You’re not the only one to feel that the 2017/18 college football season has only just begun, but Bowl Mania is upon us.
Bowl Season as it is affectionately known, has come under greater scrutiny with three sub.500 teams becoming eligible and taking part a year ago and some 25% of participants made up of teams achieving a .500 record.
The event has responded to, in some cases, justified criticism by tightening up eligibility this time around. Just 19 teams (19%) with a .500 regular season record take their place and no schools involved having endured losing campaigns.
The greatest end of season festival of football begins this weekend, Saturday 16th December in fact and the opening day pitches two of college football’s better known teams; 25th ranked, Mountain West Conference champions Boise State and Oregon with Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas the setting.
Having shared the Mountain West, Mountain Division a year ago, Boise State went one better with sole top billing before coming from behind to defeat Fresno State 17-14 to be crowned conference champions under in-demand head coach Bryan Harsin’s fourth year in charge (41-12). A name to watch closely this offseason in the Power-5 conversation.
NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
The Broncos have provided a rich stream of talent to the NFL over the past decade and it continues in dangerous deep threat wide receiver Cedric Wilson. A tall, long, prototypical NFL wideout who became the bona-fide number one target a year ago and has remained so during another fruitful senior campaign (73-1,290-6) where his big play ability has shone through, averaging 18 yards per catch on the season. Tight end Jake Roh is an upscaled wide receiver type who has been a consistent presence for junior quarterback Brett Rypien. Junior linebacker Leighton Van Der Esch has been nothing short of outstanding this season, dominating as one of the best in the nation at his position with no less than 113 stops, leading to being deservedly awarded the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year award. Fellow junior, cornerback Tyler Horton is a tall, long cover corner who continually stands out with his ball skills, breaking up an impressive 11 passes, picking off another.
Success has been hard to find in Eugene since the heady days with Marcus Mariota et al at Autzen Stadium and a 4-8 slog last season has been followed by an improved 7-5 campaign under talented, Florida native head coach Willie Taggart. Yet despite the baby steps forward, Taggart recently left the program after just one year at the helm, the Ducks were never in the Pac-12 title conversation, falling some way behind the likes of Washington, Washington State, USC and Stanford. Having this week promoted co-offensice coordinator Mario Cristobal as head coach, the Ducks will be hoping to kick off the new era with a bowl crown top take into the spring.
NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
Sadly, our highest graded Ducks’ prospect, four-year starting running back Royce Freeman has confirmed he will not take part, wishing to keep himself healthy for April’s NFL Draft. His stellar career in Eugene is signed off with another 1,500 yard season, alongside 16 scores and a very healthy 16 yards per carry. 6’5″ 320lb left tackle Tyrell Crosby has enjoyed a very pleasing on the eye campaign and it will be fascinating to see if he can maintain his high level of play to continue his rise up the tackle rankings ahead of the all-star circuit early next year. Safety Tyree Robinson is a flexible talent schematically who can play at either corner or safety and has logged time at both positions. At 6’3″ 200 lbs, his height stands out, something more and more NFL teams look for in their safeties today as well as his excellent range and movement ability. A good performance in Las Vegas will re-inforce our current 3rd round grade on him.