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Alabama vs. Cincinnati picks for CFP semifinal, best bets for 2021 Cotton Bowl

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Cincinnati Bearcats face off in the 2021 Cotton Bowl. We break down our picks and best bets for the game.

2021 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’ve finally reached the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Eve! The first semifinal matchup will emanate from the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, where the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide will battle the No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Alabama (12-1) returns to the CFP for a seventh time and is looking to make its sixth title game during the playoff era. The 2021 Crimson Tide weren’t as dominant as last year’s title team, but still got the job done when it counted the most.

The team looked its most vulnerable for three and a half quarters against arch rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but eventual Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young was able to come up with late-game heroics to lead the Tide to a frantic overtime win. As an ultra-rare underdog to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game the following week, they proceeded to dominate the Bulldogs in a 41-24 victory to get to this point.

Cincinnati (13-0) is walking into uncharted waters as the first Group of Five program with the good fortune to break into the CFP.

Coming off a 9-1 campaign last year where they nearly knocked off UGA in the Peach Bowl, the Bearcats once again handled business in American Athletic Conference play to post a perfect season. The team bolstered its playoff chances in early-October when it went to South Bend, IN, and took down Notre Dame. Despite a string of victories where it didn’t rack up mythical “style points”, the Bearcats kept winning and punched its playoff ticket with a 35-20 victory over Houston in the AAC Championship Game.

Here’s all the data you’ll want, and a pick for the game!

SP+ Rankings

Alabama: 3rd overall, 2nd offense, 10th defense
Cincinnati: 5th overall, 11th offense, 9th defense

Cotton Bowl injury updates


WR JoJo Earle Gametime decision - Undisclosed

DB Jalyn Armour-Davis Gametime decision - Undisclosed

DB Josh Jobe Doubtful - Turf toe

WR John Metchie III Out - Torn ACL


No new injuries to report


Against The Spread

Alabama: 7-6 ATS
Cincinnati: 8-5 ATS


Alabama: Over 7-6
Cincinnati: Over 6-7

Current lines at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Alabama -14
Total: 57
Moneyline: Alabama -590, Cincinnati +425

Opening line: Alabama -13.5
Opening total: 59

Alabama vs. Cincinnati: Cotton Bowl Pick

Under 57

Considering that both of these teams have been off for nearly a month, both offense may need a minute to get things revved up. This would be normal for Cincinnati as they tend to not get things moving offensively until the second quarter. Both Luke Fickell and Nick Saban will be comfortable in a physical, lower-scoring affair so take the under in this semifinal battle.

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