It used to be that players would never skip a college football bowl game and only miss it if injured. Playing a bowl was a reward for a long regular season. However, a fairly new trend has seen some players likely to be chosen in the first couple of rounds of the next NFL Draft skipping out on bowl games to prepare for workouts with NFL teams. Two bowl games on Saturday have seen major defections.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The first bowl of the day is the Birmingham Bowl and features Memphis, a runner-up in the American Athletic Conference, facing Wake Forest of the ACC. The Demon Deacons are 3-point underdogs, a number the likely would have been bigger if star Tigers running back Darrell Henderson wasn’t skipping the bowl game.
The All-American and Doak Award finalist led the nation in all-purpose yards (2,328), total touchdowns (25) and in yards per carry (8.92, minimum of 125 carries). He was 10th in the Heisman voting. Memphis, playing Wake for the first time since 1967, has a good No. 2 in Patrick Taylor, who rushed for 1,012 yards and 15 scores. The Tigers have covered their past five as favorites.
Houston, which finished tied for first in the AAC West Division but lost a tiebreaker with Memphis, faces Army in the Armed Forces Bowl from Fort Worth. The Cougars will be missing one of the country’s best defensive players in tackle Ed Oliver, who also is skipping the bowl. Oliver was a potential No. 1 overall pick for the 2019 NFL Draft entering the season but had some injuries and wasn’t quite as dominant but still will go in the Top 10, maybe Top 5.
Houston is also without quarterback D’Eriq King and his 50 combined TDs as he suffered a season-ending injury late in the year. Army, which would prefer not to throw the ball at all in its triple-option offense, is a 5-point favorite and covered four of its past five against Houston.
Just two schools play at home in bowl games this year. One was South Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, and the other is Hawaii on Saturday against Louisiana Tech in a Hawaii Bowl matchup of former WAC programs. The Warriors, who improved by five wins this season, are 1-point favorites but impossibly have failed to cover their past 16 as a favorite.
The other game Saturday is Buffalo from the Mid-American Conference facing Troy from the Sun Belt in the Dollar General Bowl. Both closed the regular season with disappointing losses, the Bulls blowing a huge lead in the MAC title game. They are 1.5-point favorites and are an excellent 9-3 ATS in their past 12.