'The stars for Cincinnati have to be stars': ESPN College GameDay predicts Cincinnati-Alabama

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Cincinnati makes history on New Year’s Eve when it takes the field against Alabama at 3:30 p.m. in the Cotton Bowl, becoming the first Group of 5 school to play in the College Football Playoff.

It’s a historic accomplishment for the Bearcats, but a win to advance to the national championship game would make it even better.

The ESPN College GameDay crew was live from Miami on Friday as the network was preparing to host both CFP semifinals games, the 2021 Cotton Bowl and the 2021 Orange Bowl in Miami, which features Georgia and Michigan.

The three-hour GameDay show touched on the SEC’s 1-5 record in bowl games so far. Kirk Herbstreit, the former Ohio State quarterback turned ESPN star analyst, who’s son plays for St. Xavier High School, added that the college football world was looking for “new blood” in the playoff and Cincinnati was certainly that.

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Herbstreit added that Luke Fickell has had more than a month to find a way to take advantage of a sometimes shaky protection for Alabama quarterback, and 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. Desmond Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner, added simply: "This is a very, very confident defense."

The show previewed the game and took a straw poll on how the Bearcats could win and no one doubted the the talent on Alabama's sidelines, including former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end David Pollock.

"Talent is far superior on Alabama," said Pollock, who was the Bengals 2005 first round pick. He added that: "The stars for Cincinnati have to be stars."

Former Indiana head coach and ESPN fixture Lee Corso, who has doubted the Bearcats on the show all season, broke down just how UC could pull off the upset.

"Come out smoking," Corso said. "Try to get up by 14 and then hold on, because Goliath is coming back... if they can just hang on, they might beat them.

"David can beat Goliath, it's just got to be a special day."

Herbstreit added that Fickell has a mindset when it comes to these matchups: "Luke Fickell's rallying cry is 'It's not the best team that wins, it's the team that plays the best that wins.'"

Did professional wrestler Bill Goldberg pick UC to beat Alabama?

WWE Hall of fame wrestler Bill Goldberg, a former Georgia football player, was the celebrity guest picker for GameDay. Goldberg had his thoughts on the Alabama-UC game:

"Alabama is too deep," he said. "They're too much of a power... I think Alabama is going to take this."

ESPN GameDay picks the 2021 Cotton Bowl: UC Football vs. Alabama

Here's how the show picked the 2021 Cotton Bowl:

  • Kirk Herbstreit: Alabama

  • Lee Corso: Alabama

  • Desmond Howard: Alabama

  • Booger McFarland: Alabama

  • Joey Galloway: Alabama

  • Bill Goldberg: Alabama

Betting analyst Chris "Bear" Fallica picked the Bearcats to cover the 22.5-point spread. But he's taking Alabama.

"I don't think that ultimately they're going to be able to block (Alabama's) Will Anderson and move the ball the length of the field time and time again against an Alabama defense," Fallica said.

How many pullups can Luke Fickell do?

Fickell sat down with Herbstreit to talk about the Alabama game. The two talked about the rise of the UC program under Fickell, his high school wrestling career and how the Bearcats can slowdown No. 1 Alabama.

And then Herbstreit asked the real question people want to know. How many pullups can he do?

"I can probably do 12 or 15," Fickell said with a smile.

Biggest game changer in the game? UC corners vs. Jameson Williams

Alabama receiver Jameson Williams, an Ohio State transfer, was one of GameDay's biggest "game changers" during a segment on the show. But ESPN broadcaster and former NFL defensive tackle Booger McFarland countered by saying it was Cincinnati's pair of All-American corners Coby Bryant and Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner.

"I think Gardner and Bryant are going to get up on get up on him and get physical with him and make him get off the line of scrimmage," McFarland said.

Other Cincinnati "game changers" mentioned were, obviously, quarterback Desmond Ridder along with receiver Alec Pierce and defensive coordinator Mike Tressel.

The show later had a segment on the pair of corners and their matchup against the Alabama passing game.

"They're both really good players," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "They played the ball well they're good tacklers, they're tough and they can play man-to-man."

What time is the UC-Alabama game?

Game time: 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 31

Location: Arlington, Texas

TV: ESPN

ESPN broadcasters are scheduled to be Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst), Molly McGrath (sideline), and Laura Rutledge (sideline).

On DirecTV, ESPN is channel 206. On Dish, ESPN is channel 140.

How did Cincinnati get to the Cotton Bowl? Here's the UC football schedule

  • Cincinnati 49, Miami 14

  • Cincinnati 42, Murray State 7

  • Cincinnati 38, Indiana 24

  • Cincinnati 24, Notre Dame 13

  • Cincinnati 52, Temple 3

  • Cincinnati 56, UCF 21

  • Cincinnati 27, Navy 20

  • Cincinnati 31, Tulane 12

  • Cincinnati 28, Tulsa 20

  • Cincinnati 45, South Florida 28

  • Cincinnati 48, SMU 14

  • Cincinnati 35, East Carolina 13

  • Cincinnati 35, Houston 20

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: UC football vs. Alabama predictions: Who did GameDay pick?