Happy New Year!
Today in Tampa, the Outback Bowl takes place, one of four college bowl games on tap on this national holiday.
Traditionally, New Years Day is college football’s big day, but that has changed in recent years, with the College Football Playoff semi-final games on Saturday night taking center stage (also, the NCAA bowed down to the NFL on Sunday to allow them to finish up its regular season).
We’re now a week away from Tampa hosting the third annual National College Football Playoff game, which will feature Alabama vs. Clemson, a rematch of last year’s game.
USF and Florida State won their respective bowl games late last week, and can I personally give it up to FSU star running back Dalvin Cook?
Unlike some other star running backs who opted to eschew playing with their teammates in their final game before they go pro, Cook played in the Orange Bowl on Friday night, saying that he never contemplated sitting it out. And he was a huge part in the ‘Noles thrilling victory over Michigan.
Let’s look at Cook’s stats over his time at FSU: He nearly eclipsed 4,500 career rushing yards while rushing for his 19th touchdown for the second year in a row. Add 900+ career receiving yards. He finished only ninth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy, however.
The debate about whether stars with serious NFL aspirations should sit out their bowl game was ignited last month when first LSU’s Leonard Fournette, and then Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey announced that they would not participate in their team’s bowl games, ostensibly so they could prevent being injured and preserve their potential high NFL draft status
As far as I could tell though, there really wasn’t much “debate.” Most people who weighed in seemed to agree that it made sense that with future millions at stake, it’d be foolhardy for them to participate.
Dramatically, moments before Friday night’s Orange Bowl, it was announced that Michigan start Jabril Peppers wouldn’t play in the game, with skeptics immediately said he was doing a Fournette/McCaffrey to preserve his potential NFL draft status. However, Peppers said that he injured his hamstring on Thursday, and couldn’t not play. He emphatically denied that he sat the game out intentionally.
Look, the way that these stars don’t get to share in the financial profits of their universities certainly makes it understandable that they wouldn’t want to hurt themselves and their potential earnings in the game.
Michigan start tight end Jake Butt injured his knee early in Friday’s game in what was later diagnosed as a MCL or ACL injury. As a possible first round pick himself, Butt could be used as an example of why McCaffrey and Fournette did what they did.
But Butt said that wasn’t the case with him at all.
“Never once crossed my mind to sit this game out and I would never change that mindset,” Butt tweeted after the game. “I play this game bc I love it, my teammates, coaches.”
With all due respect to the players who sat out, I think Butt and Cook endeared themselves to a lot of folks by playing in the Orange Bowl on Friday night. And something tells me that if Stanford and LSU had been playing in one fo the Top 6 New Years Bowl games, they’d be playing too.
The best part of all of this is that on Saturday, Cook announced via his Instagram account that he would go pro next year. Here’s to seeing him moving up in the draft compared to his more cautious future NFL mates.
In other news…
Well, we’ve been off for 12 days, so the only story we’ve written of late was regarding Charlie Crist’s appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.