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Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, North Carolina Attendance: 38,014
No. 4 Cincinnati looks to finish strong vs. ECU
Cincinnati Bearcats at East Carolina Pirates
- East Carolina leads the series 13-11 including 8-4 in Cincinnati. The Pirates won 12 of the first 14 matchups, but the Bearcats have won nine of the last ten including the last three. The winning team has scored at least 46 points in the last four games.
- Cincinnati is one of three remaining undefeated teams in the FBS. Luke Fickell was once 5-7 on the road as the Bearcats head coach, but has won 11 of 13 away games since. They are one of two teams (Coastal Carolina) that have scored at least 28 touchdowns this season rushing AND passing.
- Jerome Ford needs 34 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He had 634 in his first three seasons. He leads the AAC and is seventh in the FBS with 16 rushing touchdowns. He has at least one score in nine of 10 games he has played this season. Last season against the Pirates, he had two.
- Seven of East Carolina's 11 games have been decided by seven points or less with the Pirates winning four of them. They currently have a four-game win streak including winning on a game-winning field goal as time expired last week at Navy and an overtime victory at Memphis the week before.
- Ja'Quan McMillian is tied for FBS lead with only five interceptions this season. He also leads all active players with 12 interceptions. Half of his 12 interceptions have been at home including a 23-yard pick six earlier this season against Charleston Southern.
- Oklahoma QB Rattler plans to transfer
- SMU names Miami OC Lashlee as coach
- Temple fires coach Carey after 3 seasons
- Babers to return to Syracuse for 2022
- Georgia Tech RB Gibbs to transfer
No. 4 Cincinnati has been fighting all season to get into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. Now they'll end the season on Friday against host East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., with a chance to stay there.
The Bearcats (11-0, 7-0 AAC) added some style points to their resume last weekend with a 48-14 win over SMU in their home finale. Cincinnati rode that momentum into Tuesday when it was ranked No. 4 by the CFP committee.
It's the highest ranking ever for Cincinnati in the Playoff, and Cincy is the first team from outside the Power 5 conferences to ever break into the top four.
"I think it's awesome," coach Luke Fickell told ESPN. "Now we know we've got a ways to go with two tough games left. But the excitement about it and the recognition is well deserved for this group of guys who have fought all season."
The Bearcats need a win on Friday to complete the second 12-0 regular season in program history (2009), earn the right to host the AAC championship game for a second straight year (this time vs. Houston) and -- most importantly -- continue to hold onto that playoff spot.
"For us, we've got to go out and play. We know what's at stake," Fickell said. "It's another opportunity for our guys to go out and compete and do what they love to do."
The Pirates (7-4, 5-2 AAC) know they'll be playing the role of spoiler, but they have built a solid season of their own thanks to a four-game winning streak. ECU edged Navy 38-35 last week, and that came after a 30-29 overtime win at Memphis.
The Bearcats have won three in a row in the series, including a 55-17 blowout last year in Cincinnati. Cincy won 46-43 the last time the game was played in Greenville.
"Our kids, they know this is a big game for us. It's the biggest game of the year; it's the only one we've got this week," ECU coach Mike Houston said. "Our motivation is trying to get better every day and trying to prepare to play well on Friday afternoon. We've got a great opportunity for our program."
Cincinnati has been as complete a team as any in the nation this season. The Bearcats rank eighth in scoring nationally (40.0 ppg) and sixth in scoring defense (16.0). Cincy ranks third with 26 turnovers created and fifth in turnover margin.
That balance continues through the offense. Jerome Ford (970 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns) provides the power, while quarterback Desmond Ridder has provided big-play capability with 2,699 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns.
"Tough task, but you know what, an exciting time," Houston said. "If you told me back in the summer, we had this situation going into this ballgame, I promise you, me and everybody else around Greenville would have taken it."
The Pirates will be a dangerous opponent for the Bearcats' suddenly potent playoff hopes. ECU ranks 26th nationally in total offense (446.9 yards per game) with a balanced attack.
Keaton Mitchell has piled up 1,077 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and he ranks fourth in the country with 6.86 yards per carry. Holton Ahlers has thrown for 2,898 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Fickell knows his team is in the playoff field right now, but he also knows how quickly it can change.
"We've got a big one this week," he said. "ECU has been playing really well. I think that this is a really good football team that is hitting their stride at the end of the season."
--Field Level Media
Updated November 24, 2021