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Cowboys’ Stadium Hosting College Football Semifinal

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AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. | Image from Photograph by Blake Marvin

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The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex will host the College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinal game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Cincinnati.

The two teams will play the Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on New Year’s Eve for a spot in the national championship game. The game will mark the third time that the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium will host a CFP game in the last four years.

The two teams arrived in DFW on Sunday, but some key members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) champion Alabama football team were missing. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Doug Marrone did not travel with the team. Both tested positive for COVID last week and displayed mild symptoms, forcing them to remain in Alabama.

Both head coaches, Nick Saban of Alabama, and Luke Fickell of Cincinnati, virtually met with the media after arriving Sunday. The questions they fielded were mostly COVID-related, amid the NCAA’s announcement of policy changes in response to the surge in COVID cases that has disrupted bowl season.

The NCAA announced that if a CFP team cannot participate in a game due to COVID issues, that team will forfeit, and the other team will be granted a win. That makes it possible for a team to be declared the national champion without even playing the title game.

“We all understand the issues that surround us and the magnitude of the opportunities we have,” Fickell said. “And I can promise that we’re not letting anything stand in our way.”

Coach Saban said there were no positive COVID-19 cases among his team’s players and that he expected both assistant coaches that did not travel with the team to be back in time for the game. He also emphasized that both assistant coaches have attended every meeting and team practice through Zoom.

“They will do all their work and coaching virtually with players, very similar to the way I did it when I tested positive before the Auburn game a year ago,” said Saban.

Alabama (12-1) has experience playing in DFW. Last season, the team played a national semifinal game in AT&T Stadium, defeating Notre Dame 31-14 en route to the national championship. In the 2015-16 season, Alabama defeated Michigan State 38-0 in another semifinal game at the Cowboy’s stadium.

Alabama has also played regular season-opening games at AT&T Stadium in Arlington three times. First against Michigan (2012), then against Wisconsin (2015), and USC (2016), winning all three games in blowout fashion. Alabama is 5-0 all-time at AT&T Stadium, with a combined scoring margin of 197-51.

Cincinnati (13-0) is the clear underdog, with multiple betting sites listing the school that’s making its CFP debut around a 14-point underdog. The program is making history as the first team from a non-Power Five conference to make the CFP. Cincinnati represents the American Athletic Conference and hopes to prove that non-Power Five conference schools can compete with SEC programs like Alabama for national championships.

“If you want to have a shot at the title, you’ve got to beat the champs, and this is what we have – we have a shot at beating the champs,” Fickell said. “We’ve said it all year long; the best team doesn’t always win the game. It’s just a reality. The teams that play the best win the football game.”

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