Cincinnati vs. Alabama prediction, pick for the 2021 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

What are the current odds for the 2021 Goodyear Cotton Bow Classic, and what is our prediction and pick for Cincinnati vs. Alabama?

The first College Football Playoff game features a David and Goliath matchup as the Cincinnati Bearcats take on the might of Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Following a crazy college football season, will there be an upset this afternoon? Or will the Tide prove too strong for the Bearcats? Let’s take a look at the current Cincinnati vs. Alabama odds and make a pick and prediction for the 2021 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama betting odds and trends

  • Spread: Alabama -13.5 (Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Total: 58 (Over -105, Under -115)
  • Moneyline: Alabama -525, Cincinnati +385

Do you fancy your chances betting on the Bearcats in today’s Cincinnati vs. Alabama showdown? Perhaps the Crimson Tide can bankroll your New Year celebrations? If you’re looking to make a little money predicting the future, it’s worth considering the past before you lay down your hard-earned cash.

It’s tough to look past Alabama as the betting favorite in this College Football Playoff semifinal. Favorites have won 73.2% of games this year, and the Crimson Tide have lost just once as the favorite this season (when they were defeated by Texas A&M). This is the first time that undefeated Cincinnati has played as an underdog all year. In their previous games against Power Five teams — Notre Dame and Indiana — they started as a small favorite.

The Bearcats have a better record against the spread this season. They’re currently 8-5 compared to Alabama’s 7-6. Although the Crimson Tide have covered the 13.5 line on six occasions this year, I’d be wary of taking them to cover today. I think Cincinnati — as they did against Georgia last year — has the potential to play Alabama close.

None of the previous five Cincinnati vs. Alabama matchups have tallied over the 58 total line for this game. 15 of their combined 26 games this season have surpassed the total. As a result, there’s a possibility that the game descends into a shootout. However, with two of the most ferocious defenses in college football, it could just as likely become a low-scoring chess match, especially if Cincinnati is able to control the time of possession.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama prediction

The College Football Playoff semifinal matchup will mark the sixth edition of Cincinnati vs. Alabama. The Crimson Tide hold a commanding 5-0 series lead, and they won the last matchup between the two teams 45-7 in Tuscaloosa. While history can often repeat itself, both programs are barely recognizable from the teams that faced off over 30 years ago.

That defeat to Alabama was one of 10 losses in 1990 for Cincinnati. The Bearcats had not enjoyed a winning season since 1982 and wouldn’t sniff a double-digit winning season until Brian Kelly’s short tenure began in 2007. Now, Cincinnati is the standard-bearer for the Group of Five. They’re the college football David to the established college football Goliath.

They’ve made history in becoming the first non-Power Five program to reach the College Football Playoff. Yet, they’re not just here to make up the numbers. They’re here to compete, and they proved last season against Georgia that they can compete and do belong. Can they genuinely deliver the stone from the slingshot and knock out Alabama?

It’s easy to get caught up in the romance of the Cincinnati story. As a college football fan who just so happens to get the opportunity to write about the game, I want to see a team like Cincinnati overcome the odds and prove they’ve earned their spot at the top table. These underdog stories are why we love the sport so much and why we invest our time on Saturdays throughout the fall.

Can Cincinnati defeat the college football giant?

However, it isn’t just romance talking when I say that I believe that Cincinnati genuinely has the best chance to beat Alabama of all the teams in the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats have the strengths to capitalize on the Crimson Tide’s weaknesses. They are strongest in the areas where Alabama is strong, creating an even playing field.

Alabama’s biggest defensive weakness is in the passing game. While they’ve allowed just 82.8 yards per game on the ground this season, they’ve given up 223.3 yards per contest through the air. When Cincinnati vs. Alabama kicks off later today, the Crimson Tide will be without cornerbacks Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis. Despite Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams snagging 3 interceptions each this season, the secondary is ripe for attack.

Enter Desmond Ridder, the only quarterback in the College Football Playoffs capable of attacking the Alabama secondary. Ridder has thrown for 3,190 yards at 9.0 yards per attempt with 30 touchdowns this season. His arm is stronger than Stetson Bennett IV at Georgia or Cade McNamara at Michigan. The Cincinnati quarterback has game-changing targets in the underrated Alec Pierce and uber-athletic tight end Josh Whyle.

Of course, Ridder will be under pressure all afternoon, and how he handles that will determine whether Cincinnati can cause an upset. Will Anderson Jr. has been an absolute force this season, establishing himself as one of, if not the, best player in college football. Henry To’o To’o, Christian Harris, Phidarian Mathis, and many more can make it an uncomfortable afternoon for Ridder. Yet, we know he can create plays when the pocket breaks down.

Can the Cincinnati defense withstand Bryce Young?

While the Alabama defense has been sensational down the stretch, the Cincinnati unit has been consistently one of the best all season. Their front seven is loaded with playmakers, including linebackers Joel Dublanko (106 tackles, 11 tackles for loss) and Darrian Beavers. Defensive end Myjai Sanders is so good that teams actively scheme away from him, allowing Curtis Brooks to rack up impressive numbers.

Nevertheless, it’s the secondary that makes this Cincinnati unit so difficult to face. Ahmad Gardner hasn’t allowed a single touchdown in his entire college career. Coby Bryant was named the Jim Thorpe Award winner this season after tallying 11 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. Eight different players have snagged an interception this year, with the defense allowing just 16.1 points and 305.8 yards per game on their way to the playoff.

In addition to defensive injury concerns, Alabama is also short-handed on offense. Wide receiver John Metchie II has tallied 1,142 yards and 8 touchdowns this season but will miss the game. Although Jameson Williams has emerged as one of the best receivers in the nation en route to 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns, he’ll need someone to step into Metchie’s void to help take the attention away from him.

It seems ridiculous that we’ve made it over 1,000 words without mentioning the first-ever Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. We’ve saved the best until last. Because while the Bearcats have the players and potential to cause an upset, the biggest X-factor in Cincinnati vs. Alabama is Bryce Young. His poise and exceptional performance in the biggest moments should prove enough to withstand even the biggest and well-thrown stone that this college football David can muster against the Goliath that is Alabama.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama Prediction: Alabama 30, Cincinnati 27

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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