Cincinnati opens big underdog to Alabama in first College Football Playoff appearance

By Adam Burke  ( 

December 5, 2021 11:47 AM

History has been made, as the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff is the Cincinnati Bearcats. Their prize for making the CFP is a date with Alabama, a team that just hung 41 points on a Georgia defense that had allowed fewer than seven points per game during the regular season.

But, the Bearcats are there and they’ll be on hand in Arlington, TX for the Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 31. The other semifinal on Dec. 31 will feature the Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl.

Cotton Bowl (4) Cincinnati vs. (1) Alabama (-13.5, 59)

College football fans have been rooting for a team outside the Power Five to make a playoff appearance, but the reality is that Cincinnati is the first one that truly deserves it. The Bearcats ran the table, going 13-0 with an exclamation point in the AAC Championship Game with a 35-20 win over Houston.

While Cincinnati’s Saturday performance was impressive, no team was more impressive than Alabama, who hung 41 points on a Georgia defense that had allowed just 83 points over the previous 12 games. The Crimson Tide are heavily favored against Cincinnati and the total is pretty high at 59.

This is not the biggest line in a semifinal game. That belongs to Alabama from last season as a 19-point favorite against Notre Dame. The Tide were also -14.5 in the 2018-19 Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, so this actually ranks third, at least for now.

Orange Bowl (3) Georgia (-7, 43.5) vs. (2) Michigan

The other semifinal features the SEC runner-up, Georgia, against the Big Ten champion, Michigan. For the first time on Jim Harbaugh’s watch, the Wolverines won the Big Ten Conference. They’re a sizable underdog of seven points against Georgia in a game that looks like a rock fight with a total of just 43.5.

The Bulldogs didn’t look very good against Alabama and you have to wonder if this line could tick down, especially with the low-scoring expectation. Michigan’s last two wins have also been thoroughly impressive, hanging 42 against both Ohio State and Iowa. In Michigan’s only loss, the Wolverines had 552 yards and scored 33 points, but couldn’t seal the deal against Michigan State.

Georgia’s massive yards per play differential and elite defensive numbers were nowhere to be found against Alabama. Perception matters a lot in these markets and this game is likely to draw more betting interest than the other one, which merits watching as the bowl season rolls along.

We'll see what the early action looks like on these games. Adam Burke discussed betting bowl games early and everything that goes into it.

Our College Football Bowl Betting Guide will be out on Dec. 13 and we can’t wait to bring you thoughts from our experts on every game. Sign up now for the VSiN Holiday Offer to ensure you get that guide the day it gets released.

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