CINCINNATI, OH -- Cincinnati Bearcats QB Desmond Ridder preparing to put on his helmet before the American Athletic Conference Championship Game at Nippert Stadium. (Dec. 4, 2021 - PHOTO: Robert D. Cobb: INSC Media & Photography.)

CINCINNATI, OH – With a program-defining matchup looming against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in the 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl, can the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats pull off one of the biggest upsets in college football history?

Cincinnati, 13-0 and newly-crowned champions of the American Athletic Conference, thanks to their 35-20 victory over Houston in the AAC title game at Nippert Stadium, head down into Arlington to face the sport’s most dominant program and head coach in Nick Saban over the last decade, as Alabama has won six national titles over the last 12 years.

If the Bearcats have any chance of beating Alabama, they lie in the hands of Cincinnati’s senior quarterback Desmond Ridder who has passed for 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns, while also rushing for 352 yards on the ground and another six. Ridder will need every bit of it to go toe-to-toe with Alabama’s first-ever Heisman Trophy winner at QB in Bryce Young.

It’ll be a tall order going against a Crimson Tide defensive line stacked with NFL first-rounders such as LB’s Will Anderson, Christian Harris, defensive end Byron Young and cornerback Josh Jobe.

Not to say that the 13.5-point underdog Bearcats don’t have a chance to shock the college football world, but Cincinnati is going to need career-defining games from tailback Jerome Ford and wideout Alec Pierce to have any chance.

A member of Urban Meyer’s 2012 national champion staff that upset Bama in New Orleans en route to Ohio State’s national title as co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell is no stranger to big games under the bright lights vs. the SEC, as his Bearcats faced and lost to fellow CFP semi-finalist Georgia 24-21 this past January in the Peach Bowl.

So, if you’re expecting the Bearcats to be intimidated by Alabama under the bright lights of being the first non-Power 5 team to play in the College Football Playoff era, then prepare to be disappointed.

Overlooked. Disrespected and a heavy underdog, the Bearcats may have the heavily favored Crimson Tide right where they want them.



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