Cotton Bowl practice Fickell

Head coach Luke Fickell of the Cincinnati Bearcats practices for the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Dec. 28, 2021. 

Unofficial sign in: 8 am          

With official media credential distribution kicking off Tuesday in Dallas, the reality has set in, it’s Cotton Bowl week and more than ever is at stake. Cincinnati’s ‘BlackCats’ defense took the stand Tuesday along with Alabama’s offense, sending a clear message: the perimeter is going to be a showdown come Friday. 

While everyone is feeling “blessed” to be part of the CFP semifinals, it remains unclear who the true underdog is here in Dallas. 

With less talk about COVID-19 on day two in Dallas, the talk of the town is seemingly forming a narrative around the disclosed and unknown underdog.  

While the media sorted through Cotton Bowl transcripts to preview Friday’s matchup, the televisions scattered through the media headquarters provided a trip down memory lane for all who have been following the Crimson Tide and Bearcats, the Birmingham Bowl. 

The reason: the two teams competing were the University of Houston who Cincinnati defeated in the AAC championship and the University of Auburn who took the Crimson Tide to four overtimes. If No. 2 Houston defeating Auburn is any sort of indicator of Friday’s semifinal, Cincinnati is in good shape. 

With two full days of practice remaining for Cincinnati and Alabama, the elephant marching through Dallas is that bowl games aren’t free from cancelation, and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl could be the next affected. 

Five bowl games including New Year’s Eve’s Arizona Bowl have been canceled as of Tuesday afternoon due to COVID-19. 

While the media questioned the players and coaches for the second day in a row on who the true underdog is, players had virtual visits with Children’s Medical Center and the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. 

Some players opted to keep their microphone time short and questionably sweet while others chose to dive deep into questions. However, all shared a common feeling again of being blessed to have the opportunity to play in the CFP semifinals. 

While most individuals familiar with college football have come known to expect Alabama to make a playoff push, it is Cincinnati the football world has become comfortable talking about. 

Although Alabama’s offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, who recently rejoined the Crimson Tide in person from COVID-19 protocols was praised for coaching under the New England Patriots Bill Belichick, his team had all the respects and more to give to Cincinnati and their resume that is seemingly bottomless in updates.

The football team’s presences in Dallas were highlighted for the second day in a row on the cover of The Dallas Morning News newspaper, it was the media’s presence that was found on Tuesday. After a scarce showing of media personnel enjoyed the fruits of Dallas on Monday, the coverage of the CFP in Dallas was amplified Tuesday. 

While the media was excluded from the Cotton Bowl’s second and third practices, the speculations continue regarding why 15-minute coverage periods have been stripped from those hailing to Dallas. 

As the CDC recommended isolation period was shortened to five days for some individuals with COVID-19, the mixed message regarding protocols continued to swirl in Dallas. With mask-wearing sparse and not strictly enforced in Dallas, everyone is just hoping to get to 2:30 p.m. on Friday. 

Unofficial sign out: 8:30 p.m.