Classic Cotton Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Alabama
It finally happened. The American Athletic Conference (AAC) Cincinnati Bearcats make history on New Years Eve by becoming the first team to represent a Group of 5 conference in the college football playoffs. In a year in which traditional powers like Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU and Notre Dame have at times faltered, the undefeated Bearcats have made their way to the playoffs, pun intended, with the one of the most impressive resumes in college football history. The task that awaits them at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX is daunting, as they prepare to face the Alabama Crimson Tide led by the best coach in college football history and the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. While many think Cincinnati earned their place in the playoffs, many also believe they don’t have the athletes to play with players like Alabama, Georgia and Michigan – and maybe rightly so.
Likewise, many prominent sports opinionists felt it was a “down” year for football in Alabama. Apart from an appearance of greatness against Georgia in the SEC Championship game, this team have been inconsistent and sloppy – by their very high standards – with their defense not showing up in some games and their offense in d ‘others. Despite that, they find themselves in as good a position as ever with the number one seed in the playoffs and another free kick for a national title. There’s a lot at stake on both sides in this one with plenty of questions that still need to be answered. Fortunately, there are plenty of answers awaiting us this Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Cincinnati vs Alabama betting odds
Wisconsin vs Arizona State betting trends
The Bearcats are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games as an underdog
The Bearcats are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games
The Bearcats are 6-0 ATS against a team with a winning record
Crimson Tide are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games
Crimson Tide are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games on neutral site.
Crimson Tide is 2-5 ATS in its last 7 games following an ATS win
Cincinnati Bearcats betting odds
All season long, the fruit at hand for this Cincinnati team has been their Calendar Strength (SOS). The Bearcats enter this game with the worst SOS of any CFP team, ranking 90th in the country. The CFP team with the second-worst SOS is Michigan with a 21st-ranked schedule. Alabama, on the other hand, has the strongest schedule among CFP teams with the 4th best in the NCAA. Despite a poor schedule, this Cincinnati team faced two top 25-ranked teams this season at Notre Dame and Houston and beat both teams to the bottom.
The meat of this Bearcat team is the defensive backfield. Led by two NFL-level cornerbacks Coby Bryant and Ahmad Gardener, the Bearcats have the best passing defense in the AAC and second best in the country, behind Washington. They allow just 166 passing yards per game and have the third-most interceptions of any FBS team. Their scoring defense is tied with Michigan for fourth best college football, allowing just 16.9 points per game. They also have the fourth best red zone defense in the country, allowing scores on just 69.44% of the opponent’s red zone records.
Offensively, the Bearcats have a veteran squad led by senior quarterback Desmond Ritter. They are sixth in the AAC in passing offense, averaging 248.7 yards per game, and fourth in rushing offense, averaging 180.2 yards per game. While they don’t rank in the top 3 for passing or rushing attacks, they lead the conference in scoring, with 39.2 points per game. Much of this is due to their ball peddling defense that has given them positional advantages on the court all season – something they’re going to have to continue to capitalize on if they are to beat Alabama.
Alabama Crimson Tide betting odds
Until Alabama beat Georgia by 17 points in the SEC Championship game, it was seen as a nearly lost season for the Crimson Tide – at least by the media. While that offense seemed to stagnate against mediocre defenses like LSU and Auburn, they rank second in the SEC in yards per game. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young in QB, their passing attack ranks second in the SEC, behind only Mississippi State, and seventh in the country. Receivers Jamieson Williams and John Metchie led the team in receptions, with Williams placing fifth in college football in yards per take with 21.3 yards per take.
The Crimson Tides have struggled with the ball at times this season, ranking 10th in the SEC in rushing yards. Outside of Brian Robinson Jr., no Alabama player has run more than 285 yards this season. For reference, Cincinnati has three players above that threshold. This Alabama offense, however, was effective in the red zone, scoring over 92.45 percent of red zone drives.
Defensively, Alabama ranks second behind Georgia in the SEC, allowing just 306 yards per game. They had their biggest success against the run this year, allowing just 82.8 yards per game. Only Wisconsin allows fewer yards per carry than Alabama. Passing, however, this Alabama team struggled at times. They are eighth in the SEC in passing defense, allowing 223.3 yards per game. They rank 92nd in the FBS for opposing quarterback completion percentage and 55th for opponent who passes the first downs of a game. Their red zone defense also struggled, dropping scores on 82.86% of opponents’ red zone training – 63rd among FBS teams.
Cincinnati vs Alabama Picks & Predictions
The clashes in this game play in Cincinnati’s favor. Alabama need to throw the ball to move the chains on offense, and few teams have a better secondary than the Bearcats. While Alabama has proven against Georgia that they can still be successful against dominant secondaries, no Georgian cornerback should go higher than Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardener. This Alabama team is stingy against the run, which will come in handy against a Cincinnati team that can be dynamic in the attacking backfield. Overall, Cincinnati’s defense matches Alabama’s offense better than Alabama’s defense matches Cincinnati’s offense. I think Alabama’s offense is generally better than Cincinnati’s, and the Alabama O-Line will have more success against the Cincy D-Line than it has had against some of the SEC D- Lines she fought against. When all is said and done, I like it to be a low scoring game with a win in Alabama and a recovery from Cincy.
My choice : Alabama win 27-21, Cincy covers (+13.5) and lower strikes (u57.5)