Former Cincinnati college ballers Gary Clark and Jason Maxiell predict a Bearcats victory against heavily-favored Alabama—wager now at MaximBet.
The Cincinnati Bearcats will upset the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide 27-20 in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship game.
Says who? Gary Clark of the New Orleans Pelicans, the only former Cincinnati player currently active in the NBA.
And Clark is not alone in predicting something other than a cakewalk for Nick Saban’s team as the Alabama coach tries to tie Bear Bryant’s school record for most NCAA championships (six) by a Crimson Tide coach.
Saban also has a title from his days at LSU, so he is also vying for the all-time record of eight collegiate national championships.
Former NBA player Jason Maxiell, now a member of the Retired Players Association, told Maxim that “it’ll probably be tied or close to tied after three quarters.”
So there you have it from two one-time players for what used to be known as a basketball school.
There are 36 former Cincinnati hoopers who logged time in the NBA, the most famous being “The Big O,” Oscar Robertson, who practically invented the triple-double.
And the safest bet of New Year’s Eve is that every single one of those former Cincy ballers will be watching as the “Group of 5” school gets its moment in the spotlight against the No. 1 team in the nation.
Clark will likely have to endure radio silence on the Pelicans’ team flight, as the kickoff time of 3:30 p.m. ET is approximately when he’ll be flying to Milwaukee—the day before New Orleans takes its annual Wisconsin visit to take on the defending champion Bucks.
Maxiell, however, will be getting together with a number of Cincinnati alums, including Kenyon Martin, to attend the game in-person at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at what’s officially called the Cotton Bowl Classic.
The Crimson Tide are currently favored by 13½ points, according to MaximBet, against an opponent that has not lost in two years. And every single red-blooded American who does not reside in the state of Alabama with a Bear Bryant hat on the mantelpiece will be rooting for the underdogs in this one.
Even Notre Dame grads will be rooting against ‘Bama, despite the Fighting Irish’s loss to the Bearcats earlier this season. The defeat kept the Irish from making the Final Four this season, and probably will lead to the expansion of the College Football Playoff to eight or 12 teams in the near future.
The Bearcats aren’t the biggest underdogs in CFP history, but they’re darkhorses to keep their win streak alive. MaximBet has the Bearcats with the longest odds to win the championship at 10-1.
But don’t try to convince Clark or Maxiell that losing is a probability.
“When I first got there, which was about eight years ago, the only time the football stadium was packed was for the game against UCF (Central Florida), and it would only stay packed for the first quarter,” said Clark.
“But coach (Luke) Fickell brought in the same type of players Alabama has, four-star recruits trying to unseat five-star recruits from their starting positions, so they have a bunch of hungry players on that team, guys that are fighting the players in front of them for minutes.”
Clark embodies that same mentality. The small forward/power forward was playing in the NBA’s G-League for Mexico City until last week when New Orleans signed him to a non-guaranteed contract for the remainder of the season.
Maxiell used a different word than “hungry.” He called the defense a pack of “scramblers” who will make life difficult for Bryce Young, sending the shoo-in Heisman Trophy winner running for a safe passing zone like the Tampa Bay Bucs did to Patrick Mahomes in the last Super Bowl.
“The defense is quick and aggressive,” said Maxiell, who lives in the Metroplex, not far from Arlington.
“Alabama is big and can protect the quarterback, but if you are quick and get around the corners, that can cause some problems. They are scramblers and can cause havoc. If they are causing pressure and doing their jobs, it’s going to be interesting.”
“I see a tie ballgame going into the fourth. After that, I don’t know,” Maxiell added. “But I see a grind and a fight.”
The key player for Cincinnati figures to be quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was a redshirt freshman when Clark was a senior that’s become one of the top NFL draft prospects in the NCAA.
ESPN currently has him ranked No. 21 overall and No. 2 among quarterbacks on Mel Kiper’s Big Board and No. 38 on Todd McShay’s draft prospects list.
Ridder has not lost a single game in the past two seasons. In 13 starts this year, he has completed 65.9% of his passes for 3,190 yards with 30 touchdowns and eight picks. He never lost a home game at Cincinnati, going 26-0 at Nippert Stadium.
“When I played there, it was totally a basketball school and we would look across the parking lot at the football field, which was always empty,” Maxiell recalled. “Times have certainly changed.”
Yes they have.
But can Cincinnati actually win, as Clark believes? That would result in a moneyline payoff of 4-1.
Place your bets on the Bearcats and Crimson Tide’s Cotton Bowl meeting on December 31.
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