ARLINGTON, TX – New quarterback, new players, same coach, same place. With Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban set to face the No.4 undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats, should he be on upset alert?
Arguably the most dominant program in modern-day college football, the 12-1 Tide come into the 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl looking vulnerable in losing to Texas A&M, and being pushed to the brink against Florida, Arkansas, LSU and bitter Iron Bowl rival, Auburn.
While Bama looked like “Bama” in destroying longtime foil Georgia in the SEC title game, 41-24 in Atlanta, the underdog Bearcats come into North Texas with house money and nothing to lose against the defending national champions.
While being a 13.5-point favorite before kickoff and their recent CFP semifinal history may be in Alabama’s favor with wins over Notre Dame (2020), Clemson (2017), Washington (2016) and Michigan State, their one loss came against the man who was the co-defensive coordinator in the Sugar Bowl that night in 2014 vs. Ohio State in Cincinnati head coach, Luke Fickell.
As I mentioned in my recent blog here, don’t expect the undefeated Bearcats to wilt and be in star-crossed awe of the SEC media hype or Alabama when they line up in a few hours. If anything, carrying the weight—and proverbial banner of both the American Athletic Conference and all of the Non-Power Five—gives the Bearcats a bit of a psychological edge.
This Bama team just seems to have a bit of a different vibe in 2021. There is no Mac Jones to mentor him or DeVonta Smith, Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris for Young to throw to, and lean on and many experts are sleeping on the Bearcats underrated defense.
While Saban may be the greatest coach in the modern era of college football, the one coach who has always seemed to foil him—both down in Florida and at Ohio State—was now-failed Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer, whom he lost too in the Sugar Bowl with a third string QB in Cardale Jones.
Now, he faces a former assistant of his in Fickell in a neutral site, in addition to a veteran dual-threat QB in Desmond Ridder–whom has always given Saban-coached teams problems–and a talented workhorse tailback in Jerome Ford.
Saban may need to stock up on some of that rat poison down in Big D today.
Call me crazy, call me being an Ohio homer, but don’t be shocked if Cincinnati pulls off the stunner today.
Prediction: Cincinnati 34 Alabama 27