Rapid Reaction: Alabama rolls past Cincinnati in Cotton Bowl, earns CFP title game spot
Alabama has made it back to the national championship game.
The Crimson Tide dominated Cincinnati in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, defeating the Bearcats 27-6 on Friday.
Bama, the defending national champion, will have a chance at a repeat in the title game on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis against Georgia, which defeated Michigan 34-11 at the Orange Bowl. It was the 6th consecutive CFP semifinal win for coach Nick Saban’s program.
Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young passed for 3 touchdowns, but Tuscaloosa native Brian Robinson was the standout for the Tide. Robinson ran for a career-high 204 yards on 26 carries as Alabama gained more than 300 yards on the ground, far surpassing what Cincinnati gained in total yards (218).
Alabama, the SEC champions and No. 1 in the final CFP rankings, put the game away with a 9-play, 70-yard TD drive early in the fourth quarter. Young hit tight end Cameron Latu for a 9-yard TD and 24-6 lead.
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No. 4 Cincinnati (13-1), the American Athletic Conference champion and the first Group of 5 team to make the Playoffs, started each half with a field goal but was otherwise stifled by a Bama team that was 9th in FBS in total defense, allowing 306 yards per game.
Alabama (13-1) put the finishing touches on the victory with Will Reichard’s 43-yard field goal with 6:20 left in the game.
Cincinnati had a chance to take advantage of a relatively short field when safety Bryan Cook intercepted Young in the third quarter, as the Bearcats pressured the quarterback into a bad throw. But the Tide defense picked up the pace, driving the Bearcats backward on the ensuing drive and forcing a punt.
The Crimson Tide mostly stayed conservative in its play calling but hit a big play when Young found Ja’Corey Brooks on a 44-yard TD pass to put Bama ahead 17-3 with 1:36 left in the first half. Cincinnati had done a decent job of applying pressure to Young, but the Heisman Trophy winner found Brooks in isolation near the left sideline and just reached the pylon in the end zone before being forced out of bounds.
Reichard’s 26-yard field goal to start the second quarter put Alabama ahead 10-3 but he missed a 44-yard try wide left later in the quarter.
Bama caught a break later in the first half when JoJo Earle muffed a punt, but a Crimson Tide teammate recovered.
Alabama ran for 106 yards on the first quarter alone, the most in any quarter this season, displaying an offensive plan reminiscent of the game against Ole Miss, when the Crimson Tide ran for 210 yards on a season-high 50 carries.
Cincinnati drove 60 yards in 13 plays on its first possession, capped by Cole Smith’s 33-yard field goal. Those kicks were no sure thing for the Bearcats this season; they used three kickers this season and hit just 7 field goals, fewer than all but 3 teams.
On its first drive, Alabama ran 10 times with the lone pass attempt coming on Young’s 8-yard TD to Slade Bolden. The Bearcats were 44th in the nation in rushing defense coming in, allowing 137.5 yards on the ground per game.