Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:15 AM EST.
Cincinnati +13.5 over Alabama
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX - Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at the College Football Playoff
3:30 PM EST. It seems like every year, we begin our analysis of a College Football Playoff game by telling you that Alabama is the gold standard of college football and as a result of their pedigree, you can expect to pay a premium to get behind them, particularly when it comes to games of this magnitude. While this notion holds true here, there are a few other ingredients that can be thrown into the mix as well which substantiates the equity that comes with backing the Bearcats. We’ll explain further.
First off, Cincinnati is achieving something that NO other team in Group of Five history has done: achieve a berth to a playoff game. We can spend the next 1,000 words giving you a detailed history of mid-major programs like Boise State, UCF, and Utah and what they have contributed to build to this moment, but we will bring it to a full stop by saying that because Cincinnati is the first of its kind to do what it is doing, normally we would expect the feel-good sentiment to influence the market to back the Bearcats. The one exception of course is the fact that Cincinnati is up against the “greatest coach” in college football history (that left the NFL with his tail between his legs ala Urban Meyer) and for the moment, the greatest program in college football history who happens to be the #1 team in the country and the defending national champion. Very quickly the Thomas The Tank Engine persona of Cincinnati shifts to the tune of Scott Joplin’s Great Crush Collision March (a staged collision in Katy, Texas) where the Bearcats summarily speed into the brick wall that is Alabama and go KABOOM. Or in other words, Cincinnati appears to be out of its league.
Then there are the overreactions that actually come with backing Alabama as well. You see the last time the Tide were in action was the SEC Championship where quarterback Bryce Young earned his Heisman Trophy when he dissected what was at time considered to be the best defense in the country in Georgia. The Dawgs were a 6-point favorite that day and now they’re nearly 20 points the very next game against a high quality opponent.
Make no mistake, this Cincinnati team is not one to be taken lightly. The Bearcats bode arguably, if not the best secondary in the country which can make things difficult for Bryce Young who will be without Jon Metchie lined up at wide receiver; the ‘Cats also have a quarterback in Desmond Ridder, who could be just as productive as Young and who has a flare for showing up in big games; And last but certainly not least this is a physical, disciplined, and hard-nosed Cincy team that is filled with plenty of NFL talent in its own right that will approach a team like the Crimson Tide with no trepidation. After all, we are just one year removed from when Cincinnati took Georgia the distance in the Peach Bowl when no one said they had a chance. While Alabama seems like a safe bet in virtually any playoff game, we urge buyers to approach with caution as Cincinnati is anything but an easy path to the CFP Final.
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Cincinnati +13½ -101 (Risking 2.02 units - To Win: 2.00)