2021 FBS Group of Five Championship Games Highlights and Recaps

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder kissing the AAC Championship Trophy after the Bearcats win over Houston.

A 2021 season like no other has taken place where finally a Group of Five team will undoubtedly be playing in the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati won the American Athletic Conference title over Houston to finish (thanks to Alabama also winning the SEC over Georgia) as the only undefeated team in all of FBS.

The Bearcats finished off their second straight regular season unscathed at 13-0 with the 35-20 win over Houston at home. Cincinnati will wait later today where and who they will play but there is no way the CPF committee can keep the Bearcats out of the Top Four.

QB Desmond Ridder and RB Jerome Ford combined for five touchdowns to lead Cincinnati’s offense. The Bearcats ran just 45 plays to Houston’s 73, but outgained the Cougars 400-336 for an average of 8.9 yards per play. Five of their first eight offensive possessions ended in touchdowns. Houston more than doubled Cincinnati in time of possession, but again, it was the Bearcats that were more productive with their opportunities.

Ford was named the AAC Championship game’s most valuable player after his 187 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, Ridder finished his career 26-0 at home with an 11-for-17 passing performance for 190 yards and three scores. Tyler Scott, Alec Pierce and Leonard Taylor were the recipients of Ridder’s touchdown tosses.

At noon Eastern Standard time today, Cincinnati will see where it ranks in the Playoff. The Bearcats entered the conference championship weekend at #4 in the rankings. #3 Alabama beat previously undefeated and #1 ranked Georgia in the SEC title game so it is likely those two SEC schools will also be in the Top 4, along with Big Ten champion Michigan, who were previously ranked #2.

Most projections have Cincinnati remaining at the #4 spot in the CPF rankings and would then face the #1 ranked team, which could be Michigan or Alabama depending on who the committee ranks the other three. The two bowls that will host the semi-final round this year are the Cotton Bowl in the Dallas area and Orange Bowl in the Miami area.

See highlights below of the Bearcats historic win.

Elsewhere in the other four Group of Five championship games, they went according to scrip with the exception in the Mountain West where Utah State upset San Diego State on the road.

The Aggies not only won the road game but destroyed the Aztecs 46-13 to capture their first ever MWC title and first title overall since Utah State won the Western Athletic Conference in 2013–the year before the Aggies entered the MWC.

The win will send the Aggies to the new LA Bowl against a PAC-12 team.

See highlights of this game below:

In the Sun Belt Conference, Louisiana got its first outright championship in its history with its home win over Appalachian State. The Ragin’ Cajuns sent Coach Billy Napier out with a conference title with is 24-16 win over the Mountaineers. Napier is leaving Louisiana to become the next head coach at Florida.

Louisiana finished with its best record of 12-1 and the season ended with ten straight victories.

See highlights of this game below:


The Conference USA championship went to UTSA in a thrilling game where the Roadrunners defeated Western Kentucky 49-41. It is the first ever conference title for UTSA in finishing the season 12-1 and the Road Runners rebounded after losing its regular season finale to North Texas.

See full highlights of the UTSA win below:

And finally the Mid-America Conference title went to Northern Illinois with a rather easy win over Kent State. The Huskies went from a winless 2020 team to MAC champions in 2021. NIU won the game 41-23.

See highlights of this game below:

All the conference champions and the rest of the bowl announcements will take place later today.