NEW YORK — The College Football Playoff is set and it is historic: Cincinnati will play Alabama in the Cotton Bowl and Michigan will face Georgia in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Fourth-seeded Cincinnati becomes the first team to break through the CFP’s glass ceiling and make college football’s final four from a non-Power Five conference.
The Bearcats won the American Athletic Conference and head into the postseason as the only unbeaten team in the country. Their reward will be a matchup with the defending national champions. The Crimson Tide is in the playoff for the seventh time in its eight-year history.
Cincinnati is the first team from outside a Power Five Conference to make the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats will play top-seeded Alabama in a semifinal game at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
The American Athletic Conference champion Bearcats (13-0), No. 4 in the final CFP rankings released Sunday, are the only undefeated team left this season.
Alabama (12-1) is in the playoff for a record seventh time in the eight years of the four-team format, and will play its 12th CFP game. The Crimson Tide won the SEC championship game over Georgia, which had been the only other team without a loss.
Cincinnati is playing in its second consecutive New Year’s Six game. Its only loss over the past two seasons was in the Peach Bowl last New Year’s Day, when Georgia kicked a 53-yard field goal with three seconds left for a 24-21 win.
The Bearcats have only two wins over Top 25 teams. That included 24-13 at Notre Dame on Oct. 2, the only loss this season for the Fighting Irish, who were fifth in the final playoff rankings.
Alabama will play its third CFP semifinal game at the home of the NFL Dallas Cowboys, winning the first two in national title seasons. The Tide beat Michigan State 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl six years ago, and last Jan. 1 beat Notre Dame 31-14 in a Rose Bowl game relocated from California because of the pandemic.