CINCINNATI (AP) — Desmond Ridder likes to think the historic success of his Cincinnati Bearcats helped put the Bengals on the path to the Super Bowl.
“It’s pretty cool. I’d like to say we started them — we kind of helped them get to the playoff point,” joked the former Bearcats quarterback who is in Mobile, Alabama, this week preparing for Saturday’s Senior Bowl.
Well, maybe. What’s undisputable, though, is that fans in Cincinnati got a football season to remember.
The Bearcats ran the table in the American Athletic Conference and became the first team from a second-tier conference to reach the College Football Playoff, taking their only loss to No. 1 Alabama in a national semifinal.
The Bengals climbed out of the muck of three consecutive last-place finishes in the AFC North to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1988 season. Following three captivating playoff wins, Cincinnati will face the Los Angeles Rams in SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.
The energy level is skyrocketing in Cincinnati, which hasn’t seen this kind of hope and hysteria since the Reds swept the Oakland Athletics in the 1990 World Series.
The Bengals lost to San Francisco when they last reached the Super Bowl. The Bearcats played second fiddle to football juggernaut Ohio State for 100 years before jumping over the Buckeyes last season.
“It’s phenomenal,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said. “When there’s a winning buzz and in a winning attitude, I mean, it’s amazing how contagious it is and what momentum can do for you.”
Coby Bryant is a Cleveland native who became an All-America cornerback for the Bearcats in 2021. Along the way, he started rooting for the Bengals.
“The year that we had and the year that they’re having as well, going to the Super Bowl, it’s been exciting,” Bryant said….