2021 Bearcats Opponent Preview: Alabama: Part 2 The Defense and Prediction

The Bearcats finally busted through the glass ceiling and punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff, after 2 consecutive undefeated regular seasons. Their prize? A trip to Arlington and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic where they get arguably the greatest dynasty in college football’s history, Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. It’ll be a tough test for the Bearcats as they make the journey to Arlington, Texas as 13.5 point underdogs. As Ric Flair said, “If you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” I’ll break down the Alabama defense featuring the 5th place Heisman vote getter Will Anderson. Anderson is one of the nastiest players in college football. Can the Bearcats Offensive Line slow down Anderson and give Desmond Ridder time to keep the ‘Cats in the game?

As is tradition, the Crimson Tide defense is no slouch, ranking #8 in total defense in the NCAA, one spot behind the Bearcats, allowing 306 yards per game, but allowing 18th fewest points at 20.23 points per game. This will be the best defense the Bearcats have seen since facing Notre Dame in October, who finished tied for 9th in the NCAA allowing 18.25 points per game. The Crimson Tide played an abysmal out of conference schedule, facing Miami (FL), New Mexico State University, Mercer, and University of Southern Mississippi who had a total of 12 FBS wins between them. Discounting those games, the Tide allowed 27.25 points to their SEC opponents. This team is very good, make no doubts, but this game is going to come down to the defenses. It all starts up front for Alabama.

Alabama runs a true multiple defense, much like the Bearcats defense. They start off with a true 3-4 defense anchored by 312 lb defensive end Phidarian Mathis. However, they tend to run different packages with quicker players that they call their rabbit package. The 3 big men on the defensive line is where everything starts and they will be a handful for the Bearcats offensive line. The Tide have a lot of talent and depth in their front 7 which allows them to move players around and shift them from linebackers to edge rushers. Will Anderson moves from outside linebacker to a rushing defensive end in a lot of their 4-2-5 packages. Anderson is an elite talent and likely to be one of the first players taken in the 2023 NFL Draft, as he isn’t eligible for this years draft. Anderson leads the NCAA with 15.5 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss, which is the most since they started tracking that statistic. The success of this team is going to come down to the Bearcat’s ability to avoid reduce Anderson’s impact. He’s the kind of player that can destroy your gameplan.

Underdog Will Anderson is the key component of the linebacker core, which is somewhat susceptible to the opposing tight ends, which happens to be a strength for the Bearcats. Henry To’oto’o leads the team with 100 tackles, starting at the middle linebacker position. The transfer from Tennessee also has 7.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks on the season. He’s a strong presence in the center of the field, but matching a guy like Whyle or Taylor on To’oto’o might be a match up we can win throughout the game.

The Crimson Tide secondary has been injury riddled this year. Potential first round pick Josh Jobe will be out with a turf toe injury, but the Tide looks to get back Jalyn Armour-Davis, who is tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. Opposite Armour-Davis is 5 Star recruit Kool-Aid (yes, that’s his legal name) McKinstry. He has 1 interception on the year. The Tide were 10th in the NCAA with 15 interceptions on the season and will miss Jobe and his two interceptions on the year. Their two safeties Jordan Battle and Demarcco Hellams each have 74 tackles and 3 interceptions on the season. Ridder will have to make sure to take care of the ball, because the Bearcats can’t afford turnovers in a game this tight.

Alabama is stacked, much like Georgia last year that we faced in the Peach Bowl. They are deep, able to replace 4 star players with 4 star players, and arguably have the greatest Coach in college football history. The Tide are 8-3 in their College Football Playoff appearances, having only lost in the first round once, to a familiar face. In the first ever College Football Playoff, #1 seed Alabama lost to #4 Ohio State, who’s defensive coordinator was none other than our Bearcats savior, Luke Fickell. While this Alabama team is deep, they aren’t perfect and haven’t faced this Bearcats defense before. Their familiarity with Georgia, in my opinion, is what allowed them to exploit them. This is going to be a tight game that’s going to come down to who plays the cleaner game. This Bearcats team is chock full of 6th year players, guys like Coby Bryant, Desmond Ridder, and Myjai Sanders who want to get the taste out of their mouth after a last second loss in the Peach Bowl last year.

Bearcats – 28
Tide – 27

See you all in Indy!

Juncta Juvant

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