The 2021 Cotton Bowl, set to kick off Friday, Dec. 31, will serve as one of the 2021-2022 College Football National Semifinals as Alabama (1) takes on Cincinnati (4) at the renowned football stadium in Dallas, Texas.
Both teams are coming off impressive victories last weekend. Alabama triumphed over Georgia with a 41-24 blowout win in the SEC Championship Game, while Cincinnati remained undefeated with a 35-20 victory over Houston in the AAC Championship Game.
Who will prevail in the big game at the Cotton Bowl? Read on for our top 2021 Cotton Bowl betting picks and Alabama vs Cincinnati predictions.
Alabama vs Cincinnati Prediction: 2021 Cotton Bowl
These teams come from two different planets, and their worlds are going to collide on New Year’s Eve.
Alabama lost only one game all season en route to winning the SEC, which is the strongest FBS conference. Even more impressively, the Crimson Tide won the SEC West, which is the toughest FBS division according to Sagarin ratings.
Cincinnati was undefeated on its way to winning the American Conference, which is a Group of Five conference. In fact, the average AAC team has a lower Sagarin power rating than the average Power Five team and Mountain West team
That is why even though Cincy was undefeated this season, they are heavy underdogs against Alabama on our NCAAF gameday odds. We know the Bearcats are good, but can they hang with the best team in the country?
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Stylistically, Cincinnati is a strong defensive team with a potent offense. The Bearcats allow only 16.1 points per game (fourth-fewest) while averaging 39.2 points per game (eighth-most).
Not only did Cincy win every game, but they routinely blew their opponents out, winning each game by an average of over 22 points. Many of their games were against middling opponents, however, which no doubt inflated their record and stats.
While the Bearcats benefitted from an easy schedule, they still had an impressive non-conference win against Notre Dame, so they’re capable of beating good teams.
Alabama needs little introduction unless you have lived in a cave for the last 15 years. The Crimson Tide played the toughest strength of schedule this season and only lost one game.
Led by Bryce Young at quarterback, Nick Saban‘s offense is explosive. Young is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 4,322 passing yards, 43 passing touchdowns, and just four interceptions. He also shredded Georgia’s iron curtain defense in the SEC Championship for 421 passing yards and three passing touchdowns.
- Check out our 2021 Orange Bowl Predictions & Picks
This game will come down to how well Cincinnati’s defense performs against Young. The Bearcats have shut down opposing quarterbacks all season long, limiting them to a 53% completion rate and 169 passing yards per game.
Alabama deserves to be heavy favorites here, but Cincinnati has a better chance of winning than the odds imply. If the Bearcats can contain Young then they could win, or at least keep the game close.
Alabama vs Cincinnati Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Alabama 21
Cotton Bowl Best Bets for Alabama vs Cincinnati
Best Bet: Cincinnati +13.5 (-110) at Caesars (bet up to -125 or +13)
Wager: 2 Units
Alabama should win against Cincinnati, but I don’t think it will be a blowout. Even though the Crimson Tide had dominant wins over Ole Miss and Georgia this season, they also had a few close calls that should give Alabama spread bettors pause.
For starters, Bama beat Auburn by only two points in four overtimes despite entering the game as 20.5-point favorites. Additionally, Alabama beat Arkansas, LSU, and Florida by less than a touchdown, so they’re not impenetrable.
Cincinnati is Alabama’s toughest opponent yet outside of Georgia. The Bearcats’ robust pass defense should be able to limit Young enough for Cincy to cover the spread in our NCAAF bet of the day.
Want to make a bet on Cincinnati to win the 2022 CFB National Championship?
Best Bet: CFB National Championship - Cincinnati Defeats Michigan (+5000) at BetMGM (bet up to +4000)
Wager: 0.5 Units
I see value in Cincinnati’s moneyline (+400) to defeat Alabama, but I see even more value in betting on them winning or losing in specific National Championship matches.
As a proud nerd, I simulated the College Football Playoffs 100,000 times. Cincinnati defeated Michigan in the CFP Championship in 3.1% of my simulations.
With BetMGM in particular, they frequently give out free bets. These are best used on longshots, as you only get paid out in winnings and not with your initial stake.
That is why I recommend using them on this National Championship result wager.