Last Updated Jan 04, 2022, 2:46 PM

Cotton Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: Cincinnati vs. Alabama

Dec. 31, 2021
Dan Dobish
VI Betting Expert

The No. 4 seed Cincinnati Bearcats (13-0) and the No. 1 seed Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) lock horns at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Friday in the College Football Playoff semifinal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, and the game can be viewed on ESPN.

Score Prediction

Alabama 41, Cincinnati 14

Best Bets

Alabama -13.5 (-105) at DraftKings

Under 57.5 (-110) at BetMGM

Cotton Bowl Predictions

It finally happened. Cincinnati broke the monopoly of Power 5 teams, forcing its way into the College Football Playoff, representing all of the little guys from the Group of 5 who have never gotten the chance. The Bearcats polished off the two Power 5 teams they faced this season, dropping Indiana 38-24 as 4.5-point favorites in Bloomington back on Sept. 18, and topping Notre Dame 24-13 as 2.5-point favorites in South Bend back on Oct. 2. Since then, it's been all conference teams for the Bearcats, with its biggest test against Houston on Dec. 4 in the AAC Championship Game, winning 35-20 as 10.5-point favorites. However, facing the defending national champions and a perennial powerhouse is a whole different animal.

Alabama has taken on all comers, like usual, and it suffered just one loss back on Oct. 9, a 41-38 setback at Texas A&M. That was like a wake-up call that no one else in the country wanted to see. Alabama has won seven straight since then, including a convincing 41-24 win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4 against a Bulldogs team most felt was invincible. Alabama racked up 38 or more points in 10 of its 13 games this season, and Heisman Trophy winner QB Bryce Young and the Crimson Tide will easily be the biggest test for the Bearcats. Personally, wins over Indiana and Notre Dame just don't do it for me. And not that UC needs to change my mind, but if they can hang with Alabama for a half, I'll be surprised. I think this a blowout from wire to wire, and the Twitterverse will blow up early Friday afternoon with a bunch of SEC smack and "See!" chirps.

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Cotton Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: AAC vs. SEC
  • Date: Friday, December 31, 2021
  • Venue: AT&T Stadium
  • Location: Arlington, Texas
  • TV-Time: ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET

Cincinnati Bearcats Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 13-0
  • ATS: 8-5
  • O/U: 6-7

Cincinnati will play its most important game on Friday, and they're simply not happy to just be here. The Bearcats gave us a glimpse of what they're capable of doing last season, when UC took Georgia to the limit in a 24-21 loss in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta last season despite an intense home crowd in the Peach State. Prior to that, Cincinnati won back-to-back postseason games in the Birmingham Bowl in 2019 against Boston College, and the Military Bowl against Virginia Tech in 2018, as Fickell has led the team to a 2-1 SU record in three bowl games. Fickell has easily taken the Bearcats to levels never dreamed about during the Tommy Tuberville days, when Cincinnati lost three bowl games from 2013-15 by at least 16 points every season.

This will actually be Cincinnati's sixth pass at trying to take down Alabama, but the first matchup since Nov. 17, 1990. The Crimson Tide won that most latest meeting 45-7 in Birmingham, Ala., although some of the kids on the rosters of these teams were not yet even born. Still, the Bearcats have averaged 5.4 PPG in five meetings with the Tide, while Alabama is averaging 31.2 PPG in the five matchups.

Cincinnati enters 6-0 ATS in the past six games against winning teams, while going 5-0 ATS in the past five games as an underdog. The Bearcats are also 5-1 ATS in the past six non-conference games, too, although they're just 2-6-1 ATS in the past nine games in the month of December.

On totals, UC is 5-2 to the UNDER in the past seven games overall, while going 5-2 in the past seven neutral-site games. The most impressive number is that the UNDER is 24-5-1 in the past 30 games as an underdog.

Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 12-1
  • ATS: 7-6
  • O/U: 7-6

No one has dominated the college football landscape more than Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. Since rolling to a 37-21 win over Texas in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2010, teams can usually expect the Crimson Tide to be a giant hurdle on the way to their dreams. And usually, most dreams are squashed by the Tide, with a few exceptions. Since that win over Texas on Jan. 7, 2010, the Tide is 13-4 SU in 17 postseason games, including six national titles. If Alabama is going to get got, like Mac and Dennis buying a timeshare on It's Always Sunny, it's usually not in the semifinals. Alabama lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015, but the Tide is 5-0 SU in the past five semifinal games, scoring an average of 32.4 PPG while allowing just 12.2 PPG.

Alabama is 5-2 ATS in the past seven non-conference games, while going 4-1 ATS in the past five games outside of the conference. This is actually Alabama's first meeting against an AAC team since Sept. 6, 2008, a 20-6 win over Tulane as 29-point favorites while the UNDER connected. But that's a lifetime ago, and not terribly important to this game, although still worth mentioning.

The UNDER has cashed in five straight bowl semifinal games, while going 3-1-1 in the past five bowl games as a favorite. In addition, the UNDER is 4-1-1 in the past six bowl semifinal games as a favorite. However, the OVER is also 23-10-3 in the previous 36 neutral-site games for the Tide.

Inside the Stats - Cincinnati Bearcats

  • Record: 13-0
  • VI Ranking: 2
  • Points Scored: 510
  • Points Allowed: 209
  • PS/G: 39.2
  • PA/G: 16.1

Inside the Stats - Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Record: 12-1
  • VI Ranking: 1
  • Points Scored: 553
  • Points Allowed: 263
  • PS/G: 42.5
  • PA/G: 20.2

Key Players to Watch

  • CIN: Jerome Ford - RB (200 rushes, 1,238 yards, 19 TD)
  • CIN: Desmond Ridder - QB (234/355, 3,190 yards, 30 TD, 8 INT)
  • BAMA: Jameson Williams - WR (68 catches, 1,445 yards, 15 TD)
  • BAMA: Bryce Young - QB (314/462, 4,322 yards, 43 TD, 4 INT)

Cotton Bowl Betting Conclusion

I am a fan of the little guy. I cheer for Rudy. I enjoyed the Miracle on Ice as a kid. I watched Buster Douglas drop Mike Tyson in Tokyo. I remember Division II Chaminade topping Virginia in Hawaii back in the early 1980s. Upsets of monumental proportions can certainly be done. And, if it were up to my heart, I'd be all in on Cincinnati. But hearts and feelings don't win money. You have to use your brain, and the fact Alabama isn't even laying two touchdowns at most shops is a steal. Take advantage.

I think Cincinnati hangs with Alabama - for a quarter. It might be something like 10-7 in favor of the Tide, who take the first punch with UC maybe even enjoying a lead. They can stick that in the memory bank. But they'll have nothing to stick in the trophy case, as Young, WR Jameson Williams and the Tide are just too experienced, too fast and too strong. It sounds rather simplistic, but the philosophical rule Occam's razor says simplest is most likely.

Alabama made it look easy against Georgia in the SEC title game. Cincinnati is going to be a minor speed bump on the way to doing what Alabama does best, win semifinal games and play for the biggest prize in college football. It's been a great story and accomplishment for UC getting to this point. Now, it's time to go home.

Cotton Bowl Betting Trends

  • Cincinnati is 5-0 ATS in the past five games as an underdog.
  • Cincinnati is 6-0 ATS in the past six games vs. teams with a winning record.
  • Cincinnati is 5-1 ATS in the past six non-conference games.
  • Alabama is 4-1 ATS in the past five non-conference games.
  • Alabama is 5-2 ATS in the past seven neutral-site games.
  • The UNDER is 5-2 in the past seven games for Cincinnati.
  • The UNDER is 5-2 in the past seven neutral-site games for Cincinnati.
  • The UNDER is 24-5-1 in the past 30 games for Cincinnati as an underdog.
  • The UNDER is 3-1-1 in the past five bowl games for Alabama.
  • The UNDER is 5-0 in the past five bowl semifinal games for Alabama.
  • The UNDER is 3-1-1 in the past five bowl games as a favorite for Alabama.

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