No. 4 Cincinnati looks to finish strong vs. ECU

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.

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