It’s been a storybook year for Cincinnati – an undefeated season that now has the G5 team facing perennial powerhouse Alabama. Can the Bearcats continue this run and pull off a major upset against Alabama? They are currently a 13.5-point favorite over the AAC champion, which is understandable.
No matter what you think about the media and the SEC, Alabama has faced a tougher schedule than the Bearcats. The AAC is not a murderer’s row and, to be fair, UC did struggle at times. That said, there is a way that UC can stay in this game and possibly win. Let’s take a look at they keys to a win for Cincinnati against Alabama.
No John Metchie
First, the defense needs to take advantage of the absence of Alabama wide receiver John Metchie. Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant need to shut down Alabama quarterback (and Heisman winner) Bryce Young’s remaining weapons and force the Tide into running the ball. Alabama turned in poor rushing performances late in the season (six yards against LSU) and taking Young and Jameson Williams (his top receiver) out of the picture will be beneficial for the ‘Cats.
Win time of possession battle
Second, the offense needs to control the ball. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder will present a major problem for the Alabama defense. A true dual threat, he can beat this defense through the air and on the ground. That said, Ridder and crew will need to control the ball on the ground, then take shots when available. This where Jerome Ford comes in.
Ford rushed for 100 yards five times this season and nearly 200 against Houston in the AAC Championship game. If he can put up this sort of production in the Cotton Bowl, keeping the ball out of Alabama’s hands, Cincinnati could pull off the upset. Positive yardage on first and second downs to keep manageable third-down situations will also help Ridder be effective throwing the ball.
Finally, luck and eliminating mistakes. Face it, UC is the underdog and what does the underdog need to pull off the major upset? Luck. At some point, the ball is going to have to bounce Cincinnati’s way. Perhaps a deflected pass that ends up as an interception, a dropped hand-off that bounces right to a defensive lineman, a gadget play at just the right time to catch Alabama off guard — something weird will happen and it has to go the Bearcats’ way.
Also, Ridder and crew have to protect the ball. Cincinnati can not give this Alabama offense additional opportunities to score – it will be tough enough to stop them without turning the ball over.
Can Cincinnati Beat Alabama?
Is a Cotton Bowl victory and shot at a National Championship in UC’s future? Not many people think so, but if the Bearcats can take advantage of Alabama’s injuries on offense, control the ball, and get a bit of luck … it is possible.
Be sure to check out Around The Block for more coverage of the CFB playoffs.