fickell’s Bearcats had been No. 8, behind 5 groups with losses.
Fickell spent 16 years teaching at Ohio State, the place he performed nostril guard in the Nineties and led the Buckeyes for a season between the tenures of the title-winning coaches Jim Tressel and City Meyer. Now in his fifth season at Cincinnati, which is 3-0 after beating Indiana on Sept. 18, Fickell spoke this week about the playoff, his program and a sport that will likely be amongst the most vital in the historical past of a faculty that has been enjoying soccer since 1885.
No. 7 Cincinnati performs No. 9 Notre Dame at 2:30 p.m. Japanese on Saturday, with the sport televised on NBC. This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.
What are the classes for this week after you beat Indiana at their noisy stadium?
Be who we’re. And meaning if we have to huddle, we will huddle. However I feel to alter how we go about the strategy of what we do — I imply, we go on silent counts, we go on a hand, we go on a clap — all of these issues we do, we tried to alter due to the noise, and I feel it affected us better than even the noise did.
So it’s slightly bit extra of, “Hey, let’s simply be sure we do what we do and never attempt to change it.”
Notre Dame barely beat Florida State, which continues to be winless, and had a tricky sport with Toledo. However they beat Purdue and ran up the rating on Wisconsin late. What’s retaining you up at night time this week?
Their capacity to play 4 quarters. They play their greatest ball at the finish of the sport. They’re battle-tested. In some methods, I feel we’re slightly bit battle-tested — we had been battle-tested at Indiana and had some struggles in the first half in opposition to Murray State — however they’ve been battle-tested on the highway at Florida State, they’ve been battle-tested at a impartial web site, they usually’ve been battle-tested at dwelling. And that’s the way you develop up, particularly when you will discover methods to win once they perhaps haven’t performed their greatest ball but.
To me, they’re slightly bit like us in that I’m undecided what their greatest actually seems to be like, and I’m undecided what our greatest actually seems to be like.
The quarterback Desmond Ridder stayed at Cincinnati for an additional season. How is he totally different from a yr in the past?
He’s simply far more mature in understanding that he’s received to let the sport come to him. He’s far more adept at not making an attempt to be good; in his sophomore and junior yr, he was making an attempt to be and pondering he could possibly be. However I feel in his progress, he has actually form of acknowledged that you simply’re not going to be good, that if you happen to’re imagined to take a shot and it’s not there, then take what it’s you might have an opportunity to do.
That’s the place he’s proven his progress as a lot as something. Not that he panicked earlier than as a result of he’s at all times been a cool competitor, however he’s actually been in a position to deal with even the slower begins that we’ve had and maintain all people form of grounded with confidence.
Cincinnati has considered one of the American Athletic Convention’s greatest defenses. Now that you simply’ve been a head coach and in the American for some time, have any of your huge concepts about protection advanced?
I’ve advanced extra most likely in the first two or three years right here than I actually ever did even at Ohio State since you understand what you’ve received and the way it’s good to do some issues totally different as a way to create issues.
You get form of set in your methods and the belongings you actually imagine in, and hastily you acknowledge that’s not going to work. You don’t change what you imagine in, however discover some methods to do some issues totally different to be sure you’re giving your youngsters the greatest probability.
What’s the greatest distinction in your method?
We play far more of a three-man entrance versus a four-man entrance. We’ve at all times form of been stop-the-run and construct all the things from there. Certainly one of the issues that was a problem to me in my previous few years at Ohio State was how do you’re employed from the again to the entrance finish. That was one thing I had by no means actually thought that a lot about and needed to mix these two issues as we began to evolve right here.
You had been at Ohio State when Brian Kelly, now Notre Dame’s coach, was operating Cincinnati. How has Cincinnati soccer modified since?
I used to be smug sufficient to probably not know what was going on down right here. And I feel that’s a kind of issues as a youthful coach that occurs to you. I’d admit I used to be smug sufficient to not acknowledge and understand what he was doing right here — clearly, I did once they had been No. 2 or 3 in the nation and undefeated and issues like that — however nonetheless I didn’t acknowledge issues I didn’t perceive and know. I feel that’s the place your entire experiences actually assist form you not simply as a coach however as an individual, too.
Coaches prefer to say that their groups management their very own destinies. Given how the playoff committee has handled colleges like Cincinnati, are you able to make that argument in your locker room?
You management your personal future. I imply, your future won’t be going to the playoff if you happen to win each sport. However you management it.
I’m really one who believes it’s not simply the groups of our league or the groups of the non-, so to talk, Energy 5 group. I feel it’s all people: Had Texas A&M been perhaps proper at that spot final yr, they weren’t going to leap Notre Dame or Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State, simply due to the sheer followings and what it’s that these guys have been. While you’re a top-five program, there are loads of advantages which can be afforded to you.
I don’t fear about it. However in our minds, you do management your personal future.
Mike Aresco, the American’s commissioner, stated nobody ought to “underestimate the branding” energy of Energy 5 conferences. Cincinnati is on the brink of leap to the Massive 12, so do you agree with that evaluation?
Sure. However I feel it’s the branding and historical past of your program, too. That’s why I imagine that if Texas A&M final yr was going to get in, they had been going to must beat Alabama. If we’re going to get in, you’ve received to beat a Notre Dame. If North Carolina goes to get in, they must beat Clemson.
Now, can Georgia get in with one loss? We’ve seen it. Alabama? Darn proper. Ohio State? We’ve already seen it. It’s not like that for everyone, however it’s what it’s. I feel these groups do get the profit due to what they’ve carried out. And I’m not saying they don’t deserve it, as a result of they do.
You all almost beat Georgia in the Peach Bowl final season. Profitable this weekend could be big in your program. Have you considered what a loss would imply?
Nobody as a competitor thinks about losses, however you simply proceed to say, “Hey, we set an ordinary after we walked in the door right here after we had been horrible that, it doesn’t matter what, our one purpose was to play for championships.” We at all times need to put ourselves by the finish of the yr to be in that place to play for a championship, and the purpose has by no means modified, even due to the season we had final yr or the yr earlier than.
Have you ever let your self think about profitable on Saturday?
No. I’m not a nostalgia man. I don’t look again, I don’t look ahead, I just about do as a lot as I presumably can in the second. I’m undecided that’s the greatest solution to stay and even to calm down, however it was form of the manner I used to be introduced up.