College Football's 'Meaningless' Bowl Games Are Full of Value

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2018

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 24:  N'Kosi Perry #5 of the Miami Hurricanes looks on against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Hard Rock Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Pinstripe Bowl has no effect on the 2018 national championship. The Miami Hurricanes and Wisconsin Badgers both underachieved this campaign, and their postseason reward is a trip to Yankee Stadium in potentially bitter cold just two days after Christmas.

And the winner? Well, congrats on an eighth victory.

While that pessimistic view is a prevailing one for the "too many bowls" crowd, these exhibitions are anything but meaningless for players returning to college football next year.

Valuable extra practices will put position battles and potential replacements for outgoing talent on display.

Now that players can appear in four games without sacrificing a year of eligibility, deciding whether to give someone a fifth appearance will lead to important conversations. Or, seldom-used backups could use those practices to land notable roles in bowls.

A moment that seems meaningless to some fans could shape an athlete's career.

When the Hurricanes and Badgers square off in New York, Miami will trot out N'Kosi Perry at quarterback. Head coach Mark Richt said he'll enter the offseason as the favorite to start in 2019, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

But true freshman Jarren Williams, a 4-star recruit, is expected to give Perry strong competition. Perry, who split time with senior Malik Rosier this season, has an important chance to put a little more distance between himself and Williams.

The Pinstripe Bowl isn't meaningless to Perry.

On the other sideline will be Alex Hornibrook, a three-year starter at Wisconsin. He's the No. 1 guy when healthy, but concussions pushed sophomore Jack Coan into the lineup four times in 2018.

Hornibrook has started since he was a redshirt freshman, but his job isn't secure for 2019.
Hornibrook has started since he was a redshirt freshman, but his job isn't secure for 2019.Paul Sancya/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

The bigger concern with Hornibrook is interceptions. After throwing 15 last year, he's tossed 11 as a junior. That includes multipick games in each of his last four appearances.

Hornibrook's turnover issues, combined with generally suspect accuracy, have created an opportunity for Coan. Wisconsin surely would like to redshirt him, yet if Coan plays a single down against Miami, then 2018 will count as a year of eligibility.

If Hornibrook continues his mistake-prone ways against the No. 3 defense in the country (4.16 yards allowed per play), would the Badgers burn Coan's redshirt? Or, would they keep a struggling Hornibrook out there instead of testing a well-prepared Coan before Graham Mertz, the highest-rated QB prospect in program history, arrives?

The Pinstripe Bowl isn't meaningless to Hornibrook or Coan.

Spring practice and fall camp will ultimately determine next year's starter, but the practices in December can be split between roster development and game planning.

At Oklahoma State, for example, Taylor Cornelius will start the Liberty Bowl against Missouri. Before the Pokes truly begin bowl preparation, the senior is resting and ceding reps to Dru Brown and Spencer Sanders, the front-runners in the competition to replace Cornelius, per Robert Allen of 247Sports.

All this is possible because OSU gets 16 extra practices.

On Dec. 28, West Virginia will challenge Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Florida. It's a matchup of three-loss programs with exciting senior quarterbackwait, Will Grier isn't playing?

WVU's star announced he's skipping the exhibition and will focus on preparations for the 2019 NFL draft in April.

It's an understandable decision because the Camping World Bowl could only harm Grier's professional future. The risk is a catastrophic, career-altering injury; the reward is a game MVP trophy.

Uh, neat?

Grier's absence will allow the Mountaineers to focus on Jack Allison. Rather than taking second-string reps in three weeks of bowl practices, Allison will oversee the offense in workouts and get a full game of experience prior to likely starting in 2019.

The Camping World Bowl isn't meaningless to Allisonor any of the replacements for other NFL-bound stars sitting out.

Yes, the reasoning for players skipping a bowl is the opposite. Since only the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship will truly impact this season, analysts (including this guy) are quick to point out the risk of stars playing another game.

They, however, have nothing left to prove at this level; the youth do. There are similar examples on every team in a bowl.

Each program's record book will basically remember these 37 exhibitions as the final results of win-loss marks this year. The games offer a hopeful notch in the bowl-win column and a brief mention in a school's history.

But the reality is, for the future of these programs, the games are far from meaningless.

                                                

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.comcfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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