Cotton Bowl 2021: Latest Odds, Prediction for Cincinnati vs. Alabama Playoff

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2021

Cotton Bowl 2021: Latest Odds, Prediction for Cincinnati vs. Alabama Playoff

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    Jeff Dean/Associated Press

    The two worlds of college football clash in the 2021 Cotton Bowl with a National Championship Game berth on the line when Cincinnati meets Alabama in Dallas. 

    Alabama is in familiar territory. After beating Georgia for the SEC championship, they are the No. 1 team in the country and the odds-on favorite to add another national championship to the mantel. 

    Cincinnati is in uncharted waters. Since the inception of the College Football Playoff in 2014, a team from a Group of Five conference has never been chosen to participate in the playoff. Both UCF and last year's Cincinnati team were notable undefeated teams who had a case but were frozen out. 

    Now the Bearcats are presented with an opportunity to represent all the "have nots" who were denied this opportunity previously. 

    It's a classic David vs. Goliath matchup, and Vegas definitely sees it that way based on the latest line. 

    Let's take a look at the odds and a preview of the coming matchup.  

2021 Cotton Bowl Odds and Viewing Info

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Date: Friday, December 31

    Start Time: 3:30 p.m. ET 

    TV: ESPN 

    Live Stream: and ESPN app

    Spread: Alabama -13.5

    Over/Under: 58

    Money Line: Alabama (-550; bet $550 to win $100); Cincinnati (+400; bet $100 to win $400)

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook


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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    The Crimson Tide are experiencing a season cycle that is becoming pretty standard. Nick Saban's team started the campaign No. 1 in the country before a loss to Texas A&M knocked them from that perch and Georgia took over from there. 

    The Tide then went on to win six straight and put the whole country on notice with a 41-24 win over Georgia for the conference title. 

    There are holes in the resume. Their wins over Auburn and LSU were, in particular, a little too close for comfort. But the Georgia game was a sign of what the offense is capable of and what we can expect from Saban's team in a big spot. 

    Bryce Young is obviously the focal point of the offense. He's the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy thanks to his 4,322 yards and 43 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He is losing one of his best targets in John Metchie III, who suffered a knee injury that will cost him the rest of the season. 

    It isn't as though Young will be hurting for targets. After all, Alabama always has a slew of elite wide receivers, and Jameson Williams caught 68 passes for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. 

    On defense, the Tide are as dominant as usual. They are averaging just 4.5 yards per play, and Will Anderson has better stats coming off the edge than Heisman candidate Aidan Hutchinson. 

    Cincinnati ran through the regular season undefeated for the second consecutive year, and they did so with a balanced approach on both sides of the ball. 

    The Bearcat offense is seventh in points per game and fourth in the nation in yards per play. They are an effective running team with the sixth-highest yards per carry while holding opponents to just 3.4 per attempt. 

    That effort is spearheaded by Jerome Ford who has 1,238 yards on the season along with 19 touchdowns on the ground. Desmond Ridder is a quarterback who will get early draft consideration with his tools. He's contributed 361 yards on the ground with six touchdowns to go with his 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the passing game. 

    Most importantly, the Bearcats don't often lose the turnover battle. They are fourth in the nation with 2.3 takeaways a game.


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    Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

    There's a reason this line is nearly two touchdowns. This isn't a bash on Cincinnati. The Bearcats deserve to be in this spot. They were deserving of a playoff berth, but there have been plenty of semifinal games that weren't close. 

    This one could wind up being the latest. 

    The Bearcats' success on defense has largely come from stopping the run and forcing turnovers. It's a great recipe for a good defense, but it's a scary approach to taking on this Alabama team. 

    Even without Metchie, the Tide have the most proficient quarterback in the country and more talent than any offense the Bearcats have seen this season. 

    The 24-13 win over Notre Dame proves that Cincinnati is capable of hanging with the top tier of college football, but Alabama's experience in these types of games and its own stingy defense make it a different animal. 

    In their win over Notre Dame, they picked off the Irish quarterbacks twice and recovered a fumble. Alabama simply doesn't turn over the ball enough for Cincinnati's opportunistic defense to take advantage. 

    Prediction: Alabama 41, Cincinnati 21


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