CFP Semifinals: Alabama vs. Cincinnati

As of early Thursday, Cincinnati was a 13.5-point underdog in Friday's CFP semifinal showdown vs. Alabama.

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats

Line: Alabama -13.5

Total: 57.5

Where: AT&T Stadium

When: Friday, 12/31 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Bettors seem to think oddsmakers nailed the opening line for Friday afternoon’s College Football Playoff semifinal between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Cincinnati.

The spread briefly moved to Alabama -14 after opening at -13.5, but it quickly dipped back to the opening number and has remained there ever since. There has not been much movement as far as the total is concerned either—it opened at 58 and has ticked down 57.5.

The fourth-ranked Bearcats made history by becoming the first non-Power Five team to make the College Football Playoff, but they are longshots to knock off Nick Saban’s squad in the Cotton Bowl. Most spots have them at +400 on the money line.

Cincinnati went 9-0 in a shortened 2020 regular season before losing a 24-21 decision to Georgia at the Peach Bowl.

Last season’s success served as a building block for this year’s 12-0 campaign that included a top-10 win over Notre Dame early in the year. Cincinnati has now covered the spread in each of its last five games as an underdog. UC booked its spot in the CFP with a 35-20 win over Houston in the AAC title game, covering the 10.5-point spread in the process.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder has completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 3,190 yards and 30 touchdowns. His top target is wide receiver Alec Pierce, who has caught 50 passes for 867 yards and eight scores.

The Bearcats have a tremendous rushing attack as well, led by running back Jerome Ford. He is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and has found the end zone 19 times. Ridder is a dual-threat quarterback who has rushed for 371 yards and six touchdowns.

This will be the most talented defense that Cincinnati has faced, though. Alabama ranks eighth nationally in yards allowed per game (306.1). It is the Crimson Tide offense that gets most of the attention, however.

Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young led the team to a 12-1 regular season en route to winning the Heisman Trophy earlier this month. Young came up with several clutch plays down the stretch of a quadruple-overtime thriller against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, keeping his team’s playoff hopes alive.

Alabama was able to book its spot in yet another CFP when it dominated then-No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide entered the game as 6.5-point underdogs, but they cruised to a 41-24 win. They did take a hit in the process, though, losing star wide receiver John Metchie III to a season-ending ACL injury.

He was Young’s favorite target this season, catching a team-high 96 passes for 1,142 yards. It was wide receiver Jamison Williams who had a team-best 1,445 yards on 68 catches, however. The Crimson Tide will need more production from Slade Bolden, who ranks third with 32 receptions for 333 yards.

Saban will also try to fill Metchie’s absence with a heavier dose of running back Brian Robinson Jr., who has rushed for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns on 223 carries. He will be facing a Cincinnati defense that ranks seventh in the country, allowing 305.8 yards per game.

The Bearcats have gone ‘under’ in their last five games as underdogs, while Alabama has gone ‘under’ in four of its last six games as the favorite. Cincinnati scored 24 points against Notre Dame, which is the best defense that is has faced to this point.

The pick: Cincinnati +13.5

I am going down with the Cincinnati ship in this one. The Bearcats have been undervalued two seasons in a row and I believe they have the talent to potentially pull off an outright upset on Friday afternoon. Their defense is legit and their offense is capable of controlling the pace of this game. Metchie is a huge loss for this Alabama offense, particularly against one of the best secondaries in the country. If Cincinnati can find a way to slow down Robinson and the rushing attack, this will be anyone’s game. Alabama failed to cover against Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M and Florida—all four of those teams have a similar build to Cincinnati.

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