Well, it finally happened.
A Group of Five team has finally crashed the College Football Playoff party for the first time, and you can tell by the point spread.
No. 4 Cincinnati is nearly a two-touchdown underdog to No. 1 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl despite having a better regular season record than the Crimson Tide. Alabama has rolled over inferior opponents in the CFP over the last few years, but can the Bearcats shock the world and knock off the SEC champions — or more importantly — cover the spread?
Alabama vs. Cincinnati College Football Playoff odds
For much of the 2021 season, college football fans and experts alike were penciling in Georgia as the No. 1 seed in the CFP. The Bulldogs were steamrolling every opponent on their schedule without having to break much of a sweat.
But Alabama, after struggling to squeak by LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn down the stretch, reminded little brother who still runs college football. In the SEC Championship Game, the Crimson Tide put up 536 yards of offense against the vaunted Georgia defense and rolled to a 41-24 victory to steal the No. 1 seed in the CFP.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, cruised to a 12-0 record in the regular season with little resistance. The Bearcats rolled over Houston in the AAC Championship Game to finish the season as the only undefeated team in college football. With a little help from the rest of the country, Cincinnati snuck into the playoffs to become the first Group of Five school ever to make the CFP.
Their reward? Nick Saban, Bryce Young, and the mighty Crimson Tide.
Cincy undoubtedly believes it can knock off the kings of college football this Friday, but Vegas disagrees. The Bearcats currently stand as 13.5-point underdogs in their CFP semifinal matchup.
Check out the full odds for the Cotton Bowl below:
Point Spread: Alabama -13.5 (-110)
Point Total: 57 (-110)
Moneyline: Alabama -550, Cincinnati +400
Cotton Bowl predictions
The National Championship is shaping up to be a rematch of the SEC Championship between Alabama and Georgia, but Cincinnati isn’t going to go down without a fight. The Bearcats aren’t satisfied by simply making the College Football Playoff. They’re here to win the whole darn thing.
But, alas, they won’t.
Cincinnati hasn’t faced a quarterback this season even close to Young’s level. Luke Fickell’s bunch hasn’t seen an offense this big, this fast, or this deep all year. Don’t get me wrong. Cincy’s defense has been exceptional all season, and this group has a few guys who will be playing on Sundays in the near future.
But what other defense does that sound like? You know, the one that gave up nearly 600 yards of offense and 41 points to this same Crimson Tide team? Oh right, Georgia’s.
The Bearcats might be able to stick around for a few quarters on Friday, but talent will prevail in the end.
Alabama/Cincinnati UNDER 57 (-110)
Alabama has been a double-digit favorite in the College Football Playoff four different times since 2015. Saban’s squad won all four of those games by an average of 20.8 points. I have no interest in backing the Bearcats with Bama’s dominant record in the CFP, so let’s approach this in a different way.
The only chance Cincinnati has in this contest is to slow the game down and keep Young off the field as much as possible. Jerome Ford should get a heavy dose of carries to take the air out of the ball, and if anyone can slow down Jameson Williams on the outside, it’s stud Cincy cornerback Ahmad Gardner.
I expect Cincy to hang around for maybe a half or even three quarters. Bama will eventually find enough explosive runs from Brian Robinson Jr. and splash plays from Young to pull away, but it won’t be enough to push this one over the total.
Take the under 57, and pray that Cincinnati’s staunch defense can subdue the Crimson Tide long enough to cash this ticket.
All betting odds courtesy of DraftKings as of 12/30/2021.