College football bowl season kicked off this past Saturday. Some notable teams played, like Arizona State, Eastern Michigan and Utah State. The "bigger" games will start ramping up very soon. In 12 days we have the playoff semifinals and the first of the New Year's Six bowls kick off. What I want to talk about today is the players who are skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft.
This really became a thing a few years back. I remember when Christian McCaffery did it while at Stanford. I remember Jabrill Peppers saying he was hurt 2 years ago at the Orange Bowl, but I believe he sat it out to preserve himself. Leonard Fournette did it while at LSU. The common thread for these players was the fact that the teams they were on did not play in the playoff, so why risk injury in what is a glorified exhibition game? When Peppers did it, I was frustrated because I knew he could have helped Michigan win. When McCaffery and Fournette did it, I didn't really care. Now it has become a common theme. Big time underclassmen who declare for the draft are starting to sit out non playoff bowl games more and more. And, while I said I was frustrated that Peppers did it, I understood why.
Now, I fully support these players who skip a meaningless bowl game to get ready for the NFL. These kids are getting ready to go into their professional careers, so why risk a fluky injury in a pointless game? Jake Butt, a former Michigan tight end, played in that very same Orange Bowl that Peppers sat out, and in the fourth quarter of that game he tore his ACL. Prior to the bowl game he was a 2-3 round pick easily. After the injury he dropped to the late fourth round, and he has only played in a few NFL games. He also tore his ACL again. Peppers, on the other hand, is a starter on the Browns. He plays safety, nickel and returns kicks from time to time. He has not suffered any bad injuries either. He made the correct decision. I know that Butt had to prove a bit more, Peppers was a sure fire first rounder, but still, had he sat out that game, he could have easily been a second round pick. And look at what McCaffery is doing in the NFL this season. Sure, his rookie year was a struggle, but now, he and Cam are the focal point of that Panthers offense. I know they have struggled of late, but McCaffery has been putting up great numbers this year. Fournette was a huge reason why the Jaguars were so solid last year, and it was because he was fresh and healthy as a rookie. He logged a ton of carries last year and was the focal point of their offense. All of this happened because he had the time to get prepared for his career. He didn't waste his time with pointless practices and a pointless game.
This year a bevy of top prospects are siting out their bowl games. Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Clemson will have all their guys, but that is because they are in the playoff. Houston though will be without Ed Oliver. ASU didn't have N'Keal Henry for their game. Michigan will be without Rashan Gary and possibly Devin Bush. West Virginia won't have their star QB Will Grier. Memphis will be without their all purpose stud running back. Same for Kentucky. There are some others that I can't think of off the top of my head, but I know the number of players sitting out is well into double figures.
I cannot blame these kids. They are getting ready to go play a sport where the people in charge don't really care about you when you are past your prime. The NFL chews up and spits out players left and right. So why would these kids, playing in minor to non playoff bowl games risk any minimal future they may or may not have in the NFL? If they were to play in their bowl game they could end up with the same fate as Jake Butt. I don't think Rashan Gary or Ed Oliver or N'Keal Henry want, or should have to, risk that. Hell, and if the NFL doesn't care about them, the NCAA sure as hell doesn't care about these kids. To the higher ups in the NCAA, all these kids are are money makers for them. These kids don't see a dime for playing at their respective schools. When I was in Ann Arbor earlier this year for a game I saw a ton of people in number 3 Michigan jerseys. Gary didn't see a single dime of that money. It all went to the school. Sane thing for Houston games. I saw a ton of people in the crowd with number 10 jerseys. You think Ed Oliver saw a dime of that? No way. I respect these kids for doing this. You should preserve yourself so you are fully ready and healthy to play at the next level. This is a smart, forward thinking move. If you are not playing for a title, why risk the injury concern, especially if you are a sure fire first round pick? And for the kids that play in the bowl games, I do love it still. Some are seniors, and this is their last chance. Some will be getting time for the players that are sitting out, and this is their chance to shine. Younger players get a shot and more practice time.
The bowl games are made for a good amount of the college players, just not the first rounders not playing in the playoff. I fully support the decisions of these players, and will continue to. Would I like to see Gary suit up and play in the Peach Bowl? Absolutely. Do I hold ill will because he is sitting it out? No way. He is the doing the best thing for him and his family. NCAA football players are smart and they are doing the right thing in saving themselves for the pros when they have a shot to make it.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. He was going to sit out the SeedSing.com bowl, but we promised him a few kickbacks if he played. Welcome back Ty.
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