Cincinnati is Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week

DALLAS (FWAA) – The Cincinnati Bearcats jumped all over Notre Dame early to the tune of a 17-0 halftime lead and scored a major victory that put them into the thick of the early College Football Playoff discussion with a 24-13 win in South Bend, Ind. The first road win over a top-10 team in school history that ended the No. 9 Fighting Irish's 26-game home win streak earned the Bearcats the Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week honor for games of weekend of Oct. 2, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.

This is just the second time for Cincinnati (4-0) to earn this honor from the FWAA. The other came in 2006, which marked the last time the Bearcats beat a top-10 team in a 30-11 home win over then-unbeaten Rutgers.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder accounted for 323 yards of total offense (297 passing, 26 rushing) and three total touchdowns. Ridder's favorite target was Alec Pierce, who had his third career 100-yard game with six catches for 144 yards. When Notre Dame got within 17-13 with 8:20 left in the game, Ridder sealed it on the ensuing drive in which he was 3-for-3 passing and ran in from six yards out with 5:08 left.

The defense did its part also, forcing three turnovers in the first half and keeping Notre Dame scoreless until the 1:19 mark of the third quarter. The 13 points are Notre Dame's fewest of the season. The Bearcats have 11 takeaways over the last three games (8 interceptions, three fumble recoveries).

"We didn't just beat a top-10 team, we beat a top-five program," Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. "It was much different from Indiana (a week prior). We learned from that (a slow start) and the emotions of how much that can drain you at the start of a game. They were calm and cool the whole day. This was a different vibe from a real mature team. They were focused and locked in."

Cincinnati, which played in South Bend for the first time since 1900, is now 35-5 since 2018, and is among the top five teams in the FBS in winning percentage during that span (.875).

This is the 20th season the FWAA will select a national team of the week. Each honored team will receive a custom Cheez-It "care package" along with a hand-crafted game ball made in America by Dallas-based Big Game USA, the nation's leading manufacturer of custom footballs.

Cincinnati hosts Temple in a Friday American Athletic Conference clash at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The other National Team of the Week nominees for the weekend of Oct. 2 are:

• Hawaii (3-3): The Rainbow Warriors topped No. 18 Fresno State, 27-24, beating a ranked opponent for the first time since 2010 and snapping a six-game home losing streak to the Bulldogs. True freshman quarterback Braeden Schager started his first game in place of an injured starter Chevan Cordeiro and threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to erase a 14-point deficit.

• Kentucky (5-0): The Wildcats exorcised some demons beating No. 9 Florida at home 20-13, its first win over the Gators in Lexington since 1986 and only its second in the teams' last 35 meetings. Kentucky's first win over an AP top-10 team since 2010 was keyed by a special teams play as Josh Paschal blocked a field goal that Trevin Wallace picked up and returned 76 yards for a touchdown that gave No. 23 Kentucky the lead for good. Kentucky is 3-0 in the SEC for only the fifth time in school history.

• Stanford (3-2): The Cardinal beat Oregon – again – in dramatic fashion as Tanner McKee threw a touchdown pass on an untimed down at the end of regulation to tie the game, then another one on the opening overtime possession in a 31-24 win over the No. 3 Ducks. It was Stanford's fourth win against a top-10-ranked Oregon team since 2009. McKee came back after leaving for a play on the final drive of regulation with an injury to make the scoring play.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or

About the Cheez-It Bowl
The Cheez-It Bowl takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 29 at 5:15 p.m. ET in Orlando, Fla. The postseason contest is hosted by Florida Citrus Sports, a Central Florida-based nonprofit, and annually features top teams from the Atlantic Coast and Big 12 Conferences. Cheez-It®, the best-selling cracker brand in the United States, signed on as the game's title sponsor in 2020 as part of its season-long support of college football. Last bowl season, No. 21 Oklahoma State beat No. 18 Miami 37-34 in front of an audience of Cheez-It "Wheel Live Fans." This year's Cheez-It Bowl will be the 32nd edition of the game and its 21st in Orlando.

2021 Cheez-It Bowl National Teams of the Week

• Weekend of Sept. 4: UCLA Bruins
• Weekend of Sept. 11: Arkansas Razorbacks
• Weekend of Sept. 18: Fresno State Bulldogs
• Weekend of Sept. 25: N.C. State Wolfpack
• Weekend of Oct. 2: Cincinnati Bearcats

Related links:
• All-time FWAA National Teams of the Week
• Download Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week logo: .jpg | .eps

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