Bold predictions for Alabama’s Cotton Bowl matchup vs. Cincinnati

Top-seeded Alabama will face No. 4 Cincinnati in the 2021 Cotton Bowl, for a chance to earn a trip to Indianapolis for the College Football Playoff National Championship. The winner between the Crimson Tide and Bearcats will face the Orange Bowl champion, which will be either No. 2 Michigan or No. 3 Georgia.

This is a big matchup with implications reaching far beyond this college football season. Cincinnati is the first Group of 5 program to make the playoffs. A team from the American Athletic Conference has a lot to prove, as there have been fans and analysts doubting teams like Cincinnati for decades. The Bearcats are entering a four-quarter fight with the biggest, historical figure in the game and want to be the ones to shift the narrative.

Here are five bold predictions for what may happen between Cincinnati and Alabama.

Jerome Ford rushes for over 100 yards, multiple TDs

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Former Alabama running back Jerome Ford transferred to Cincinnati roughly two years ago. Now, he will face off against his former team in the Cotton Bowl. He has been impressive in 2021 as the Bearcats featured back.

Through 12 games, he has rushed for over 100 yards five times, and almost 200 in the AAC Championship against a ranked Houston team. He has also scored multiple rushing touchdowns in five games, including two with three or more scores.

Alabama’s passing game won’t be effective

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Bryce Young may be one of the most talented players in the nation this year, as well as won the Heisman, but Cincinnati’s secondary is stronger than most would expect. In fact, Nick Saban said it himself, “They’re aggressive in the way they play, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, they’re smart, they got a lot of experience even when they change it up and play zone, they’re all ball hawkers back there. They really attack the ball, they have a lot of turnovers. It’s a talented group.”

Trey Sanders steals the show

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Alabama’s running back room has lost a lot of depth throughout the season due to injuries. Now, Brian Robinson jr. is the lead back, with Trey Sanders right behind him. Sanders had a difficult first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, dealing with injuries and a car accident, so he’s got something to prove. The big, versatile back could make this his breakout game.

Cincinnati doesn’t back down

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This game is David vs. Goliath. A staple in the college football realm facing a Group of five team that many believe does not belong in the final four teams. This program has a lot of fight, and the Bearcats showed that by missing the playoffs last season and bouncing back in 2021 to make it. Luke Fickell knows what’s at stake and a consistent, four-quarter fight from Cincinnati will earn the respect of many. They are playing to win, not for looks. Don’t expect the team to back down or slow down at any point.

John Metchie’s absence will be felt

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Alabama lost wide receiver John Metchie III in the SEC Championship game for the season, which means the duo of Jameson Williams and Metchie is over. Having two players that were essentially both WR1’s was a huge advantage for Bryce Young and the Crimson Tide. Below Metchie on the depth chart are some young, inexperienced players. While they are certainly talented and able to perform at this level of competition, the College Football Playoff isn’t the best time to figure out who on the roster can fill the massive shoes left by Metchie.

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