No. 4 Cincinnati enters the College Football Playoff with a 13-0 record out of the American Athletic Conference.
The Bearcats are the first Group of 5 program to make the College Football Playoff. That’s the good news. Cincinnati is a heavy underdog against defending national champion Alabama. The teams play on Dec. 31 in the Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium.
Here is a closer look at Cincinnati’s bowl history, and the reasons why the Bearcats will (or won’t) win a national championship in 2021:
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Cincinnati’s College Football Playoff history
Cincinnati is making history as the first G5 school to make the CFP.
The Bearcats have made three appearances in a BCS or New Year’s Day Six Bowl. Here is how those games went.
CFP championship odds
According to Fanduel.com, The Bearcats have the worst odds to win the national championship.
Alabama vs. Cincinnati odds
According to FanDuel.com, Alabama is a 14-point favorite against Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl. Cincinnati is 8-5 ATS this season. The Crimson Tide are 7-6 ATS.
Why Cincinnati will win national title
Remember when Villanova won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1985 (look it up)? This would be an upset on an infinitely larger scale. Luke Fickell stayed with the Bearcats instead of entertaining other jobs, and that shows a trust in this team.
Cincinnati has proven they can play with big-time competition. The key to hanging with Georgia last year was limiting the Bulldogs to 45 yards rushing. Alabama ranks 80th in the FBS in rushing offense (147.6 ypg.), and if they can stop that, then it becomes a strength-on-strength matchup.
Cincinnati has two of the best cornerbacks in the FBS in Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant. Will they be able to slow down Jameson Williams, who averages 21.3 yards per catch? Alabama will likely be missing their second 1,000-yard receiver in John Metchie.
Desmond Ridder and Jerome Ford, an Alabama transfer, are a prolific backfield tandem, and Ridder will get a few chances against a secondary that had the occasional breakdown. Cincinnati would need everything to go right and then some, but most of the country will be behind the Bearcats. Maybe Ridder and Ford have the game of their lives and Cincinnati forces four or more turnovers. That’s probably what it would take.
If they beat Bama, then it’s house money against either Georgia or Michigan.
Why Cincinnati won’t win national title
Does Cincinnati have a defense that can contain this Alabama machine? The Crimson Tide have won their last five CFP semifinals by an average of 20.2 points per game, and that has come with a huge early punch.
The Bearcats thrive off creating turnovers, but the Crimson Tide committed just 10 turnovers all season. If Alabama protects the football, then Cincinnati is in trouble because Young will make plays with his receivers and the running game will have its moments.
The Bearcats have to win up front on both sides, and that is the biggest challenge. If Cincinnati cannot stand up along the line of scrimmage, then it will be the next team to lose to Alabama by double digits.
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