We might have a new trend emerging in college football: NFL-bound players deciding not to play in bowl games to better prepare for workouts. The latest to decide to not play is Stanford star running back Christian McCaffrey in the Dec. 30 Sun Bowl vs. North Carolina.
Last week, LSU running back Leonard Fournette, considered the top running back prospect for the 2017 draft, decided to skip the Tigers' New Year's Eve Citrus Bowl matchup against Louisville and Heisman-winning QB Lamar Jackson. Fournette did have some injury problems this season and wanted to make sure his ankle was 100 percent when he worked out for NFL scouts. It's hard to argue with the guy for making this decision as in reality the Citrus Bowl means nothing and the difference in just a few spots high in the draft can be worth millions of dollars.
And then on Monday, McCaffrey, who like Fournette already has said he's declaring for the draft, said he wasn't playing for the No. 18 Cardinal in the Dec. 30 Sun Bowl against ACC opponent North Carolina. Stanford currently is a 3.5-point favorite on college football odds but this news could certainly drop that spread a bit.
McCaffrey was second in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting when he set an FBS record for all-purpose yards. He is projected as a first-round pick, although Fournette could go in the Top 5 while McCaffrey is considered more of a late first-rounder. McCaffrey, the son of former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey, will go down as an all-time great at Stanford as he finishes with 3,922 rushing yards, 1,206 receiving and 1,857 on returns. McCaffrey's 6,191 all-purpose yards in the last two seasons are nearly 2,000 more than any other FBS player. This year, he rushed for 1,603 yards, had 414 in returns and 310 in receptions.
The Cardinal did play without an injured McCaffrey on Oct. 15 at Notre Dame and beat the Irish 17-10, rallying from 10 points down. Sophomore Bryce Love stepped up in McCaffrey's spot and rushed 23 times for 129 yards and a TD. Love might be McCaffrey's near equal as a runner but isn't a strong receiver with just seven catches this season.
The total for the Sun Bowl is set at 54.5 on college football picks.