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  • Nick Bosa's decision to leave Ohio State and prep for the draft isn't another sign that we'll soon see an elite player sit out for an entire season. Plus, how the SEC might split up its non-playoff teams that make New Year's Six bowls, Nebraska's latest chance at win No. 1 and the rest of the #DearAndy mailbag.
By Andy Staples
October 17, 2018

One of the best draft prospects in college football has played his final collegiate game, and you have questions…

From @YourFriendFalco: How close do you think we are to studs like Nick Bosa or Ed Oliver just sitting out their junior years in prep for the draft?

I don’t think that’s something anyone needs to worry about. There are a few reasons for this. We’ll start with the topic that generated this question in the first place: Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa’s decision to withdraw from school to focus on injury rehab and draft preparation. Bosa didn’t play a game on Saturday and suddenly decide to shut it down to get ready for the draft. He’s been injured since Week 3—it’s a particularly tricky core muscle injury that required surgery in September and was exacerbated by Bosa trying to play through minor tears earlier in the season—and there was no guarantee he’d be anywhere close to 100% even by the College Football Playoff semifinals. (Which Ohio State still has to make.) On Tuesday, Bosa’s father John told SI’s Michael Rosenberg that his son might have been able to return to practice in December. “There’s timeframes for injuries, and then timeframes for an elite pass rusher,” the elder Bosa said. “It’s not about rehabbing so you can be back on the used car lot or be a mechanic. When is he able to be safe and play at the same level? When you look at the preparation he goes through in preseason, that’s not a realistic timeframe for it to be safe. It’s just not.”

Bosa, a presumed top-five pick, wanted to play this season. He wanted to play this season so badly that he played despite nagging injuries that could come back to haunt him later. (And did.) The fact is most players—whether they’re potential first-rounders or third-teamers on Division III teams—just want to play. Take Houston defensive tackle Oliver, for example. When I visited him in July to interview him for a story for our college football preview issue, he raised the issue before I even brought it up just so he could tell me sitting out was never a consideration. He’d gotten the question a lot in the preceding few months, and he found it odd. “People ask me if I’m going to sit out,” Oliver said. “I like playing football. I’m going to play football.”

The other major reason is that sitting out a season while healthy—again, Bosa does not fall into this category—could severely harm a player’s draft stock. We think it’s corny when NFL teams ask prospects how much they love football, but it’s a legitimate question for those teams considering the investment they're about to make. They don’t want to use a high draft pick on a player who might retire at age 22. They also don’t want to use a high draft pick on a player who may not be dedicated enough to the sport to put in the work it takes to succeed at a high level in an environment where every day is a fight to stay employed. If a player with less talent can surpass the first-rounder because he cares more, then the team wasted that incredibly valuable first-round pick.

There may be a player who someday skips his junior season to prepare for the draft. But he probably won’t like the result. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the (still incredibly rare) junior first-round locks will play as long as they’re healthy.

From @HistoryOfMatt: #DearAndy, if Georgia finishes 11–2 (losing to Bama) and LSU finishes 10–2 (also losing to Bama), who goes to the Sugar Bowl (likely vs. Texas or Oklahoma) and who goes to the Peach Bowl (likely vs. UCF)? Does the committee reward the Dawgs for winning the East, or LSU for beating UGA?

Because the Sugar is a contract bowl (SEC champ vs. Big 12 champ) and because your scenario involves the SEC champ going to the playoff, it would be the Sugar Bowl’s choice. (Probably with some input from the SEC office.) Here are the selection guidelines from the CFP:

B. The committee shall create the best matchups in these bowl games in light of the following considerations. None of these considerations shall affect the ranking of teams. Also, none of these considerations will be controlling in determining the assignment of teams to available bowl games.

• The committee will use geography as a consideration in the pairing of teams and assigning them to available bowl games.

• The committee will attempt to avoid regular-season rematches when assigning teams to bowls.

• To benefit fans and student-athletes, the committee will attempt to avoid assigning a team, or conference, or the highest-ranked champion of a non-contract conference, to the same bowl game repeatedly.

• The committee will consider regular-season head-to-head results when assigning teams to bowls.

• The committee will consider conference championships when assigning teams to bowls.

• When not hosting semifinals, the Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls (the “contract bowls”) will make their own pairings outside the CFP arrangement. Generally, they will take the champion of their contracted conference; if that champion qualifies for the playoff, the bowl will then choose a replacement from that conference.

Orange Bowl: ACC vs. SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame

Rose Bowl: Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Sugar Bowl: SEC vs. Big 12

• In non-semifinal years, the following will inform the Orange Bowl’s selection of the opponent for the ACC Champion or next highest ranked ACC team not in the playoff:

• After the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl have chosen, the highest ranked available non-playoff, non-champion of the SEC or Big Ten or Notre Dame.

• Over the eight years, a minimum of three SEC and three Big Ten appearances must occur, and a maximum of two Notre Dame appearances can occur.

Still awake?

More than likely, the Sugar and the Peach would work together to create the best possible matchups from a television perspective and from a ticket sales perspective. In that scenario, LSU to the Sugar and Georgia to the Peach would make the most sense in terms of selling out their stadiums because in-town fans of each school could buy tickets.

Where it could get really interesting is if LSU drops two more games, Georgia wins out and Kentucky wins every game except the one against Georgia. Wherever the Wildcats would go is going to sell out. So in that case, it might make sense to send Georgia to the Sugar—because Bulldogs fans may not be that interested in going back to the place Georgia just lost the SEC title game, even if it is down the street—and Kentucky to Atlanta, where Wildcats fans would pack Mercedes-Benz Stadium the way they used to pack the Georgia Dome for the SEC basketball tournament.

From Jeremy: Will my Huskers finally win a game this week?

If they don’t win next week—when FCS school Bethune-Cookman comes to Lincoln to replace the Akron game that got canceled because of lightning—then you should be really worried. But based on the way the Cornhuskers ripped your heart out last week in a 34–31 overtime loss at Northwestern, I’d say it’s possible Nebraska gets off the schneid against Minnesota on Saturday in Lincoln.

Yes, Nebraska did choke away a lead by allowing Northwestern to go 99 yards in 110 seconds with no timeouts, but get ready for the silver lining: At least Nebraska had a late fourth-quarter lead to choke away! And on the road, no less!

For three-and-a-half quarters last week, Nebraska played like a team that can beat average Big Ten teams. Minnesota is an average Big Ten team. The Gophers put up a great fight for three quarters last week at Ohio State, so this game against 0–6 Nebraska probably feels like a bit of a letdown after facing a national title contender. If P.J. Fleck can’t get his Gophers excited for this game, then Scott Frost might get his first win as the coach of his alma mater.

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