Keys to Win
With Gardner and Bryant matched up outside against Williams and others, Alabama will likely be able to create some mismatches in the middle of the field with Billingsley, Latu, and others. Not only could the Crimson Tide create a big advantage matchup-wise on offense with their tight ends, but defending Cincinnati’s tight ends (Whyle and Taylor) defensively will be key, both of whom are primary red zone targets for the Bearcats.
Line of Scrimmage
This will always be a key in any game against any opponent, but the matchup on the line of scrimmage between these two is undoubtedly a huge advantage for the Crimson Tide. The Bearcats do not have the same depth that the Crimson do in the trenches, and Cincinnati could struggle to not only stop the run defensively, but to establish the ground game (arguably the strength of Cincinnati offense) against the Alabama front seven.
Pressure on Ridder
An experienced dual-threat quarterback, Ridder is a player capable of giving the Crimson Tide defense trouble, not only with his arm, but his legs also. Sacked in all but one game this season, it will be key for the Crimson Tide’s pass rushers on Ridder to force him to make quick throws, as well as not allow him to escape the pocket and get into open space.
Take your minds back to this time last year. While Alabama was in the CFP facing Notre Dame in the semifinal, Cincinnati was in the Sugar Bowl facing Georgia, a game in which the Bulldogs won 24-21. While that game was close throughout, the Bearcats did struggle in a few key areas, most-notably allowing eight sacks, a similar number that we could see on Friday.
It will likely become clear early in the first quarter on whether or not this game will be close, and if Cincinnati will be able to weather the opening start from the Crimson Tide. Expect big games from Bryce Young and Brian Robinson Jr, and for the Crimson Tide defense to give the Cincinnati offense some trouble.
Yes, the Bearcats are a very good team and have earned the right to play in the CFP. However, they will be facing an uphill battle in multiple areas, in particular at the line of scrimmage.
Expect the Crimson Tide to control this game from the start, and to make a statement against the Bearcats.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Cincinnati 17