Alabama will enter the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31 as a major favorite to defeat Cincinnati and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Of course, it’s not unusual to see Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in the field as they’ve missed the Top 4 just once in the Playoff era. The Bearcats simply being in it, though, is history in and of itself regardless of what the final score is.

And Saban’s very familiar with not just coaching at a non-power program, but playing for one too as a former defensive back at Kent State. With a team like the Bearcats finally getting a seat at the table alongside a pair of SEC teams and a Big Ten program in Michigan, Saban was asked whether it’s good or bad for the sport.

“I played at Kent State…and I’d like to be considered a major college player,” he replied. “I know it was the Mid-American Conference, but we played and tried to be the best that we could be. Cincinnati certainly deserves what they have accomplished this year in a very good conference…

“I have a lot of respect for the teams in their conference, and I think it’s good for college football that everybody in every conference feels like they have an opportunity if they have success and their team is consistent and performs in the fashion that the University of Cincinnati performed all year long.”

Saban called attention to the Bearcats’ unbeaten record this season. Not only is Luke Fickell’s team the only one in the CFP Top 25 to have lost a game, but it is the only one in FBS to have played a perfect slate thus far in 2021.

“It’s very, very difficult to do,” Saban said. “So you’ve gotta have a special mindset and a special group of young men to be able to do that.”