That game will determine the champion of the AAC — and likely put the Bearcats into the CFP for the first time with a win.
Georgia remained No. 1 while Michigan moved up to No. 2 after beating Ohio State last week.
Alabama is No. 3 again this week despite barely beating Auburn last week, and the Crimson Tide figure to play their way in or out this weekend in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, who appears to be in no matter what happens this weekend.
Oklahoma State is up to No. 5 this week with Notre Dame sixth.
Both of those teams will be rooting for the Bulldogs to take care of business to open up a spot in the final four while the Bearcats getting upset and/or Michigan falling to No. 13 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game would also shake things up.
The Cowboys could improve their resume with a win over No. 9 Baylor, though the Bearcats should also get a boost in reputation with the committee by adding a win against a ranked foe.
Either way, CFP committee chair Gary Barta refused to speculate on the potential impact of either outcome.
“I’m consistent in telling you that we as a committee don’t project, so (Cincinnati is) going to play a champ game against Houston, Georgia and Alabama are going to play, Michigan and Iowa are going to play, Oklahoma State and Baylor,” Barta said. “We’re going to watch all those games, and then until that occurs, until the last game is played, we won’t be having any conversations about who is going to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, et cetera.
“That’s the way we go about it, so until those games are played, there’s really no way to predict who is going to go into those spots.”
The Fighting Irish are idle this week, as is Ohio State.
The Buckeyes fell to seventh after losing to Michigan for the first time since 2011.
The final rankings will be released Sunday at noon, and Barta confirmed the committee could take into consideration the impact of a team losing a coach or star player.
That was a hot topic this week with Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame immediately to become the head coach at LSU.
“There might be one committee member who thinks, ‘Hey, this team might be more motivated with their new coach,’” Barta said. “Or I’ve seen games where a quarterback who starts or running back that starts, they put in the next person and the team actually plays better.
“So it’s a piece of information that the management group has said the committee is able to use, but all 13 members may end up using it slightly differently when they place their vote. That’s the beauty of the way the committee works. We all have this criteria that we need to use, we’re responsible for using. How each committee member uses that in their vote might be a little different for all 13.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what the situation looks like before we try to see how it’s going to fit into our valuation. The way it’s written is if the committee believes that there would be a likely effect on the outcome of the game based on who is coaching or who is playing, it can be considered. So I know that’s loose, but I’m going to wait until Saturday night when everything’s happened. We’ll take all the information that’s been given to us and we’ll try to factor it in.”
The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl are set to host the semifinals this year with the championship game to be played in Indianapolis.