Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) calls a play against the Houston Cougars in the second half during the American Athletic Conference championship game at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

News Articles

Upstart No. 4 Cincinnati aims to take down No. 1 Alabama

Top-ranked Alabama starts its postseason quest for a second straight national championship when it opposes College Football Playoff barrier-breaker Cincinnati on Dec. 31 in the Cotton Bowl at Arlington, Texas.

The Crimson Tide (12-1) are old hands at the CFP, making their seventh appearance in the eight years that the current title-deciding format has been in place.

In addition to a 52-24 win over Ohio State in the 2020-21 title game, Alabama won it all in 2015-16 and 2017-18 but took championship-game losses in 2016-17 and 2018-19.

In contrast, the No. 4 Bearcats (13-0) are the first non-Power 5 conference program to be selected for the College Football Playoff.

“There’s a reason they’ve been in the playoff seven out of the eight years,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said of Alabama. “This is not just a top-five program; this is the top program.

“It’s an incredible measuring stick on an incredible stage with an incredible opportunity.”

It might seem like a formidable challenge for Cincinnati, but the first step is overcoming the Alabama mystique.

“Our players know who they’re playing,” Fickell said. “They know what (Alabama) is all about, what that program is all about. Now we have to try to find ways to humanize them and bring ourselves back into doing what we need to do.

“The reality is we’re not the best team, probably. But that doesn’t really matter, because on the 31st, it’s really going to be about who is going to play the best.”

The Bearcats will rely on the nation’s second-best pass defense (168.3 yards allowed per game) to contain Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

While Young threw for 4,322 yards and 43 touchdowns with just four interceptions, Cincinnati has 18 picks (third in the nation in the regular season) and 37 sacks (tied for 19th).

“They don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of the Bearcats. “They have some very talented guys. They have a good secondary. They have some guys up front that can rush and have some quickness, and their linebackers are very good players. All around, this is a very good defensive team.”

Young has guided Alabama to the nation’s fourth-best scoring average, 42.5 points per game.

“As a sophomore in his first year playing, the way he commands, the patience and poise he plays with, a lot of guys will think he can run and is a good athlete, but really for a young guy, I’ve never seen somebody who uses his feet to take off but does it to throw the ball down the field,” Fickell said.

Cincinnati counters with Desmond Ridder, who passed for 3,190 yards with 30 TDs and eight interceptions and rushed for 361 yards with six scores.

He will face All-America linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who leads the nation with 15 1/2 sacks.

Cincinnati’s leading ball-carrier, running back Jerome Ford (1,242 yards and 19 touchdowns this season), transferred from Alabama after the 2019 season.

The Crimson Tide are 5-1 in national semifinals, with the loss coming in the inaugural CFP in 2014-15. That 42-35 setback came against Ohio State, which had Fickell as its co-defensive coordinator.

The Cincinnati-Alabama winner will play the Orange Bowl winner, No. 2 Michigan or No. 3 Georgia, for the national title on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

Sportsbooks

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Upcoming Games

Oct 5th, 7:00 PM

SMU +4 -110

UCF -4 -110

@

Oct 7th, 7:00 PM

Nebraska -2.5 -105

Rutgers +2.5 -105

@

Oct 7th, 7:30 PM

Houston +3 -120

Memphis -3 -120

@

Oct 7th, 10:30 PM

Colorado State +3 -110

Nevada -3 -110

@

Oct 7th, 10:30 PM

UNLV +4 -115

San Jose State -4 -115

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Missouri +10 -110

Florida -10 -110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Tennessee (8) -2.5 +110

LSU (25) +2.5 +110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Arkansas +5.5 -110

Mississippi State (23) -5.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

TCU (17) -5 -110

Kansas (19) +5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Texas -5 -110

Oklahoma +5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Louisville -5 -110

Virginia +5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Michigan (4) -22 -110

Indiana +22 -110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Purdue +3.5 -105

Maryland -3.5 -105

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Eastern Michigan +4 -110

Western Michigan -4 -110

@

Oct 8th, 12:00 PM

Buffalo +2 -110

Bowling Green -2 -110

@

Oct 8th, 2:00 PM

Akron +12.5 -110

Ohio -12.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 2:00 PM

Georgia Southern +2.5 -110

Georgia State -2.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 2:30 PM

USF +27.5 -110

Cincinnati (24) -27.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Auburn +27.5 -110

Georgia (2) -27.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Utah (11) -3 -115

UCLA (18) +3 -115

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Texas Tech +10.5 -105

Oklahoma State (7) -10.5 -105

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Virginia Tech +14 -110

Pittsburgh -14 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Wisconsin -9.5 -110

Northwestern +9.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Liberty -25.5 -110

Massachusetts +25.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

East Carolina +2.5 -116

Tulane -2.5 -116

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Tulsa -5 -110

Navy +5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Ball State +9 -110

Central Michigan -9 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Toledo -5.5 -110

NIU +5.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Kent State -2.5 +110

Miami-OH +2.5 +110

@

Oct 8th, 3:30 PM

Middle Tennessee +9.5 -110

UAB -9.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 4:00 PM

Ole Miss (9) -18.5 -110

Vanderbilt +18.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 4:00 PM

Washington (21) -12.5 -110

Arizona State +12.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 4:00 PM

Duke -3.5 -110

Georgia Tech +3.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 4:00 PM

North Carolina +3 -110

Miami-FL -3 -110

@

Oct 8th, 4:00 PM

Ohio State (3) -25.5 -110

Michigan State +25.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 6:00 PM

WKU +5 -110

UTSA -5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:00 PM

UCONN -4.5 -110

Florida International (FIU) +4.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:00 PM

Air Force -9 -110

Utah State +9 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:00 PM

Wyoming -3.5 -110

New Mexico +3.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:00 PM

James Madison -10.5 -110

Arkansas State +10.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:00 PM

Appalachian State -19 -110

Texas State +19 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:00 PM

Southern Miss +6.5 -110

Troy -6.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:00 PM

UTEP +1.5 -110

LA Tech -1.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:30 PM

South Carolina +10.5 -110

Kentucky (13) -10.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:30 PM

Washington State +11 -110

USC (6) -11 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:30 PM

Kansas State (20) -1 -110

Iowa State +1 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:30 PM

Clemson (5) -20.5 -110

Boston College +20.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:30 PM

Army +16 -105

Wake Forest (15) -16 -105

@

Oct 8th, 7:30 PM

Iowa +3.5 -110

Illinois -3.5 -110

@

Oct 8th, 7:30 PM

BYU (16) +2.5 -111

Notre Dame -2.5 -111

@

Oct 8th, 8:00 PM

Texas A&M +24 -110

Alabama (1) -24 -110

@

Oct 8th, 8:00 PM

Florida State +3.5 -105

NC State (14) -3.5 -105

@

Oct 8th, 8:00 PM

Coastal Carolina -14 -110

Louisiana-Monroe +14 -110

@

Oct 8th, 9:00 PM

Oregon (12) -11 -110

Arizona +11 -110

@

Oct 8th, 9:45 PM

Fresno State +7 -110

Boise State -7 -110

@

Oct 8th, 10:30 PM

Hawaii +21 -105

San Diego State -21 -105

@

Oct 8th, 11:00 PM

Oregon State -7 -110

Stanford +7 -110

@

Oct 12th, 7:30 PM

Louisiana-Lafayette

Marshall

@