This will be a light post, because UC only had two voters rank them this week. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to do a Breaking The Poll on football after two 4-8 seasons. Bear with me.
The Bearcats received 10 points in this week’s AP Poll, good enough for a tie with North Texas at #38 in the ‘Receiving Votes’ category. This means the Beracats are officially a top-40 team, just one month removed from landing at #103 in SB Nation’s preseason rankings. On Twitter last week, I’d commented about the Bearcats not receiving any votes in the AP Poll. It was a dumb joke. The Bearcats are an AAC team with eight total wins in two years and not much more than a win over a terrible UCLA team to brag about. Of course they wouldn’t be receiving votes.
Yet here we are. On the heels of a massive comeback against the preseason MAC favorite, the Bearcats have a couple allies in the AP voting body.
Conor O’Neill of the Winston-Salem Journal placed the Bearcats at #23 on his ballot—ahead of Buffalo and Boise State.
Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun placed the Bearcats at #19 on his ballot—ahead of teams like Texas and Michigan.
For those keeping track at home, this marks Cincinnati’s first activity in the AP Poll in more than two full seasons. In the 2016 Week 3 poll they received a single #25 vote from Los Angeles Daily News’ Scott Wolf on the heels of their 38-20 road victory over Purdue.
Prior to that, the Bearcats received a single 2015 preseason vote when San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Winer placed them at #18. Following a 52-10 win over Alabama A&M in Week 1 that year, he dropped them to #19 before removing them from his poll entirely after the Temple debacle.
This week marks the first time Cincinnati has been ranked by multiple voters in the same AP Poll since 2014 Week 16 when they’d beaten Houston at Paul Brown Stadium to win a share of the AAC Championship.
The Bearcats haven’t sniffed the actual Top 25 since the final poll of the 2012 season, in the wake of victory in the Belk Bowl Spectacular against Duke. The last time this team was ranked, their head coach—albeit on an interim basis—was Steve Stripling, who returned this season.
I had someone ask me whether or not the #38 ranking is accurate or unfair to this team. I think that’s an understandable question, but the fact that it’s even being posed with a straight face speaks to how quickly this team is shifting expectations. Less than a month ago I was looking at the schedule, deciding how the ‘Cats would reach six wins and return to a bowl. Today people are asking if the AP voters are disrespecting Cincinnati.
We’ve come a long way.