Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Pick – Cotton Bowl December 31, 2021

The first contest in the College Football Playoff is at AT&T Stadium in the Cotton Bowl. The Cincinnati Bearcats will look for the upset over the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Just getting to the College Football Playoff is a major accomplishment for Cincinnati, but now that they’re here, why not win? Even with a perfect record, Cincinnati needed chips to fall in front of them.

The committee did their best to keep a Group of Five school out of the College Football Playoff, but there was no other choice but to go with Cincinnati. There were weeks where they were ranked outside of the top-4 despite a perfect record.

The Bearcats earned an easy trip to the AAC Championship, where they pulled away from the Houston Cougars for a 35-20 win. Cincinnati and Houston were trading points early on before the Bearcats put their foot down.

Cincinnati must be better on New Year’s Eve if they are going to beat Alabama. If the Bearcats come out lazy on defense like happened in the AAC Championship, Alabama can go up by two touchdowns in a hurry.

Look for Cincinnati to come out with energy. Luck Fickell will have his guys ready to go for the 1st quarter in the Cotton Bowl. Whether it’s going to help by the end of the game, we’ll have to see. It’s one thing going a quarter with Alabama and going a full game.

This season, Alabama didn’t go without their blemishes, but the Crimson Tide looked like Alabama when it matters the most in the SEC Championship. The Crimson Tide got behind early and then looked like vintage Alabama for 3 quarters.

The Crimson Tide were in good form on both sides of the ball. It looked like Alabama was back. After winning the SEC Championship, quarterback Bryce Young went on to win the Heisman Trophy. He will be without John Metchie, though there’s still talent all over the field.

Head below for our free Cincinnati vs. Alabama pick on December 31, 2021.

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Cotton Bowl Betting Odds and Team Statistics:

The following odds are courtesy of BetUS:

Teams Spread Moneyline Total
Cincinnati Bearcats +13.5 (-110) +400 Over 57.5 (-110)
Alabama Crimson Tide -13.5 (-110) -500 Under 57.5 (-110)
Team Data Cincinnati Bearcats Alabama Crimson Tide
Overall Record 13-0 12-1
ATS Record 8-5-0 7-6-0
Points Per Game 39.2 42.5
Points Against Per Game 16.1 20.2
Passing Yards Per Game 248.7 347.9
Rushing Yards Per Game 179.8 147.1

Cincinnati vs. Alabama Prediction:

Cincinnati needs to get a complete performance for 4 quarters if this is going to work in Arlington. I have some confidence in the Bearcats showing up early. Georgia showed up early, but look at where they ended up in the SEC Championship.

Georgia were elite on defense this season until they saw Alabama. Nick Saban made adjustments, and Bryce Young picked a very good defense to pieces. Young tossed 421 yards and 3 touchdowns.

That wasn’t the case, as Young torched the Bulldogs’ secondary against a defense that is going to see several guys in the NFL. The Alabama offensive line struggled mightily versus Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but the Crimson Tide figured it out and put a wall against a dangerous Georgia defensive line.

Young was afforded all kinds of time, and if he receives that same protection in the Cotton Bowl, expect him to move the ball downfield easily. He scored monster numbers with 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.

Cincinnati will have to pressure Young with four consistently on Friday afternoon. Clayton Tune moved the ball well on the Bearcats in the AAC Championship before Cincinnati adjusted. I don’t know if the Bearcats have the talent to make the necessary adjustment to keep up with the athletes of Alabama.

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Trends:


  • 5-0 ATS in thier previous five games as an underdog
  • 5-1 ATS in their previous six games versus a non-conference team
  • 6-0 ATS in their previous six games versus a team with a winning record
  • 2-6-1 ATS in their previous nine games in December
  • UNDER is 24-5-1 in their previous 30 games as an underdog


  • 4-1 ATS in their previous five games versus a non-conference team
  • 5-2 ATS in their previous seven games at a neutral field
  • 13-0 in their previous 13 games in December
  • UNDER is 5-0 in their previous College Football Playoff games
  • UNDER is 4-1-1 in their previous six games as a betting favorite

Cincinnati is likely going to run into problems in this one when they’re on third down and need a big pass from Desmond Ridder. Alabama likely won’t allow the Bearcats to run consistently.

The Crimson Tide are third-best in the nation with 81.4 yards allowed per game on the ground. They’ve seen better rushing games than the Bearcats are going to throw at them on Friday.

This is going to put the game into Ridder’s hands. He was sharp with 3,190 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions on 65.9% completions.

Alabama was solid with 223.2 yards allowed per game and peaked at the right moment versus Georgia. Despite passing for 340 yards, Stetson Bennett looked confused at times and threw 2 critical interceptions.

There will be a point in this one where Ridder gets rattled. The Crimson Tide should be able to force Ridder into mistakes. Ridder didn’t play mistake-free football like Young this year, and he was in the AAC, not SEC.

After a close 1st quarter, expect Alabama to make all the right adjustments with their speed. Tune picked spots in the Cincinnati defense for a few series in the AAC Championship.

Just look for Alabama to exploit those holes for longer, forcing Ridder to win this game with his arm. A critical interception in the second half in their own territory likely sinks the Bearcats’ chances.

In a game where too many mistakes add up for Cincinnati, expect Alabama to pull away for a 35-17 win in the Cotton Bowl to earn a trip to the National Championship.


Cincinnati vs. Alabama Pick
Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.

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