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Cincinnati vs Alabama Cotton Bowl Picks & CFP Semifinal Predictions

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com

Dan Kilbridge  | 5 mins

Cincinnati vs Alabama Cotton Bowl Picks & CFP Semifinal Predictions

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Alabama is 60 minutes away from its sixth National Championship game in the past seven years. The Tide’s Cotton Bowl opponent has never seen a College Football Playoff, let alone the title game. And now Cincinnati will get a crash course from the best in the business as the Bearcats take on Alabama at 3:30 p.m. ET Dec. 31 in Arlington, Texas.

The Tide are a sizeable favorite in the CFP semifinal that will determine who advances to face the winner of the Georgia-Michigan Orange Bowl clash in the natty.

Cincinnati has wanted this game for a few years. Every team wants this game, shouting “WE-WANT-BA-MA” from the rooftops during the best of times. The problem is sometimes you actually do get Bama, and so few teams have the goods to deliver when that happens.

We’ll see if the Bearcats can back it up when No. 4-ranked Cincinnati plays No. 1 Alabama with everything on the line.

Let’s take a deeper look into this matchup and what it means from a college football betting perspective.

All college football odds are current as of publication. Betting sites may indicate odds changes closer to kickoff.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama Key Matchups

Bryce Young vs. Cincinnati Secondary: Young just annihilated the heralded Georgia secondary to the tune of 421 yards and three touchdowns. But the Bearcats have an even better group of defensive backs – statistically, at least – who won’t back down when challenged. Young is also without one of his favorite targets as John Metchie suffered a season-ending injury against the Bulldogs. However, with apologies to the rest of the American Athletic Conference – the Bearcats’ secondary hasn’t seen anything like this Alabama group. Not even close.

Cincinnati Offensive Line vs. Alabama Front Seven: Alabama’s Will Anderson is the best linebacker in the country and that’s not even up for debate. He and the rest of this vicious Tide DL/LB group held opponents to just 82.8 rushing yards per game. If Cincinnati hopes to contend, it starts right here. The Bearcats need to at least hold their own in the trenches to take some pressure off quarterback Desmond Ridder and get the offense going. And while it would seem like this is where Alabama can just destroy Cincinnati’s upset chances, the Bearcats did hang tough a year ago during a 24-21 loss to Georgia in the Peach Bowl.

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4 Key Stats For Cincinnati vs. Alabama

168.3: Passing yards allowed per game by the Bearcats, better than Georgia and second-best in the country behind Washington.

184: Receiving yards for Alabama’s Jameson Williams, who will be counted on even more with Metchie done for the season.

22: Consecutive regular-season wins for the Bearcats.

5: Consecutive CFP semifinal wins for Nick Saban and the Tide, whose lone semifinal loss came in the first year of the playoff to eventual national champion Ohio State.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama Moneyline

The Tide are roughly a two-score favorite and carry massive moneyline odds of -550 into this matchup. Cincinnati is a +400 underdog as they’ll try to pull off perhaps the most significant college football upset since Boise State beat Oklahoma in overtime of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Alabama is the obvious pick here. The Tide played like national champions in the SEC title game and Cincinnati has never played a game of this magnitude. If you have the bankroll to do it, there’s nothing wrong with a little change on Tide moneyline. If not, we’d recommend point spread or prop bets instead of a potentially massive loss for little gain.

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Cincinnati vs. Alabama Point Spread

The Bearcats are a +13.5 underdog and we’d love to believe they can keep it close for an epic and entertaining battle. On paper, it looks like they absolutely should. In reality, we’ve seen this play out too many times before.

Alabama has won its last five CFP semifinal games by an average margin of 18.6 points. As long as the Tide get in, they’re almost impossible to get out. Getting in was no certainty for Saban’s group until that win over Georgia, but now they’re back in their comfort zone as the most experienced championship program in the country.

Cincinnati has the talent to compete, but the bright lights and the those crimson helmets can doom a team even before kickoff. The Bearcats deserve to be here and should be proud of the unbeaten season. Impending playoff expansion means they could even get back in the near future. The moment and opponent are just too big for the Bearcats’ first CFP appearance. We like Alabama by a lot.

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Cincinnati vs. Alabama Total

Oddsmakers expect a high-scoring affair despite these top-10 defenses, with the total holding strong at 58. We like the over for a few reasons, most notably how quickly the Tide can turn it on offensively – as we saw against Georgia in Atlanta when Alabama ripped off 24 points in the second quarter.

Cincinnati’s offense has plenty of pop and Luke Fickell is no stranger to these types of matchups. While we don’t think the Bearcats cover, we do expect a strong game plan with some early offensive success.

Eventually we expect this thing to get out of hand and cash those Over tickets in the process.

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About the Author

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com
Dan Kilbridge
Handicapper Dan Kilbridge writes about college football, MLB and other sports for Bookies.com after spending three years covering Tiger Woods’ comeback and the PGA for Golfweek.