Cotton Bowl 2022: Updated Odds and Comments for Cincinnati vs. Alabama

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 23, 2021

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) plays during the second half of an American Athletic Conference championship NCAA college football game against Houston Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Jeff Dean/Associated Press

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Cincinnati Bearcats are gearing up for one of the most anticipated matchups of the College Football Playoff era.

Alabama is the defending national champion, and it has been to the playoff more than any other program since the postseason format was implemented in 2014. Cincinnati is the first Group of Five program to qualify for the postseason. The Bearcats' undefeated regular season earned them the No. 4 seed and a spot in the Cotton Bowl opposite the Crimson Tide.

Oddsmakers have Cincinnati as the largest underdog of bowl season, but it can certainly give the SEC champion a test on New Year's Eve, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban is well aware of that.


Updated Cotton Bowl Odds

Spread: Alabama -13.5

Over/Under: 58

Moneyline: Alabama -525; bet $525 to win $100; Cincinnati +385 (bet $100 to win $385)


Cincinnati is the only double-digit underdog left on the odds board for bowl season.

A few programs were 10-point dogs in the opening days of the postseason, but none were as high as +13.5.

The line shows a ton of respect to Alabama, which has the most playoff experience of any program. The Crimson Tide's championship caliber was on display in their SEC Championship Game win over the Georgia Bulldogs.

Nick Saban's team produced double-digit wins in each of its five national semifinal triumphs, with the latest being a 31-14 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last season.

Cincinnati enters the Cotton Bowl with plenty to prove against the standard-bearer of college football, and it is aware of the challenge in front of it.


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Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell called Alabama the "measuring stick" of college football when breaking down the matchup to The Athletic's Justin Williams.

"There's a reason they've been in the playoff seven out of the eight years," Fickell said. "This is not just a top-five program; this is the top program. I don't care how long you go back. So yeah, it's an incredible measuring stick on an incredible stage with an incredible opportunity."

Fickell pointed out that Alabama's interior players stood out to him when breaking down some of the tape, saying: "Obviously, we all know about their skill, but sometimes you don't recognize what they've really got up front, on both sides of the ball. To me, that's where the big matchup has to be. The game is still about up front."

Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal is widely regarded as one of the top NFL draft prospects. But Cincinnati has one as well in cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner.

Gardner will likely draw the matchup against Alabama's Jameson Williams, who will be the Crimson Tide's No. 1 wide receiver in the Cotton Bowl.

Leading wide out John Metchie suffered a torn ACL in the SEC Championship Game. That leaves Williams as the top target for Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

Saban pointed out that some of his other wide receivers have looked good in preparations for the New Year's Eve matchup, per AL.com's Mike Rodak:

"Asked about receivers after the loss of John Metchie, Saban said players are 'stepping up and doing a good job,' noting Javon Baker, Traeshon Holden and 'Agiye Hall is making some good plays.' Ja'Corey Brooks has been playing well and is 'also a guy who continues to improve.'"

The Alabama head coach sounded impressed with Gardner and Coby Bryant when discussing Cincinnati's secondary strengths.

"They're aggressive in the way they play," Saban said. "They're smart. They got a lot of experience. ... They're ball-hawkers. They're all ball-hawkers back there. They really attack the ball. They got a lot of turnovers. It's really a talented group."

Alabama has a highly touted defense of its own, led by linebacker Will Anderson, and it will be tasked with slowing down Desmond Ridder, who helped the Bearcats push Georgia in the Peach Bowl last season.

Cincinnati has one game of experience versus SEC talent, and that may be enough to help it get acclimated to Alabama's skill level in the first half. If the Bearcats survive the first two quarters, they should at least be in the mix to cover the large point spread.


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