After longstanding complaints about a lack of parity in college football, the sport’s biggest stage — the College Football Playoff and its semifinal matchups — will feature some new blood, namely Michigan and, most notably, Cincinnati.
Cincinnati is the first Group of 5 school to make the Playoff thanks to an undefeated regular season and a conference title. The Bearcats finished the season ranked No. 4, which means they’ll take on No. 1 seed Alabama as Nick Saban’s group looks for its fourth national championship of the Playoff era and second straight title.
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The Bearcats have become the darlings of college football for making the Playoff, but they’ve shown before that they can compete with some of the best teams. They lost to Georgia by three points last season.
They’re stout on defense, ranking second in pass defense, fourth in scoring defense and eighth in total defense nationally this season. Defensive back Coby Bryant is the unit’s leader. And the offense, led by quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Jerome Ford, has more than enough firepower.
Alabama, meanwhile, is still Alabama. The Crimson Tide rank third nationally in sacks, ninth in third-down defense, second in third-down offense, sixth in total offense and fourth in scoring offense.
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At the center of Alabama’s success has been quarterback and Heisman winner Bryce Young, while linebacker Will Anderson has anchored the defense. The Tide will be down one of their top receivers, however; John Metchie is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Sporting News is tracking live scoring updates and highlights from Alabama vs. Cincinnati in their College Football Playoff semifinal on Friday. Follow below for complete results from the 2021 Cotton Bowl Classic.
MORE: Watch Alabama vs. Cincinnati live with fuboTV (7-day free trial)
Alabama vs. Cincinnati score
Alabama vs. Cincinnati live score, updates
6:35 p.m.: Brian Robinson again with sizeable gains of 19, 8 and 4 as it’s now second-and-2 on the Cincinnati 47.
6:34 p.m.: Alabama’s defense sniffs out Cincinnati’s fourth down play call perfectly on the QB keep and they swarm the backfield, drop Ridder for a loss on the sack and take back over on their 26 following the sack
6:30 p.m.: With the play clock winding down, Cincinnati has to burn a timeout on fourth-and-3 from the Alabama 22. They need points here and quickly with 10:27 remaining after a shot to the end zone was ruled incomplete.
6:29 p.m.: Cincinnati gets its first real big passing play of the night. Ridder hits Michael Young on a post route for 28 yards down to the Alabama 29.
6:23 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN ALABAMA. Young hits Cameron Latu from 9 yards out and the Tide extend their lead and this one seems to be out of reach. Alabama 24, Cincinnati 6 with 13:52 left in the game.
6:20 p.m.: The fourth quarter starts with Alabama at the Cincinnati 44 and and then Young hits Williams for 16 to the Alabama 28. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moves Bama all the way up to the Cincinnati 13.
End third quarter: Alabama 17, Cincinnati 6
6:16 p.m.: Brian Robinson’s great game continues. He takes it 11 yards to the Cincinnati 44 to end the third quarter. Alabama is 15 minutes away from another national title game berth.
6:14 p.m.: It’s quickly third-and-16 with the clock running here in the third and just over 1:20 remaining. But Young hits Jameson Williams on a hybrid crossing route and the Tide convert.
6:12 p.m.: Whatever Cincinnati dialed up coming out of the timeout, it didn’t work. Will Anderson gets to Ridder quite easily for the sack and Cincinnati can’t capitalize off the interception. A punt means Alabama takes over at its own 30.
6:10 p.m.: Cincinnati gets hit for a penalty and then a loss of yards on a run by Ford. Ridder’s pass on second-and-16 falls incomplete and the Bearcats call timeout with a third-and-16 looming.
6:03 p.m.: INTERCEPTION CINCINNATI. The Bearcats get the ball right back as Bryce Young is pressured and tries to throw out of a sack but instead gets picked. Bearcats take over near midfield.
5:59 p.m.: The two teams trade three-and-outs. Alabama takes over at its own 26 and will look to get on the board for the first time this quarter with 6:03 remaining.
5:56 p.m.: A promising drive stalls and Alabama punts it away. Cincinnati takes back over at its own 29.
5:51 p.m.: It’s Brian Robinson’s world and we’re just living in it. He’s got runs of 2, 17 and 3 yards in his last three plays.
5:47 p.m: FIELD GOAL CINCINNATI. The Bearcats get points to open the quarter and cut into Alabama’s defecit. Alabama 17, Cincinnati 6 with 9:57 left.
5:46 p.m.: Cincinnati gets into the red zone, to the Alabama 19, but Desmond Ridder sails two straight passes and overthrows them. Fourth-and-5 from the 19 and the field goal unit comes out.
5:44 p.m.: Ford takes it for 9 and then Ridder finishes the job and gets 3 and the first down to the Alabama 24. The Bearcats are nearing the red zone.
5:43 p.m.: Ridder and the Cincinnati offense are driving right now. He hits Alec Pierce for 12 yards and another first. The Bearcats are at the Alabama 36.
5:42 p.m.: Jerome Ford finishes what Ridder started and gains 2 for the first down. Ridder then completes two straight passes of 7 and 9 yards to Tyler Scott for another first down past midfield.
5:39 p.m.: The third quarter starts with a 9 yard rush by Desmond Ridder to the Cincinnati 34.
Halftime: Alabama 17, Cincinnati 3
5:12 p.m.; The Bearcats go three-and-out after two incompletions and two sacks to end the half. The Bearcats get the ball back to start the second half.
5:07 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN ALABAMA. Young hits Brooks for the 44-yard score as Brooks extends at the end and punches it in. Alabama 17. Cincinnati 3 with 1:28 remaining.
5:05 p.m.: Another big run by Robinson, this one for 23 yards puts Alabama at their own 42 and then a catch by Ja’Corey Brooks goes for 14 and the Tide cross midfield to the Cincinnati 44.
5:04 p.m.: Now more manageable field position and more breathing room for Alabama. Jameson Williams hauls it in for 4 yards to the 16 with 2:36 left. Each team has two timeouts left
5:00 p.m.: Cincinnati punts it away and Alabama muffs it, but the Tide recover and fall on it just barely. Some flags on the play though. Alabama takes over at its own 6-yard line now following the penalty.
4:54 p.m.: The Crimson Tide go three-and-out after Young can’t hit Billingsley on two straight attempts. The field goal unit comes out but Reichard misses the 44-yarder. Still Alabama 10, Cincinnati 3 with 6:21 left in the first half.
4:53 p.m.: Coming out of the timeout, Young hits Ja’Core Brooks for 10 yards to the Cincinnati 30 anf a first a down.
4:51 p.m.: Cincinnati calls Its first timeout of the game with 6:21 left in the second quarter and Alabama looking at second-and-1.
4:49 p.m.: Jameson Williams makes his first appearance of the game and hauls it in for 6 yards and a first down.
4:48 p.m.: Runs by Brian Robinson of 6 and 13 put Alabama at their own 45. Robinson up to 93 yards on 13 carries, good for 7.2 yards per rush.
4:46 p.m: On second-and-11 from the Alabama 8 following an injury timeout, Young hits Jahleel Billingsley for a gain of 12.
4:36 p.m.: The Bearcats can’t make anything happen and they’ll punt it away on fourth-and-4. Alabama takes over at their own 9. Worst starting field position of the game so far for the Tide.
4:31 p.m.: On third-and-14, Cincinnati rushes and draws a hold. Alabama gets hit with a hold but the Bearcats force the three-and-out. On fourth-and-14, Alabama punts it away for the first time and Cincinnati takes over at its own 30. There’s 11:17 left in the second quarter.
4:30 p.m.: Alabama gets hit with an illegal formation penalty. Now first-and-15.
4:27 p.m.: Cincinnati’s drive following the Alabama field goal seems to be going nowhere quickly. Ridder is sacked for a loss of 9 on second down and then only picks up 5 on third. Fourth-and-9 and the Bearcats punt it away and Alabama takes over at its own 31.
4:25 p.m.: FIELD GOAL ALABAMA. The Crimson Tide extend their lead as Will Reichard’s kick from 26 yards out is good. Alabama 10, Cincinnati 3 with 14:56 left in the first half.
4:24 p.m.: Nick Saban sends out the field goal unit but they get driven back 5 yards on a penalty.
4:23 p.m.: The second quarter will start with Alabama looking at fourth-and-goal from the Cincinnati 3. 142 total yards so far for the Tide in that quarter.
End first quarter: Alabama 7, Cincinnati 3
4:21 p.m.: On second-and-goal, Bryce Young is sacked for a loss of 6, but it ultimately doesn’t matter as he gains those yards back and then some with a 12 yard run to end the first quarter.
4:18 p.m.: It’s the Brian Robinson show so far this corner as he has yet another double-digit run. This one goes for 15 yards and Alabama is now looking at first-and-goal from the 10.
4:17 p.m.: Alabama keeps the offense on the field on fourth down and it pays off. Needing 2 yards, Robinson gets 4 and the first down. Now first-and-10 Alabama from the 25.
4:17 p.m.: The ruling of Illegal forward to pass stands, but it’s now third-and-14.
4:13 p.m.: Our first real need for replay is here. Currently looking at whether Alabama committed an illegal forward pass.
4:11 p.m.: Another strong run by Brian Robinson, this one goes for another 16 yards and Alabama moves all the way up to the Cincinnati 37.
4:10 p.m.: Young finds Bolden again and picks up 16 yards, including 11 after the catch. Ball at the Alabama 47 now for the Tide.
4:09 p.m.: After an incompletion on second down, it’s quickly third-and-9 but the ball moves up 5 yards on a defensive penalty. Now third-and-4 for Bryce Young and Alabama.
4:08 p.m.: Alabama’s second drive of the game starts at the 25 again and they begin it the same way they began the last one — with a run. But it only gains 1 yard.
4:04 p.m.: FIELD GOAL CINCINNATI. The Bearcats do in fact get points out of their opening drive, albeit only three. Cole Smith hits a 33-yard field goal and puts Cincinnati on the board. Alabama 7, Cincinnati 3 with 4:52 left in the first.
4:02 p.m: Wow. Alabama’s defense perfectly sniffs out Cincinnati’s screen pass on third-and-goal from the 9 as they register a tackle for loss of 6 yards. Field goal unit coming out.
3:57 p.m.: On second-down, Cincinnati picks up 22 as Ridder hits Tyler Scott out of the backfield. Alabama calls its first timeout of the game as Cincinnati is at the Alabama 9 with 5:48 left in the quarter.
3:57 p.m.: Desmond Ridder completes a nice 19-yard pass to Michael Young, making an impressive throw on a roll out. Ball at the Alabama 31 with second-and-10 upcoming.
3:55 p.m.: On third-and-1, Ryan Montgomery gets three yards and Cincinnati is officially at midfield with a first down coming up.
3:53 p.m.: The Bearcats are now at their own 47 thanks to a 9-yard run by Jerome Ford. Cincinnati is attempting to answer with points on its opening drive.
3:52 p.m.: Cincinnati’s opening drive will begin at their 25.
3:47 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN ALABAMA. The Tide pass it for the first time on the 11th play of the drive and Bryce Young hits a wide open Slade Bolden for 8 yards and the score. Alabama out front first. Alabama 7, Cincinnati 0 with 9:51 left in the first.
3:47 p.m.: 10 plays so far for Alabama, all of them runs. A change of pace for Nick Saban’s squad.
3:45 p.m.: Robinson then peels off 16 more yards on runs of 9 and 7 plus a penalty and Alabama is now well inside the red zone at the Cincinnati 13.
3:44 p.m.: Jameson Williams makes his first appearance. This time it’s out of the backfield for 18 yards and it puts the Crimson Tide across midfield to the Cincinnati 35.
3:42 p.m.: Alabama starts the game with three runs by Brian Robinson and pick up the first down on third-and-1.
3:41 p.m.: The opening kick goes for a touchback. Alabama takes over at its own 25.
3:37 p.m.: Cincinnati wins the toss and defers. The Bearcats’ attempt at making history starts on defense, which they have to like. They rank fourth in scoring defense and eighth in total defense.
Alabama vs. Cincinnati start time
Kickoff for Alabama vs. Cincinnati is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 31. It is the first of the two Playoff games, with the Orange Bowl between No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Georgia kicking off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
What channel is Alabama vs. Cincinnati on?
Alabama vs. Cincinnati will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Sean McDonough (play-by-play) and Todd Blackledge (analyst) will call the game from the booth while Molly McGrath and Laura Rutledge will report from the sidelines.
ESPN is also rolling out its Megacast for the College Football Playoff, once again providing alternate broadcasts across its family of networks. Here’s the full rundown.
How to live stream College Football Playoff games
Both College Football Playoff semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN and are available to stream live on all of the network’s digital platforms, including ESPN.com and the ESPN app.
Cord-cutters have several live streaming options. Below is the list.
||Cable subscription needed?
|Yahoo! Sports App
|AT&T TV Now
|Hulu Plus Live TV
College Football Playoff schedule
||Cotton Bowl Classic (CFP semifinal)
||No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati
||Orange Bowl (CFP semifinal)
||No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia
||CFP National Championship Game
||TBD vs. TBD