No. 9 Cincinnati, No. 23 Tulsa finally ready to meet — in AAC final

NCAA Football

Cincinnati and Tulsa have been penciled in to meet on more than one occasion this season, only to see those potential clashes erased by postponements.

The ninth-ranked Bearcats and 23rd-ranked Golden Hurricane finally are on target to settle their differences Saturday in the American Athletic Conference championship game in Cincinnati.

The Bearcats (8-0, 6-0 AAC) initially were slated to visit Tulsa on Oct. 17; however, positive COVID-19 cases within the Cincinnati program forced the postponement of that game to Dec. 5. Television demands briefly shuffled the contest to Dec. 4 and then to Dec. 12 in lieu of other commitments. But additional COVID-19 issues within the Bearcats’ program forced the cancellation of that clash.

“I know our guys were excited to play them early in the year,” Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery told the Tulsa World. “They were excited to play them this past weekend. We’re finally going to get that opportunity to do that.”

But the teams will do that in Cincinnati. The AAC allowed the Bearcats to host the title game since their College Football Playoff ranking was superior to the Golden Hurricane’s.

“We talked to Tulsa about it as well as Cincinnati, and everybody was comfortable that that was the best decision,” league commissioner Mike Aresco said.

The Golden Hurricane (6-1, 6-0) enters Saturday’s game with some momentum.

Tulsa has answered a season-opening loss to Oklahoma State with six straight wins, including 19-6 over Navy on Dec. 5. That victory allowed the Golden Hurricane to vie for a championship for the first time since 2012.

For their part, the Bearcats have been idle since posting a 36-33 victory over UCF on Nov. 21.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape, in a good place right now,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “We’re getting through some minor things that come along with being off for 14, 15, 16 days or so. Other than that I think we should hopefully by Saturday be in good shape with just about everybody.”

Fickell joined quarterback Desmond Ridder in being honored by the AAC on Tuesday. Fickell was named the conference’s Coach of the Year while Ridder was tabbed as the AAC Offensive Player of the Year.

Ridder, who became the first Bearcat to earn the honor since running back Isaiah Pead in 2011, has passed for 1,821 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He also has rushed for 526 yards and 11 scores.

He threw for just 172 yards and added 23 on the ground in Cincinnati’s 24-13 win over Tulsa last season.

Gerrid Doaks had three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in that game for the Bearcats. He has nine scores (seven rushing, two receiving) this season and leads the team in rushing with 660 yards.

Ridder and Doaks will have to contend with Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, who unanimously was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday. Collins was joined on the all-conference first team on defense by teammate Jaxon Player, a lineman.

–Field Level Media

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