Cincinnati was the first team from outside the Power 5 conferences to qualify for the College Football Playoff. Less than a year later, the Bearcats didn't crack the Top 25 in the first edition of this season's CFP rankings.
Cincinnati will try to shake off its first American Athletic Conference loss since 2019 when it hosts Navy on Saturday.
UCF handed the Bearcats (6-2, 3-1 AAC) a 25-21 defeat last Saturday to puncture their 19-game conference winning streak. Cincinnati grabbed a 21-18 lead with 3:04 left on Ryan Montgomery's 39-yard scoring run and Ben Bryant's two-point conversion pass to Tyler Scott. But UCF's RJ Harvey scored the go-ahead touchdown run with 48 seconds on the clock.
"Disappointed of course, but it's not something that holds you back," coach Luke Fickell said. "That's what I always worry about because of some of the successes that we had, is how you rebound from some of these things and how long does it sting and how long does it stay with you. What you can't do is allow it to compound and cause you problems for continued weeks."
The Bearcats allowed 505 total yards and 258 yards on the ground to UCF, both season highs. That might not bode well for them against Navy (3-5, 3-3), famed for its run-heavy triple-option offense.
"When quarterbacks run the ball, there's issues always with extra hats, and hats on hats," Fickell said. "What it really is gonna come down to is guys winning" individual assignments.
For Navy this week, that running quarterback will be backup Xavier Arline.
Starter Tai Lavatai suffered a left knee injury in last Saturday's game against Temple. Arline took over and ran 16 times for 54 yards, including the game-winning 23-yard touchdown in overtime to help the Midshipmen beat Temple 27-20.
"We'll tailor some stuff around (Arline) and play to his strengths and stuff that he does well," coach Ken Niumatalolo said.
Navy pulled out a meaningful win on Senior Day. The Midshipmen won't play in Annapolis for the rest of the year; after Cincinnati, they will host Notre Dame in Baltimore and travel to UCF before the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
Navy leads Cincinnati 3-2 in the all-time series. The Bearcats have won the past two meetings, sneaking out of Annapolis last year with a 27-20 win.
--Field Level Media