Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide College Football Playoff Semifinal Betting Odds, Picks and Preview

SEC’s Alabama laying nearly two full touchdowns ahead of David vs. Goliath CFP Semifinal matchup against AAC’s Cincinnati.
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Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide College Football Playoff Semifinal Betting Odds, Picks and Preview

The biggest day of the college football season is upon us! The Cotton Bowl will play host to the first CFP Semifinal matchup on New Year’s Eve as the Cincinnati Bearcats take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. While both teams are very deserving of being among the championship contenders, this semifinal certainly has a David vs. Goliath feel. Cincinnati is set to make history as the first non-Power 5 school to compete for the NCAAF National Championship. Can the Bearcats put up a fight against mighty Alabama, easily the top college football program of the past decade? The Cotton Bowl betting odds list the Crimson Tide as a heavy favorite ahead of this College Football Playoff Semifinal showdown.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama College Football Playoff Semifinal Betting Odds, Picks, and Preview

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl

Cincinnati Bearcats (13-0 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1 SU, 7-6 ATS)

Date: Friday, December 31, 2021

Start Time: 3:30 PM EST

Location: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX

TV Coverage: ESPN

Click Here For Cincinnati vs. Alabama Odds

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Cincinnati Bearcats Preview

When star quarterback Desmond Ridder joined head coach Luke Fickell and several other future NFL players in announcing that he would return to Cincinnati for his senior season, the campaign for the Bearcats to make the College Football Playoff officially began. Despite failing to cover several college football betting point spreads over the course of the season, UC successfully ran the table. Notable results included double-digit road wins over Notre Dame and Indiana, as well as a blowout of SMU in American Athletic Conference play. Cincinnati took care of business against a ranked Houston team in the AAC title game to clinch the first-ever playoff berth for a Group of 5 program.

The Bearcats’ defense is overflowing with NFL-caliber talent. UC ranked sixth in all of FBS in scoring defense this season allowing just 16.8 points per game. While slowing down the high-powered Alabama attack won’t be easy, players like star corner Ahmad Gardner figure to give Cincinnati a chance. 

Of course, containing the Tide for a full four quarters is next to impossible. Thus, Ridder and the Bearcats’ offense will need to hold up their end of the bargain as well. Lead RB Jerome Ford has been a beast all season. He should have plenty of motivation for this Cotton Bowl matchup given that he transferred to UC from none other than Alabama.

Alabama Crimson Tide Preview

The SEC Championship Game marked the first time that Nick Saban and Alabama went off as a college football betting underdog in years. Despite being tasked with overcoming an early 10-0 deficit, the Tide rolled to the victory and the 1-seed in this year’s College Football Playoff. Alabama has been dominant in all playoff semifinal games that they have been a part of to date. A big part of this is undoubtedly the extra preparation time that a multi-week layoff affords Saban and his coaching staff. Of course, having talented players like Heisman Trophy-winning QB Bryce Young certainly helps the cause too.

The Crimson Tide torched a Georgia defense that had been dominant all season by lining up in four-WR sets. Such spread packages effectively took away the Bulldogs’ defensive strength which is their defensive front. While one could argue that Cincinnati is much more balanced defensively between their front-seven and secondary, keeping up with the array of Alabama weapons won’t be easy. 

The Tide did lose No. 2 wideout John Metchie in the SEC title game to a knee injury, but Jameson Williams and Ja’Corey Brooks are still a formidable duo. On defense, no opposing offensive line has had an answer for linebacker Will Anderson Jr. all season. Cincinnati certainly has not faced a pass-rusher of his caliber to date.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama Cotton Bowl Betting Odds and Line Movement

The following table displays the best Cincinnati vs Alabama College Football Playoff betting odds and lines available in the market.

TeamMoneylineML Implied ProbabilitySpreadTotal
Cincinnati+42519%+13.5 (-105)O 57 (-110)
Alabama-55084.6%-13.5 (-110)U 57 (-105)

Neither the point spread nor the total has seen much in the way of line movement ahead of this Cotton Bowl semifinal matchup. Alabama opened at -13.5 and that is where the spread remains. 14-point lines have popped up on occasion, but there has quickly been buyback to 13.5 each time. The over/under has also only moved one-half point after opening at 57.5. It will be interesting to see if either line undergoes any late movement prior to kickoff on New Year’s Eve.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama College Football Playoff Betting Picks and Prediction

The bottom line when it comes to this Cotton Bowl semifinal matchup is that Cincinnati is going to need to play an A++ game in order to pull off the upset. Then again, Luke Fickell and the Bearcats have been at their best all season when matched up against quality opponents. UC let a double-digit lead slip away in last year’s Peach Bowl against Georgia. Can the lovable underdogs out of the American Athletic Conference prove that they belong on the grand stage that is the College Football Playoff?

It certainly won’t be easy considering the dynasty of a program that Alabama has become under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide have earned multiple championships, touted numerous Heisman Trophy winners, and have displayed utter dominance while playing in the best conference in the country over the past decade. The Tide have the better athletes and talent at virtually every position. One key factor will be how the offensive line handles the nasty Bearcats defensive front. If the O-line plays at a high level similar to how it did in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama will be in great shape.

Ultimately, bettors should expect the Crimson Tide to win this game. However, it’s worth noting the numerous close games and 7-6 ATS mark that Saban’s team had this season. Cincinnati will be up against it, but the two-touchdown spread feels a bit too large. We’ll take a shot on the Group of 5 Bearcats to stay within the number.

Cincinnati vs. Alabama Prediction: Cincinnati +13.5 (-105)


Henry has had a passion for sports that few can match for as long as he can remember. What started out as a five-year-old taking interest in the New York Jets and their green jerseys has since become a full-fledged career as a writer and sports betting analyst. His coverage primarily includes the NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, college football, and college basketball. In 2020, he ranked among the top-10 most accurate experts ATS in the BettingPros NFL season contest. You can follow Henry’s sports work on Twitter and other social media platforms @HankTimeSports.

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