It’s well-established that college football bowl games are simply exhibition games in which the people in charge get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the players get fidget spinners or other trinkets.
If you’re going to be drafted high in the NFL Draft, there’s no point to playing in a bowl game that isn’t a playoff game. If you can’t help your draft stock, what is the point?
Take Florida State defensive back Derwin James. He’s a 1st round pick, perhaps as high as the top 10. He’s already announced he’s going to skip the “Walk-On’s Independence Bowl,” which is smart.
I’m not sure why Bryce Love of Stanford is playing in the “Valero Alamo Bowl,” when he’s already bolstered his stock into being a 1st round pick. Love was slowed late in the season by an ankle injury; why would he play a game that means nothing and risk further injury?
UCLA QB Josh Rosen almost certainly won’t play in the “Cactus Bowl” on December 26th. Barring an off-the-field disaster in the coming months, Rosen will be a Top 5 pick, perhaps even #1.
I’m a little worried that Saquon Barkley, the most talented offense player in college football this season, hasn’t backed out of playing in the Fiesta Bowl. He’s got nothing to gain going against the Washington Huskies. Absolutely nothing. Even if he’s got an insurance policy, Barkley can’t help himself. He can only hurt himself.
Which brings us to Sam Darnold, the great USC QB who I believe would be the #1 pick in the draft if he were to come out. I think he’ll the best QB to enter the draft since Andrew Luck. But Darnold hasn’t made a decision on if he’s coming out yet, and he hasn’t given a hint he won’t play against Ohio State.
It’s interesting he’s facing the Buckeyes, because it is clearly the #1 bowl game after the playoff games. But Ohio State has maybe three defensive lineman who will play in the NFL, and two of them – Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis – might be drafted in first round next year. Another one, Nick Bosa, is a potential Top 5 pick in 2019.
Why would Darnold – who has played behind a shaky line this season due to injuries – risk getting hurt in the Cotton Bowl? In a few years, nobody will remember the Cotton Bowl – unless something happens to a star.
Remember when Jaylon Smith, the Notre Dame linebacker, got hurt in that bowl game against Ohio State? Off the top of my head, I can’t remember what the bowl game was, or who won. But I remember Jaylon Smith’s gruesome injury, and that he fell in the draft and missed his rookie year. He’s played a lot this season, and well. He isn’t quite the linebacker (yet?) that I thought he could be coming out of college. Hopefully, he can be.