Undefeated and No. 7 Cincinnati might be on the edge of the conversation for the College Football Playoff, but all coach Luke Fickell said he is focusing on is getting an American Athletic Conference title for his Bearcats.
"We don't talk about outside," Fickell said after his team's 36-33 win last week over UCF. "We talk about opportunities to win a championship. We have not done that yet. If we can do that, it will give us an opportunity to continue to state our case for our league and whatever people believe in."
Next up for the Bearcats (8-0, 6-0 AAC) is Saturday's game at Temple, where a win would eliminate the possibility of any messy tie-breaking procedures to get the Bearcats into the AAC Championship Game on Dec. 19.
The Owls (1-6, 1-6 AAC) are on a five-game losing streak and are closing a frustrating season marred by COVID-19 cases and injuries.
Last week the Owls started a walk-on freshman at quarterback after Anthony Russo had a positive COVID-19 test and injuries sidelined sophomores Trad Beatty and Re-al Mitchell, who had stepped in when Russo was out four games because of a shoulder injury.
With freshman Matt Duncan suspended for violating team rules, Temple started Kamal Gray, who completed only 10 of 21 passes for 95 yards. Branden Mack moved over from his wide receiver position at the start of the second half, but went down with a shoulder injury that has sidelined him his week.
Russo has returned to practice, but coach Rod Carey said he isn't sure he will be ready for game action.
"He hasn't thrown a ball in two weeks, so we don't know," Carey said.
Gray will start again if Russo can't play.
Fickell has no such issues. His quarterback, junior Desmond Ridder, is having a banner season (66.5 completion percentage, 227.6 average yards a game passing, and 65.8 rushing), and he rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two in the win over UCF. He has rushed for 11 touchdowns and passed for 16 for the season.
"The guy never ceases to amaze me," Fickell said. "I love it when people start to doubt him or start to question what is he doing or how good is he or can he really throw the football. All those things to him just really make him better, make him lock in and focus."
The Bearcats are looking to improve to 9-0 for the first time since the 2009 team finished the regular-season 12-0 under coach Brian Kelly before losing to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
After the trip to Temple, the Bearcats will have an open date before going to Tulsa on Dec. 12. Home field in the AAC title game could be on the line if the Golden Hurricane (5-1, 5-0 AAC) beat Houston and Navy in their next two games.
--Field Level Media