State your case: Cincinnati

November, 9, 2009
11/09/09
11:28
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Each Monday from now until the regular season ends, we'll present the case for every legitimate BCS title contender. My job is to present Cincinnati's case:

The No. 1 argument for Cincinnati getting a shot at the BCS title is this: If you run the table while playing in a BCS conference, you deserve a chance. Period. End of story.

Of course, that argument would be harder to make if a team didn't play anybody or belonged to a weak conference. That's not the deal with the No. 5 Bearcats.

As much as people want to knock the Big East, all you have to do is look at the BCS standings. The league has four teams ranked this week. It also has two Top 10 teams in the three major human polls. This conference is legitimately tough, and if Cincinnati can navigate through the Big East unscathed then it is a championship-quality team.

The Bearcats also own victories over two ranked teams in the BCS standings, both on the road, beating Oregon State and South Florida by double digits in both games.

Before Saturday, Cincinnati had let only one opponent come within 10 points all year, and that was in a game (a 28-20 win over Fresno State) in which Brian Kelly was trying to make do with a severely banged-up secondary. Yes, the 47-45 win over Connecticut exposed some flaws, but every major championship contender has had a scare. Alabama needed a spate of missed field goals to beat Tennessee. Florida barely survived Arkansas at home on some questionable calls. Texas beat Oklahoma by three in an ugly game.

Kelly's offense, which produced 711 total yards against UConn, is an unstoppable force. But the Bearcats are more than just a run-and-gun team, despite Saturday's result. They rank in the top 15 of the FBS in the following stats: passing efficiency (1), tackles for loss (1), sacks (3), turnover margin (3), total offense (3), scoring offense (5), passing offense (6), kickoff returns (10), punt returns (12), sacks allowed (12) and scoring defense (15).

In other words, this is a complete team that has done everything it has needed to do. And a team that deserves a chance to play for the national championship.

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