ATHENS — Cincinnati football is going big-game hunting this bowl season, looking to bag what would be the program’s first-ever New Year’s Six Bowl trophy.

Along with it, the Bearcats would earn immediate credibility, and with a perfect 10-0 record, the right to declare themselves uncrowned champions.

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Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell was not shy about sharing his team’s intent with Georgia’s Kirby Smart on the very same Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl zoom call this week.

The game takes place at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 1 in Atlanta.

“It is huge for our program, and it is a measuring stick, exactly right,” Fickel said. “If you want to claim that you should have an opportunity and you should have a shot, well, this is an opportunity, this is a shot.”

The Bearcats are ranked No. 8, the Bulldogs are ranked No. 9, but the programs have had decidedly different seasons.

Cincinnati’s success has been to the extent that its conference commissioner, Mike Aresco, took the CFP committee to task in a way that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey never did when Georgia appeared wrongly left out of the “Four Best” equation in 2018.

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“I never thought I’d say it, but if this continues, I’d say let’s bring back the BCS and the computers, because it would be a fairer system than what I’m seeing now,” Aresco said. “This is the seventh year and it does appear that the deck is stacked against us and against other G4.

“I think the committee is, honestly, undermining its credibly with the rankings that to me defy logic, and common sense and fairness.”

Bearcats athletic director John Cunningham took to the ESPN stage, as well.

“It’s hard to be perfect, and we had nine times we had to prove ourselves and we did it, we passed the test each time,” Cunningham said. “I would put our eye test up against almost anybody, you go back and watch the games we played, and the teams we beat, and how we beat those teams.

“You have to give these schools an opportunity to prove themselves at the highest level.”

Georgia, with the longest active bowl streak in the nation (24), and playing at the elite New Year’s Six Bowl level for the fourth season in a row, represents college football’s highest level.

It has become so much the norm for Coach Kirby Smart’s program to play at this level that some team captains have opted out of playing in the team’s bowl game three consecutive seasons.

This season’s senior class has a chance to tie the record for being the winningest in school history, but at the time of this writing five of the seven senior starters are reportedly opting out.

That includes Georgia’s only All-SEC first-team offense pick (Ben Cleveland).

Georgia fans could explain away a loss to Cincinnati due to the attrition, should the Bearcats bag the Bulldogs on New Year’s Day.

But national perception would shift, and there would be no asterisk engraved on what would be Cincinnati’s first-ever New Year’s Six Bowl victory after past losses in the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.

“We are incredibly happy and excited to be where we are,” Fickell said, his Bearcats foaming at the mouth to get the Bulldogs in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on national television.

“To have an (AAC) championship and have a challenge with Coach Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs.”

No doubt, it’s a measuring stick for Cincinnati, and an opportunity to record what would be a historic win over Georgia football.

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