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Jameson Williams v. Sauce Gardner Will Not Be the Matchup That Defines the CFP

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Tulsa at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We sit just five days away from the biggest game in Bearcats history. As we approach gameday, we will be taking a closer look at some of the nuances in this matchup.

As of this moment, Cincinnati is a 13.5 point underdog to Alabama over at DraftKings.com.

Much of the buildup to the Cincinnati-Alabama College Football Playoff game at the Cotton Bowl Classic has focused on the matchup between Alabama’s cadre of fantastic receivers and Cincinnati best-in-the-nation secondary.

This is quite understandable. These units are both among the most elite in college football.

In particular, the focus has shown brightly on the matchup between Bama’s best receiver, Jameson Williams, and Cincinnati’s top shutdown corner, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. There is no doubt that this matchup will play a major role in determining the outcome of this contest. Nevertheless, I think there is another matchup which will be even more significant in determining the outcome.

Part of this is a realization, even from a Cincinnati perspective, that Alabama is going to score some points. Cincinnati’s secondary will likely get beat a couple of the times on the even. The question is whether or not Cincinnati will be able to muster enough offense to overcome the Alabama Crimson Tide’s offensive juggernaut, even if the Bearcats largely hold Bryce Young and company in check.

The key in my mind is to what extent will Desmond Ridder be able to make plays against Alabama’s occasionally suspect defense. Will he be able to make enough of them to do more than what Alabama puts up on offense.

Bama blogs seem quite concerned about Ridder’s running ability and I agree with them. There is no reason for Luke Fickell and the Cincinnati Bearcats brain trust to do anything but unleash this big, strong, and fast weapon as much as makes sense in the running game. Cincinnati’s brawny offensive line looks to match up well with Bama’s defensive front. The big question is to what extent all-world tackling machine Will Anderson can shut down this aspect of Cincinnati’s offense.

Ridder’s ability to run will be a bellwether of Cincinnati’s ability to pass on New Year’s Eve. The more he can do with his legs, the more he will be able to do with his arm. And the more offensive flexibility that Cincinnati asserts at AT&T Stadium, the better shot they have at pulling off the upset.