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Cincinnati to Play Alabama in CFP Cotton Bowl Semifinal

2021 American Conference Championship - Houston v Cincinnati Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Overview

After a few upsets and a victory over the 11-2 Houston Cougars, the Cincinnati Bearcats are set to make their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats (13-0, 9-0 American Athletic Conference) clocked in at the fourth spot in the rankings behind Alabama (No. 1), Michigan (No. 2) and Georgia (No. 3).

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Dec. 31: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati

Cincinnati will face Alabama (-13.5) in Arlington, Texas, in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. The Crimson Tide (12-1, 8-1 SEC) are the victors of the SEC after defeating previously No. 1 ranked Georgia in their conference title game.

‘Bama is set to make its seventh appearance in the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. Nick Saban is 5-1 in semifinal bowl games, capturing CFP victories in all of the New Year’s Six games but the Fiesta Bowl. The seven-time national championship winning HC defeated Michigan State — one of his former teams — by a score of 38-0 in Bama’s single Cotton Bowl appearance within the last ten years.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Alabama v Michigan State
The Cotton Bowl is one of the numerous sites in which Nick Saban has produced a multitude of success.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

An Early Preview of Alabama’s Key X-Factors

For Alabama, the 2021 college football season has served as a testament to the wonders of their head coach’s top-notch decision making. The Crimson Tide received critical snares from pundits across the sport after a younger than usual Saban-led team cut it close with Florida (31-29), LSU (20-14), Arkansas (42-35) and Auburn (24-22 F/OT). But conjure up some magic Saban did, and Bryce Young and co. found the keys to taking down Georgia’s top ranked defense.

“You guys gave us a lot of really positive rat poison,” Saban told the media regarding their criticism. “The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal. But the rat poison that you put out there this week was yummy.”

‘Bama’s leader on the field — Young — stands as the clear frontrunner for the Heisman after tallying 26 completions for 421 passing yards and three touchdowns against Georgia’s historically good defense. The Dawgs previously allowed an average of 6.9 PPG (Lowest in the FBS) while facing ranked opponents such as Clemson, Arkansas and Kentucky. Against Young and co., the grand total was 41.

Georgia Bulldogs v Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama’s Bryce Young steamrolled the No. 1 ranked Georgia defense with 26 completions on 44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns.
Photo by Steven Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Among Alabama’s other offensive X-factors are John Metchie III and Jameson Williams. Metchie, who reeled in six receptions for 97 yards and a score on Saturday, is expected to be out for the season after tearing his ACL (Not confirmed yet).

Williams returned from his targeting ejection against Auburn last week to put up seven receptions for a pair of TD’s. The Ohio State transfer and finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (most outstanding receiver in college football) is set to play a pivotal role in Alabama’s postseason push alongside Slade Bolden with Metchie out.

Defensively, Bama lacks the ferocity it produced during the early years of Saban tenure in Tuscaloosa, but the threat of Will Anderson has proven fatal for all but one of Alabama’s opponents. Anderson by many standards is the hottest player in the country with a late-season Heisman push and Benarik Award finalist appearance. The sohomore linebacker out of Hampton, Georgia, finished his SEC slate with 91 tackles (52 solo) on the season.

Full Alabama Football Schedule

Miami: W 44-13

Mercer: W 48-14

@ Florida: W 31-29

Southern Miss: W 63-14

Ole Miss: W 42-21

@ Texas A&M: L 41-38

@ Mississippi State: W 49-9

Tennessee: W 52-24

LSU: W 20-14

New Mexico State: W 59-3

Arkansas: W 42-35

@ Auburn: W 24-22 F/OT

SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia: W 41-24

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic vs. Cincinnati: Dec. 31

What’s Next

For more content surrounding the Cincinnati Bearcats championship push, tune into Down the Drive for future Alabama previews.