“No Chance” “Outmatched” “Free Win” are all terms I have seen to describe the Cincinnati/Alabama match-up in the college football playoff. The first non-Power 5 team to make the playoff, the Bearcats have been written off to even have a chance to beat the Crimson Tide. But, this is rhetoric I have seen before and Cincinnati will shock the world and take the Saban led dynasty down.
Going Down Memory Lane
This entire situation reminds me of the 2014 Alabama Crimson Tide team. A talented offense led by future NFL players like TJ Yeldon, Derrick Henry, and Amari Cooper was alongside a hard nosed defense. After dropping a midseason SEC game to Mississippi, they regrouped and took down #1 Mississippi State a few weeks later. The juggernaut team rumbled to the #1 seed in the inaugural playoff.
Their opponent in the first round of the playoff was a much bigger name than Cincinnati, but from the same state. Many questioned if the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes should have even be included in the playoff. Their back-up QB, JT Barrett was injured against Michigan and their 3rd string QB Cardale Jones would have to start. They had no chance and were a double digit underdog, why even play the game?
The result of that game ended up being Jones throwing for 243 yards on the way to a Buckeye victory and National Championship. An Alabama team with a ton of NFL players couldn’t take down a back-up XFL QB. Of course, Ohio State had other NFL players on their roster, but the imbalance seemed too much in the public’s eyes before the game. One of the defensive coordinators for the Buckeyes in that game? Current Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell.
Talent of Cincinnati
Fickell has to be feeling the parallels between that game and the one this year. The Bearcats have plenty of NFL talent including 6-7 players who could be selected in the Top 100 of the 2022 NFL Draft. They beat the #5 team in the country by double digits on the road. They have a balanced rushing/passing attack and two lockdown CBs. All of these things aren’t taken into account as the consensus feels Alabama will just roll them.
The Bearcats do have some mismatches. WR Alec Pierce can contend one-on-one with any Alabama QB and make some big plays. Former Alabama RB Jerome Ford has flashed his size and speed for the Bearcats now. The Crimson Tide defense has had stretches of mediocrity, especially in the secondary, so if they can’t get to the QB, it could spell trouble.
On the other side of the ball, bracket coverage of deep threat Jameson Williams could prove problematic. Not only will be likely be covered by Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner who has yet to allow a TD this year, but Safety Bryan Cook can play and run deep. With WR John Metchie out of the game for Alabama, they may struggle to provide more consistent targets for Bryce Young.
Alabama’s best course of action is likely to pound the rock and focus on rushing Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder into bad decisions. Alabama can dominate the line of scrimmage, but a great coaching performance and gameplan should neutralize their strengths. Maybe I just WANT to see Alabama go down for once, but Fickell is the best man for this job.
Ultimately, I’ll take Cincinnati and the points, but an outright win is within their wheelhouse. Even if they get down a TD or two, don’t discount the Bearcats from coming back and showing the non Power-5 teams can compete.