Alabama is a two-touchdown favorite against Cincinnati but is trying to keep underdog mentality for Cotton Bowl

·3 min read

DALLAS — The single glimpse of College Football Playoff semifinal practices came Monday morning.

Reporters had a chance to take in a 15-minute viewing of No. 4 Cincinnati's practice at AT&T Stadium from the stands. Alabama was scheduled to have the same practice viewing period later Monday. That changed, though.

Right as the viewing period for the Cincinnati practice was wrapping up, Cotton Bowl officials said there would be no viewing period for the Crimson Tide's practice. Later, it was communicated that Cincinnati also would not have a viewing period Tuesday, as previously scheduled.

The College Football Playoff committee gave the four schools the option to decline to have a 15-minute viewing period at practices because of COVID-19 precautions. All four schools, which includes Georgia and Michigan, have decided to close practices.

In that short time, Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder quickly stood out.

Here are takeaways from that viewing and from what both teams said Monday.

Alabama trying to keep underdog mentality

The Crimson Tide performed well in its lone performance as the underdog this season when it dominated then-No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

And just like that, Alabama is no longer the underdog as a 13.5-point favorite against Cincinnati.

Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., celebrating after a victory against Georgia in the SEC championship game, believes the Crimson Tide have been disrespected.
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., celebrating after a victory against Georgia in the SEC championship game, believes the Crimson Tide have been disrespected.

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But based on how Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. talked, Alabama is trying to maintain that underdog mentality that worked so well in Atlanta.

"To me, I still feel like we're the underdog in this game," Anderson said. "All year, we have been disrespected. I'm pretty sure we're still probably getting disrespected out there. Right now, we're not really worried about the external factors. We just have to worry about what's going on inside the facility and the practice field and all the meetings and stuff like that."

Ridder looks sharp

The time only allowed for seeing a few throws from Ridder, but he made several that impressed.

During a team drill, Ridder hit receiver Michael Young Jr. in a tight window over the middle with several defenders nearby.

Perhaps the best pass from Ridder was one that came during a different drill, though. With a receiver and defensive back going one-on-one, Ridder found his man on a deep back-shoulder throw on the left side of the field. Ridder placed the ball perfectly and the receiver ran for the score.

Alabama has the edge at quarterback with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young leading the offense, but Cincinnati's quarterback has plenty of talent and ability, too.

Cincinnati RB Jerome Ford tiring of Alabama talk

From the first question Ford got about playing his former team, he set the tone.

He's grateful for what Nick Saban and Alabama did for him, but he's ready to move on from talking about it.

"I am a Bearcat," Ford said. "And I would kind of appreciate it if people stop calling me the Alabama transfer. I'm a Cincinnati Bearcat."

Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford wishes people would stop asking about his time in Alabama.
Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford wishes people would stop asking about his time in Alabama.

Ford began his college career at Alabama in 2018 and 2019 before transferring to Cincinnati. He played in four games each season. In 2019, he received 24 carries as he rushed for three touchdowns.

Alabama focused on bowl game, not festivities

Anderson and defensive coordinator Pete Golding made clear Monday that Alabama is dialed in on preparation for the game while in Texas. Despite the opportunities for bowl-game festivities, the Crimson Tide is focusing on the game and not taking any unnecessary risks as bowl games are being canceled across the country because of COVID-19.

“I don’t think they’re worried about going to the Cowboys game," Golding said of his players. "I don’t think they’re worried about Six Flags. I think they’re worried about what can they do consistently, play-in and play-out, to put the best product on the field to be able to win the football game."

Cincinnati went to the Cowboys game against the Washington Football team after the Bearcats arrived Sunday.

Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Cotton Bowl: Alabama keeping underdog mentality vs. Cincinnati