Cincinnati vs. Alabama Cotton Bowl Classic College Football Playoff Semifinal Free Picks

Desmond Ridder #9 of the Cincinnati Bearcats. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images/AFP

This is the first of two College Football Playoff games on New Year’s Eve and what a way to end the year with the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide lining up against the undefeated, and fourth-ranked team in the nation, Cincinnati Bearcats. Let’s break it down and keep cashing our college football picks

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Alabama Crimson 

Friday, December 31, 2021 – 03:30 PM EST at AT&T Stadium

It’s not often you see a non-Power 5 team vying for a national championship, with the exception of Notre Dame, but here we are. The Cincinnati Bearcats are taking their 13-0 record and AAC title to the exclusive party reserved only for the top four teams in the nation and will attempt to upset the kings of college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

And while the American Athletic Conference may not have the same cachet as the SEC, the Bearcats still have a big win over Notre Dame, ranked fifth at the end of the season, as well as a 35-20 win over their AAC rivals and No. 21 Houston in the AAC title game. 

Speaking of which, senior quarterback Desmond Ridder was perfectly efficient in connecting on 11-of-17 passes for 190 yards and striking for three touchdown passes to three different receivers. But it was a monster game by junior running back Jerome Ford that consistently piled up yards on the ground and moved the chains throughout the game, ending with 187 rushing yards and a pair of trips to the endzone.  

Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell was unequivocal about where he believed his team should be headed after the game, “The resounding statement is what we did on that football field. Nobody is going to call and ask us what we think. I don’t think these guys can be denied that opportunity. It would be a shame.” 

And they were not denied which was a departure from last season when they finished the truncated 2020 season undefeated as well, but a 9-0 record only got them a date with No. 9 Georgia in the Peach Bowl, a game the Bearcats lost, 24-21. 

Tide Keeps Rolling 

Aside from a three-point loss to Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide rolled over a dozen opponents this season, culminating in a dominating 41-24 victory over then top-ranked Georgia. It was the first time since October 3rd, 2015 that Alabama entered a game as the underdog but they proved that dog had plenty of bites when they struck for 41 points, 115 rushing yards, and 421 passing yards off of the golden arm of Heisman Trophy Award winner Bryce Young against the top defense in the nation. 

“The resiliency they’ve shown all year makes this so special,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Winning the game as we did last week, playing a game today to a level that most people probably didn’t expect, I’m really proud of this bunch. They’ve shown tremendous ability to overcome adversity all year long.” 

Wanna Make a Bet? 

The college football odds at all of the best online sportsbooks are revealing Alabama as 13 to 13 ½ point favorites 10 days before kickoff. The way the Tide has been blowing teams out makes this line look almost generous until we consider that Cincinnati has an unblemished record and is ranked second defending the pass, allowing just 167.5 passing yards per game, and fifth in the nation in points allowed, permitting only 16.1 PPG. 

And while that’s all well and good, we must consider the caliber of competition the Bearcats have faced, which is the very reason why teams from the non-Power 5 conferences often get overlooked when it comes to gaining entrance into the CFP. 

One thing I know is that Bryce Young is playing like a man possessed and if he can light up Georgia the way he did then how will Cincinnati contain this Bama aerial blitzkrieg even without their top receiver, John Metchie? As we have seen time and time again, Alabama has a knack for replacing one superstar with another.

Their talent pool runs so deep that there is always another waiting in the wings to shine. Oh, and lest we forget that Alabama’s leading wide receiver, Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, and his 1445 receiving yards and 15 touchdown receptions will be suiting up before he enters the NFL Draft as a first-round prospect. 

Too much firepower has Bama pulling away in the fourth quarter and leaving the Cats in the dust. Lay it and like it with the Tide. 

NCAAF Pick: Alabama -13 (-109) with BetRivers