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4 Cincinnati vs. 1 Alabama: Cotton Bowl Preview and Prediction

Cotton Bowl
Photo courtesy of ESPN.

After years of being denied, a nonpower five school will have an opportunity to compete for a national title. The Cincinnati Bearcats became the first program from the Group of Five conferences to qualify for the college football playoff.

If they pull off the upset on Friday followed by a victory in the final round, it will go down as one of the biggest stories in the modern era of college football. However, it will not be an easy task. The defending national champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will be standing in their way.

Nick Saban’s team seems to reload every year and remain in contention for national titles regardless of the players that leave for the NFL. After the loss to Texas A&M and nail biters with Arkansas, LSU, and Florida, doubts if the Tide would defend their national title began. The 41-24 beatdown of the Georgia Bulldogs put those concerns to rest.

Alabama could find success in its contest against Cincinnati in many ways. One area that they could test the Bearcats in is with the passing game. The potential matchup between Cincinnati corner Ahamad “Sauce” Gardner against Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams could determine Alabama’s flow for the rest of the game. However, the key to Gardner’s success will be how well Cincinnati’s pass rush can attack Alabama’s o-line and get after Heisman winner Bryce Young.

Bama’s offensive line has been a glaring hole all season. If they can put Young under duress, the Bearcats’ chances of winning improve dramatically. However, they need to perform that way for the entire game because Alabama is the type of team that can change the momentum of a game real fast. Offensively, QB Desmond Ridder has to keep playing like the playmaker he has been all season.

Mistake-free football will be a critical element for the Bearcats taking down Alabama. If nothing is there in the passing game, do not try anything to force it. As for the Crimson Tide, they must build off the momentum seen against the Georgia Bulldogs.

If Cincinnati’s secondary is not up to par, then you can expect Alabama to exploit those deficiencies early and often. Defensively, the Crimson Tide is still a unit that can rattle Ridder and make things difficult despite having a down season. However, Ridder is a quarterback that threatens to get out of the pocket and make plays. It’s an area that Bama has struggled with before when playing big games.

Predicted Outcome

The Cincinnati Bearcats qualifying for the college football playoffs is a great story. However, all stories must come to an end at some point. On New Year’s Eve, Alabama will close the book on the Bearcats’ memorable 2021-2022 season. They will keep the game close, but Alabama will pull away in the second half. Cincinnati is a force in college football that will only get better once they join the Big 12. However, the Crimson Tide is just on a different level right now.

Cincinnati 28

Alabama   45

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