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Jumbo Package: Cincinnati’s opportunistic defense is the key to an upset

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Temple at Cincinnati Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. We’ve reached the short game week of the semifinal matchup against Cincinnati. As of now, Alabama is holding steady as a 13.5 point favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Bearcats’ defense is of particular concern for the Tide.

“It’s an all-around great group from top to bottom,” Young said. “Those corners are the guys that get a lot of talk, and it’s definitely warranted. On film, they pop off the screen. They’re really good on the back end. Their entire secondary is really good. Their linebackers are very good as well, very instinctual players. And then up front, they play super hard. They make a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage and behind it, so on defense, from top to bottom, looks like a great defense.

As Erik noted in his efficiency piece, Cincinnati’s defense is particularly opportunistic in forcing turnovers. As in most games featuring a spread like this one, the underdog will likely need to do just that in order to win. Of course, Alabama has been outstanding at protecting the ball all season. Christopher Walsh echoes this sentiment.

The player who lines up next to to Neal on the left side of the line, Javion Cohen, is also bigger than anyone Cincinnati can line up against him.

What’s to stop Alabama from shoving the ball down Cincinnati’s throat, especially behind the left side of the line?

The best option for the Bearcats is probably to go man with the corners, stack the box, try to gang-tackle everything that moves and hope for some turnovers. It’s a formula that’s worked well for them.

This is what I expect as well, and it’s tough to believe that any DB will take away Jameson’t big play ability for an entire game while left on an island.

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell brushes off the point spread.

“No, I wasn’t aware exactly where those things were,” Fickell said Sunday evening when informed by a local reporter of the spread in the game. “When you start to see them pop up at the bottom of the ticker, I turn the channel.

“We know. We have a good idea. If you want to have a shot at the title, you got to beat the champs. This is what we have. We have a shot to beat the champs.”

Fickell didn’t particularly want to waste much breath on COVID protocols, either.

Asked about how the new forfeiture policy makes it “important” for players to not test positive this week, Fickell responded, “Everything’s important.”

“Guys get hurt,” he continued. “We’re going to go out and practice tomorrow. And we’re not going to not hit each other or not touch each other because we don’t want a guy to hurt his ankle or knee. So I think we all understand the magnitude of the issues that surround us, the magnitude of the opportunities we have.

“And I can promise that we’re not letting anything stand in our way.”

As you well know, Alabama coaches Bill O’Brien and Doug Marrone tested positive, and this is how the team is managing their absences.

Javion Cohen did a bit of Christmas trolling.

Trevon Diggs got his 11th interception of the season last night, tying the Dallas franchise record.

Unfortunately for Washington, the final score was Dallas, 56-14. This created a bit of tension on the sideline.

Have to admit, didn’t think we’d be seeing that in a million years. Payne said after the game that the hatchet was buried.

Last, horrible news from Alabama basketball assistant Bryan Hodgson.

Their puppy? That poor family. There is a gofundme started here.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.