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Olympic Medalists/Former Collegiate Athletes Humphrey And McNeal Pick Alabama-Clemson Title Game

By Jamie MacDonald | Jan. 07, 2019, 12:32 p.m. (ET)

Two of the college football’s most dominant teams of the decade — evidenced by Alabama and Clemson having met in the tile game two of the previous three seasons — meet again Monday night in the grand finale at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The matchup is already long on recent history. On Jan. 11, 2016, the Crimson Tide earned a national title game win over the Tigers, 45-40, followed 363 days later by Clemson returning the favor, 35-31, to win its first title since 1981. But it was a game on Jan. 1, 2018 that may best set the stage for Monday: In that year's Sugar Bowl, No. 4-ranked Alabama ended repeat hopes for No. 1-ranked Clemson in the national semifinal with a 24-6.

We asked a pair of proud alums — Olympic medalist gymnast Terin Humphrey and Olympic track medalist Brianna McNeal — who they liked to capture another season of bragging rights.

Terin Humphrey, University of Alabama '08 

Sport: Gymnastics
Olympic Experience: Olympic Games Athens 2004, silver (team, uneven Bars)

What does it mean to alumni that your alma mater made it to the title game?
Having my school be part of the national championship gives me a deep sense of pride. I am so proud of Alabama for continuing the winning and, most important, classy tradition.

What intrigues you the most about the matchup?
Clemson who?? No, seriously, I will agree with ESPN’s Rece Davis; the two best teams are supposed to be on top at the end of the year. It’s exciting to watch the two best teams stay on top as the two best teams the past few years. How exciting to have this tit-for-tat rival every year.

Where will you be watching the game, and what are you most looking forward to about it?
[The last time Alabama played in the title game], I teamed up with Alabama alum and former football players BJ Stabler and Ramzee "Bino" Robinson here in Kansas City! It’s awesome to share Kansas City with former Alabama athletes who share the same excitement and passion about Alabama as I do. So, I'm sure we will find a cool place to watch the championship game again together this year. Kansas City has a lot of Alabama fans.

Who will be the game’s biggest star?
As always, Alabama works as a team. I'm not a fan of saying, "This player is the biggest star," because you can’t win championships with one person. On the flip side, I am a fan of Jalen Hurts. I always have respect for the underdog, and I hope he will lead Alabama to the next title. I read one of Hurts' interviews and he talked about his ups and downs. Every great athlete experiences failure, but it makes a true champion when he or she walks back into the gym, arena or field, having a humbled attitude and leading their team to victory, putting personal struggles aside.

I also have a confession: I died laughing at Quinnen Williams' interview after the Bowl game when he was asked about Kyler Murray. Hoping I can see another hilarious interview by him Monday after a win.

What would another national title mean for the program?
Different year, different title. Every year is different. Every year, different obstacles and struggles appear. To me, a national title this year will mean I am truly honored to be a part of Alabama forever. Personally, 2019 is a year of hope for me, so an Alabama win will kick off a great start to 2019.

Final score prediction and why that team will win?
I never do score predictions! I never want to jinx my Alabama players! But Alabama will find their way to the top.

Brianna (Rollins) McNeal, Clemson University '13 

Sport: Track and Field
Olympic Experience: Olympic Games Rio 2016, gold (100-meter hurdles)

What does it mean to alums that your alma mater made it to the title game?
As a previous Clemson athlete, I think it’s always very motivating to watch my alma mater play and make it to the title game. It’s the athlete in me that gets me fueled up about competition, so seeing the Tigers go at it for a third year is groundbreaking.

What intrigues you the most about the matchup?
It’s the fact that we’re going head-to-head against the same team when we were in the previous matchup that makes it so intriguing. It’s like this unspoken rivalry that sort of happened, and it’s always great to watch a rival game. It keeps you on your toes.

Where will you be watching the game, and what are you most looking forward to about it?
I’ll probably be watching the game in the living room of my home, and I look forward to the Tigers winning.

Who will be the game’s biggest star?
The biggest star could be our quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. He’s young, talented and ambitious. If he plays like a star and doesn’t let the pressure of a “big game” get to him, then we should win the game.

What would another national title mean for the program?
It will continuously open new opportunities and new experiences to the players.

Final score prediction and why that team will win?
Ummm, 25-17. Clemson wins because they’re fueled by the fire of last year’s season is my greatest guess.

Related Athletes

head shot

Brianna Rollins