Lower-tier bowls have become less meaningful

By Steve Sell
December 20, 2016

Tuesday’s thoughts...

• REASON FOR NO BOWL PICKS – It’s been a tradition in my 40-plus years of sports writing to predict the outcome of all the college football bowl games.

It was pointed out to me by a longtime advocate that I failed to do so last week as there was a full plate of games on Saturday. 

There’s a reason why.

The new Final Four system that came into play last year has rendered most of the bowl games meaningless (unless you have skin in the game, example Kansas State). All you have to do is look at LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey to understand that.

Fournette and McCaffrey are locks to be chosen among the Top 10 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Are the pro teams really going to change their opinions if Fournette doesn't have a big game in the Citrus Bowl or McCaffrey struggles in the Sun Bowl?

Of course not.

This is going to be the firestarter of a trend that will continue for years to come, just like the NFL's Pro Bowl where half the selections wind up opting out of the game. Unless their teams are in the Final Four, you’re going to see more and more top collegians bypass lesser bowl games in order to be 100 percent for the combine and then the draft.

I know I'm in the minority here, especially for somebody who has always put "team" first, but I don’t blame them now that it seems football is at its most violent peak. Harken back to last year when Notre Dame’s star linebacker Jaylon Smith, a cinch Top 10 pick maybe even a Top 5, suffered one of the most gruesome knee injuries ever witnessed in his bowl game. He was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys, but of course didn’t play this year. Dallas is banking he’ll return somewhere near his former form and if he does, it will be a steal.

Players just can’t take the chance now, especially with the shelf life of an NFL player being only 3 1/2 years. I know it's all about the team and win one for good ol' State, but c'mon. There are many collegians who are there just to play football to the best of their ability so they can be drafted high and make millions. Their teammates also probably realize the stars have God-given ability that they don't have and want the best for them.

As far as the college football postseason, just know this — it's Alabama and then everybody else is overmatched.

• KENTUCKY AWESOME — Did you catch the Kentucky-North Carolina basketball game on Saturday, won 103-100 by the Wildcats?

That was one of the most entertaining games I've ever witnessed. I'd put it up there with the 1983 NCAA Tournament semifinal game when Houston out-dunked Louisville in a game played far above the rim, only to see Houston later lose in the finals to unheralded North Carolina State in the Jimmy V game.

Kentucky is scary. I found it commendable that North Carolina was able to hang as close as it did, but the fact is the Wildcats, when firing on all cylinders, are the best team in the land.

Now I haven't seen Duke with its full complement of players. I'm sure when its freshmen are all healthy the Blue Devils are a handful.

I fear for the Kansas Jayhawks when they head to Lexington on Jan. 28. If KU's dynamic backcourt of Frank Mason and Devonte' Graham can at least break even with Kentucky's breathtaking combo of DeAaron Fox and Malik Monk, it shouldn't be a total blowout. All they did was combine for 71 points in the win over North Carolina and played like a duo that could be a starting NBA backcourt next year. But Kentucky will play volleyball on the backboards, especially if KU is still playing just one big man.