Players Skipping Bowl Games Won't Have Anticipated Impact
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
The list of players skipping their teams’ bowl games this season continues to grow and could likely impact several outcomes. No one can fault players for having their sights set on the NFL Draft and a huge payday, but a number of college teams will be impacted by their stars’ choices. The impact for many teams just won’t be as much as anticipated.
Iowa’s Outback Bowl The Hawkeyes (8-4) will take on the SEC’s Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl and will do so without All-Big Ten TE Noah Fant. The 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound Fant caught 39 passes for 519 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Last year, he led all FBS tight ends with 11 touchdowns catches. Fant’s absence on the Hawkeyes performance in the bowl game might not even be felt at all.
Iowa redshirt sophomore T.J. Hockenson won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end. He was the Hawkeyes leading receiver with 46 catches for 717 yards and six touchdowns. Hockenson was the first sophomore to ever win the award. Fant’s skipping the bowl game leaves Iowa with just one All-American-caliber tight end instead of two.
Gary to Skip Peach Bowl Michigan DT Rashan Gary was a five-star recruit out of high school and he will most likely be among the first five players picked in next year’s NFL Draft. He is a special player in the Wolverines defense, which this year led the FBS in total defense. In three seasons, Gary totaled 10.5 sacks and could become an Aaron Donald-type of impact player at defensive tackle at the next level.
Gary missing the Chick-fil-A Peach probably won’t have that much of an impact because Michigan played three games this season without Gary, who suffered some minor injuries. Former four-star recruit Kwity Paye stepped in when Gary was out and the Michigan defense never missed a beat.
N’Keal Harry Skips Las Vegas Bowl He will be one of the first wide receivers taken in the 2019 draft. Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry is a rare talent. At 6-4, 220, Harry has elite size that you just can’t coach. He had 73 receptions this season for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns. Harry is a red zone nightmare and ended his Sun Devils career third in receptions (213), and receiving yards (2,889).
Harry’s absence will have an impact as ASU takes on No. 21 Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Bulldogs are tied with Clemson as the second stingiest defense in the nation giving up just 13.7 points a game. Harry’s replacement, Brandon Aiyuk, is capable, but he is much smaller (6-1, 195). Aiyuk may have better overall speed, but he has just 24 catches this season.
Oliver to Sit Out Houston vs. Army Houston DT Ed Oliver will skip the Armed Forces Bowl which pits his Cougars against Army. Oliver was a five-star recruit out of high school that spurned offers from Group of 5 schools and stayed home at Houston. Oliver had a brilliant career with 13.5 sacks and 54 tackles for loss in 33 career games. This season, Oliver suffered through an injury-filled season. Not wanting to further jeopardize his place in next year’s NFL draft, Oliver will skip the Cougars game against Army.
Oliver, who could be the No. 1 overall pick next year, not playing will have a big impact on the Cougars who must face one of the nation’s most potent rushing attacks. Army (9-2) runs the triple option, which when run perfectly, is extremely difficult to stop. A player the caliber of Oliver could disrupt the Black Knights defense on his own. The Cougars may struggle with Avmiel Fleming, who started a few games in place of Oliver, as well as guys like Payton Turner, Isaiah Chambers, and Logan Hall.