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Alabama vs. Cincinnati Cotton Bowl Odds, Predictions, Picks: Our Top College Football Playoff Semifinal Bet

Alabama vs. Cincinnati Cotton Bowl Odds, Predictions, Picks: Our Top College Football Playoff Semifinal Bet article feature image
Credit:

Scott Halleran/Getty Images, Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) and Alabama Crimson Tide running back Brian Robinson Jr. (4).

  • It's time for Cincinnati vs. Alabama in the College Football Playoff.
  • Odds continue to move toward the Bearcats, who now enter as +13 underdogs against the Crimson Tide.
  • Collin Wilson delivers his top bet for the Cotton Bowl below.

Alabama vs. Cincinnati Odds

Friday, Dec. 31
3:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Alabama Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-13
-110
57.5
-110o / -110u
-550
Cincinnati Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+13
-110
57.5
-110o / -110u
+400
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Cotton Bowl
Friday, Dec. 31 · Arlington, TX

The Group of Five will make its first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff when the Cotton Bowl kicks off from AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Friday afternoon.

Cincinnati ran through a nonconference schedule that included Notre Dame and Indiana before sweeping conference play. After a few midseason non-covers against the likes of Navy and Tulsa, the Bearcats listed in the futures market at +500 to make the playoff.

With only two Power Five champions having a single loss, head coach Luke Fickell will represent all of the former Group of Five teams that never had a chance to win a national title.

Alabama will play in its sixth College Football Playoff since 2015, as every semifinal produced a victory and National Championship berth. The Crimson Tide have been dominant in semifinal games with a month of rest, outscoring opponents, 161-61, collectively through six games.

Nick Saban is the all-time winningest coach from a National Championship perspective, but his six titles in Tuscaloosa tie Bear Bryant for the all-time Alabama record.


Alabama Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide had a miraculous turnaround in the SEC Championship game. Alabama failed to cover Arkansas, Auburn and LSU in the month of November leading up to the conference title game against Georgia.

Bryce Young then threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs thanks to the protection of a modified offensive line.

Chris Owens was moved from center to right tackle, while Seth McLaughlin took over duties at center and played a steady 73 snaps with just 117 previous snaps of experience.

Bryce Young: Most 20+ yard TD passes among all SEC QBs (13)@AlabamaFTBL pic.twitter.com/HdnkAGjTbU

— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 22, 2021

The Alabama passing attack will be limited with the loss of John Metchie III. His 128 targets led the team, as offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien commented that Ja’Corey Brooks and JoJo Earle would get the lion’s share of the duties.

Brooks and Earle combined for just 17 receptions from Young this season, which sends the entire offensive game plan to the back of fifth-year senior running back Brian Robinson Jr.

Pete Golding turned in another stellar season as defensive coordinator for Alabama. the Tide ranked top-15 in numerous categories, including Line Yards, Stuff Rate, tackling and Havoc.

Jordan Battle and Jalyn Armour-Davis are two of the highest-graded secondary players in the nation, while Christopher Allen is a top-20 linebacker in FBS from a coverage standpoint.

Edge rusher Will Anderson recorded an astronomical 73 pressures this season and is surely out to prove he was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.


Cincinnati Bearcats

Defense is the biggest reason for the Bearcats reaching to the semifinals.

The secondary is populated with plenty of names that will play in the NFL, as Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant have been two of the highest-graded lockdown cornerbacks in college football.

Roaming the middle has been safety Bryan Cook, graded out as the highest individual coverage defender in the nation.

The Bearcats posted top-10 ranks in coverage, tackling and Finishing Drives against a schedule of offenses light on Success Rate and explosiveness.

If Gardner and Bryant can keep up with Jameson Williams’ double moves, the corners may limit where Alabama can spread the ball in passing downs.

Desmond Ridder is looking to close his college career on a winning note after vast improvements in ball security this season. Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock has adapted the Bearcats’ 11 and 12 formations into a mixture of heavy rush with Jerome Ford and play-action passing in standard downs.

Cincinnati has been one of the most successful offenses in the nation in early downs with a rank of 10th in Success Rate.

DESMOND RIDDER FROZEN ROPE#CFB

pic.twitter.com/lO17rWiSEx

— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 4, 2021

Passing Downs are where the Cincinnati offenses has struggled, dropping to 83rd in Success Rate and 104th in explosiveness.

When Cincinnati has sustained drives into opponent territory, the Bearcats have been excellent at avoiding field goals. Cincinnati has scored on 48 red-zone attempts this season with 42 by way of touchdown.

If the chains move on offense and the defensive secondary can make Alabama one-dimensional, there is a shot for Cincinnati to play for the national title.

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Alabama vs. Cincinnati Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Alabama and Cincinnati match up statistically:

Cincinnati Offense vs. Alabama Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 16 11
Line Yards 48 4
Pass Success 31 51
Pass Blocking** 71 50
Big Play 19 49
Havoc 12 11
Finishing Drives 10 89
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Alabama Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 69 22
Line Yards 79 27
Pass Success 3 8
Pass Blocking** 60 4
Big Play 6 14
Havoc 63 18
Finishing Drives 9 6
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 7 3
Coverage 2 21
Middle 8 7 2
SP+ Special Teams 78 26
Plays per Minute 68 57
Rush Rate 54.3% (71) 49.3% (101)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.


Alabama vs. Cincinnati Betting Pick

For Cincinnati to make the National Championship game, stopping the rush from Alabama is the top priority. The Crimson Tide have allowed Robinson to rush for over 30 attempts in numerous games against defensive fronts that were weak against the ground game.

The Bearcats posted a Defensive Stuff Rate rank of 35th in the nation, allowing four yards per carry on opponent rushing attempts. Successful rushing attacks have converted third Downs and scoring opportunities against Cincinnati this season, as the Bearcats allowed 4% more than the national average in opponent methodical drive rate.

36 ATT
171 YDS
4 TD

It was Brian Robinson's day for @AlabamaFTBL against Ole Miss. pic.twitter.com/UC8C1eB5if

— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 2, 2021

Young may not have many passing downs attempts in this game if an undersized Cincinnati defensive line is not able to stop the rush.

The game plan is clear for Alabama: Run the ball as often as possible and avoid throwing against three NFL defensive backs.

For the Cincinnati offense to keep pace with Alabama, all efforts must be made to protect the ball. Ridder led an offense that ranked 12th in Havoc allowed, but pressure in passing downs is where the most mistakes have been made.

Ridder sees an adjusted completion percentage drop of 21% from a clean pocket to a pressured one. The biggest plays from the Cincinnati offense have come in standard downs off of play-action, as Ridder has posted eight big-time throws to just one turnover-worthy play.

The Action Network projection is Alabama -12.5, indicating value on Cincinnati.

So much of the Bearcats’ chances to upset the Tide ride on Young testing the Cincinnati secondary and Ridder having successful early downs. At +14, the Bearcats will have plenty of value if game day steam arrives on the Tide.

With a projected path that includes the Alabama offense lining up in two-tight end sets and running Brian Robinson over 30 times, this game could be a grinder. Expect Alabama to sit on any double-digit leads and leave passing game off film for the national title game.

Pick: Under 57 or Better

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