Game: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Odds: Bearcats +13.5, Crimson Tide -13.5
Cincinnati makes history becoming the first Group of 5 team to qualify for the College Football Playoff. For their efforts, the Bearcats get a date with top-ranked Alabama, the winner of the SEC. The Bearcats went 13-0 with a signature win over No. 5 Notre Dame earlier this season. Cincy beat the Fighting Irish 24-13 in South Bend making the win even more impressive.
Head coach Luke Fickell’s team is very good despite the competition in the American Athletic Conference and despite the Bearcats sometimes playing down to the level of that competition. Cincinnati is now 22-1 in its last 23 games over the past two seasons. The only loss came in last year’s Peach Bowl. Cincy lost 24-21 to Georgia, which is also in this year’s CFP and spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Bearcats covered the spread in that loss to the Bulldogs giving Cincy a 5-0 ATS record in its last five games as an underdog.
Alabama was cruising along this season and then surprisingly lost to Texas A&M. The Tide rebounded and ran the table including a convincing defeat of Georgia in the SEC title game. That win earned head coach Nick Saban and company the No. 1 seed in the CFP. Alabama is a 13.5-point favorite in today’s game. The Tide is 29-1 straight up in their last 30 games as double-digit chalk. They are 18-12 ATS in those 30 games.
Led by QB Bryce Young, the Alabama offense is prolific. Young threw for 4,322 yards and 43 touchdowns on his way to earning this year’s Heisman Trophy. The offense scored nearly 40 points per game and, at times, appeared unstoppable. In five of their last seven games – all wins – the Tide scored 41 or more points.
If there is a defense that can stop Alabama, it is Cincinnati. The Bearcats defense allowed 305.8 yards per game in 2021. That ranked seventh in the country. Fickell’s defense also allowed 16.1 points per game which was good for fifth in the nation. There were only two games this season in which Cincy allowed more than 21 points per game.
The Crimson Tide will be without WR John Metchie who was hurt in the SEC championship game. Losing Metchie will hurt. Alabama’s defense is the best the Bearcats will face this year. Cincy QB Desmond Ridder threw for 3,000-yards-plus and 30 touchdowns this season. The Cincy defense features two first-round draft picks at the corners – Ahmad Gardner and Jim Thorpe Award winner Coby Bryant.
With all the offense on the field, it’s interesting that the Under cashed in five of Cincinnati’s last seven games. The Under is also 10-0 in the last ten games in which the Bearcats were the underdog. Three of Alabama’s final five games of the season saw the total go Under.