No. 1 Alabama put an end to the Group of Five experiment on Friday, beating No. 4 Cincinnati 27-6 at the Cotton Bowl in Texas to punch a ticket to the National Championship Game.
The Crimson Tide were led by sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who was this year’s Heisman Trophy winner. He threw for 181 yards, going 17-28 on his passes with three touchdowns.
However, it wasn’t Young’s arm that was leaned on as much in this game. The rushing attack is what Alabama used to wear down a much weaker team.
Bama did on offense what a team that is clearly better does to a team that is clearly worse, and that is to run the ball effectively and often.
Brian Robinson, Jr. for the Tide ran for a career-high 204 yards on just 26 carries for an average of 7.8 yards-per-carry. Trey Sanders was the next leading rusher with 67 yards on 14 carries.
Offensively, the Tide, who were without star wide receiver John Metchie III, leaned on their offensive line to man-handle the much smaller Cincinnati Bearcats. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s plan to run a smart offense against an undersized defense was impressive considering some coordinators would have tried to light up the scoreboard with long passes and explosive plays. O’Brien instead opted to play safe, and it worked to perfection.
Alabama’s defense also outmanned the Bearcats with size, speed and power. Will Anderson, Jr., who likely should have been in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, anchored the Alabama defense. Fellow linebacker Henry To’oTo’o and Jordan Battle in the secondary also contributed to Bama’s dominant defensive performance.
Defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis had a great night with three pass deflections at the line of scrimmage against Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder. Two of those deflections came on third down to cement a punt for the Bearcats.
Saban and Alabama will once again advance to the National Championship for the sixth time in eight years of the College Football Playoff.
Alabama will play in the National Championship against the winner of the semifinal matchup against Michigan and Georgia. That game is set for January 10 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: Hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.