ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Desmond Ridder could be the one to end Cincinnati’s 50-year stretch without a first-round pick in the NFL draft, or the quarterback could watch a teammate get that historic phone call in Las Vegas this spring.
Either way, the Bearcats will showcase talent on a scale rarely seen at their school in a College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama, which had 10 first-rounders the past two years and at least one for 12 years running.
”If they’re surprised, then they haven’t been watching our games,” said Ridder, a potential first-round choice along with cornerback Ahmad Gardner. ”So maybe the draft or whatever, that maybe might help them wake up a little bit, I guess.”
There are plenty of ways to conclude Cincinnati (13-0) is the underdog in the Cotton Bowl on Friday. None is as stark as the history of NFL prospects and stars, which extends to the other semifinal between Georgia and Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
While top-ranked Alabama (12-1) has 62 first-round picks since Cincinnati defensive tackle Bob Bell went 21st overall to Detroit in 1971, Michigan and Georgia aren’t exactly first-round strangers.
Not so for the biggest names in the NFL among Cincinnati alums.
Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and older brother Jason Kelce, Philadelphia’s center, are both three-time All-Pros, but Travis Kelce has the higher profile as one of Patrick Mahomes’ favorite targets.
The younger Kelce went in the third round in 2013, while Jason Kelce was a sixth-rounder in 2011. Between the Kelce drafts, the Bearcats had their highest number of picks in the first four rounds with four in 2012.
Cincinnati (No. 4 in The Associated Press and CFP rankings) could match that in the upcoming draft. Ridder, Gardner, edge rusher Myjai Sanders and receiver Alec Pierce are showing up on some lists of top 100 prospects.
”You have to have a little buzz for us, especially for future-wise,” said safety Bryan Cook, another NFL prospect. ”But I try not to get too caught up…