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Alabama will play for its second straight national championship after earning a 27-6 win over Cincinnati in the 2021 Cotton Bowl on Friday.

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young threw three touchdown passes in the College Football Playoff national semifinal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, while Brian Robinson Jr. stole the show with a career-high 204 rushing yards.

The Crimson Tide controlled the game everywhere but the scoreboard early on, holding just a 17-6 lead through three quarters. The Bearcats limited the damage with a bend-don’t-break defense and kept the favorites scoreless in the third quarter.

Cincinnati simply couldn’t get in the end zone.

Alabama (13-1) will compete in the CFP title game for the sixth time in the last seven years, facing the winner of Michigan and Georgia in Friday night’s Orange Bowl. The Crimson Tide are one game away from becoming the first team to win back-to-back championships since they accomplished the feat after the 2011 and ’12 seasons.

Alabama Football @AlabamaFTBL

Déjà Vu 🔮#CFBPlayoff #RollTide

Cincinnati was the first Group of Five team to earn a spot in the CFP, but it couldn’t keep its dream season alive.

Desmond Ridder was held without a touchdown for the first time all year as the Bearcats suffered their first loss of the season after reeling off 13 victories.

Notable Performances

Bryce Young, QB, ALA: 17-28, 181 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Brian Robinson Jr., RB, ALA: 26 carries, 204 rushing yards

Ja’Corey Brooks, WR, ALA: 4 catches, 66 receiving yards, 1 TD

Desmond Ridder, QB, CIN: 17-32, 144 passing yards

Jerome Ford, RB, CIN: 15 carries, 77 rushing yards

Michael Young Jr., WR, CIN: 4 catches, 55 receiving yards

Brian Robinson Powers Alabama Offense in Win

The passing attack has gained more headlines for Alabama this season, but the team went old school with its approach in the Cotton Bowl. 

Alabama showed its game plan early with its willingness to run the ball and win in the trenches.

Field Yates @FieldYates

Alabama’s opening drive:


11 plays, 75 yards, TD

Carl Prather @CarlPratherWAFF

18 of Alabama’s 23 plays were run plays in the first quarter.#CFBPlayoff

Bobby Nightengale @nightengalejr

Alabama with 140 rushing yards midway through the 2nd quarter, including 102 from Brian Robinson Jr. #Bearcats defense had allowed 137.5 rushing yards per game entering today.

This strategy led to 301 rushing yards and an average of 6.4 per attempt. Robinson reached 100 yards in just four of 12 games this season, but he was unstoppable against Cincinnati.

It still took the passing game to get into the end zone, as Bryce Young connected with wideouts Slade Bolden and Ja’Corey Brooks and tight end Cameron Latu.

ESPN @espn


Bryce Young ➡️ Slade Bolden#CFBPlayoff

ESPN @espn


ESPN @espn

Bryce Young to Cameron Latu for another Bama TD!

The star quarterback wasn’t as productive as we’ve seen him in the past and threw a rare interception, which initially kept the game close. He was still a difference-maker with his ability to elude defenders and find teammates down the field.

The Crimson Tide fell short of their 42.5 points per game average, but the offense did enough to come away with the win.

Upset Bid Falls Flat for Cincinnati

Cincinnati needed a monumental performance from Desmond Ridder to pull off the upset, but the quarterback wasn’t at his best Friday.

The Bearcats scored just three points in the first half, which came from a field goal on the opening drive.

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

Dismal first half for Desmond Ridder. 8 for 17. Only 59 passing yards. Sacked three times. Cincy had 60 yards on its opening drive, and managed just 16 total yards on the next four series. Ouch.

Mark Giannotto @mgiannotto

That felt like a draft stock damaging first half for Desmond Ridder.

Stewart Mandel @slmandel

Desmond Ridder’s gonna have to turn into Vince Young at halftime or this thing is gonna get ugly.

Ridder had some better throws in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to catch up on the scoreboard.

The main difference was the Will Anderson Jr.-led Crimson Tide front seven, which created a dangerous pass rush throughout the game. 

SEC Network @SECNetwork


Will Anderson gets the sack to close the half 💪 @AlabamaFTBL #CFBPlayoff

SEC Network @SECNetwork

Christian Harris 💥
Will Anderson 💥

This @AlabamaFTBL defense 😤 #CFBPlayoff

Tom Fornelli @TomFornelli

That’s a wrap. Cincinnati cannot block Alabama up front.

shannon sharpe @ShannonSharpe

Will Anderson Jr IS the best defensive player in college football. …. PERIOD

Matt Zenitz @mzenitz

This is Will Anderson’s eighth straight game with a sack and the fifth time in the last eight games that he’s posted more than one sack.

In Alabama’s last eight games — EIGHT — he has 59 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks.

Between the sacks and the passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, Cincinnati couldn’t run its normal passing offense.

The battle in the trenches was the story on the other side of the ball as well, as Alabama’s offensive line dominated.

Michael Casagrande @ByCasagrande

Alabama offensive line is blowing things up, room to run is ample.

Clint Lamb @ClintRLamb

Alabama offensive line having its way with Cincinnati’s 3-3-5 defense early. Hammering B-Rob at them.

stan verrett @stanverrett

A coach once told me the difference between power 5 schools and others are the size of the lines on both sides, and roster depth. Alabama’s O line is case in point.

This created a one-sided battle as Alabama outgained Cincinnati 482-218 in the game.

There were some positive signs for the Bearcats, especially defensively, where the individual talent was on display.

Matt Hayes @MattHayesCFB

Cincy pass rush disruptive early, clearly affecting Tide pass game.

A lot like Auburn in Iron Bowl.

ESPN @espn

PICKED‼️@GoBearcatsFB intercepts Bryce Young to get the ball back 😤#CFBPlayoff

It was simply too difficult to hold down the Crimson Tide the whole game.

Cincinnati certainly held its own against a bigger, stronger, deeper opponent, but an upset bid wasn’t in the cards.    

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