Wrap-ups of college football and NFL

Nearly a month into the new year, the college football season has come to a close, and the NFL season is nearing an end. Throughout the year, there were many interesting storylines, especially multiple college players electing to sit out their bowl game.

Running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, Leonard Fornette of LSU, and Shock Linwood of Baylor all elected to sit out of their teams’ bowl games in order to prepare for April’s NFL draft. After Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a torn ACL in his bowl game two seasons ago, dropping him from a high first-round pick to a second-round pick and costing him tens of millions of dollars, it is understandable why many star players would be cautious about playing in their bowl games. However, many people around the football community have different takes on the issue. Smith said that he would play in the bowl game again, and Cowboys running back and former Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliott agreed, saying, “I would do anything to play one more time with my brothers in scarlet and gray.” Although many understand the precaution of sitting out, fans are dissapointed in the player’s lack of excitement in the games.

“I think because you spend the last two to three years at that school, then you owe it to the university to play one more game,” said junior Brantly Black.

No matter which side you are on, there is no doubt that this trend is hurting college football. It is obviously better for the game to have the best players play, but ultimately it is the player’s choice.

Meanwhile, local college teams such as the Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had average seasons. Both teams went 4-4 in their respective conferences and both had a signature victory. Georgia beat ninth ranked Auburn 13-7, and Tech defeated 14th-ranked Virginia Tech, 30-20. In their annual game, Georgia Tech defeated Georgia for just the third time in 16 years. Although the Bulldogs had a very disappointing season in the first year under head coach Kirby Smart, things are looking up. Georgia currently holds the number two ranked recruiting class and the Dawgs are only losing four seniors who started. Their biggest challenge will be improving the offensive line, which struggled mightily all year. In other news, during the Yellow Jacket’s bowl game on New Year’s Eve, 2013 Westminster graduate Harrison Butker became the all-time leading scorer in Georgia Tech history.

During the college season, there were many surprising teams. Penn State and USC both entered the season with low expectations after going a combined 15-12 last year. Luckily for the two teams, their seasons took a 180-degree turn and Penn State met USC in a thrilling Rose Bowl matchup that USC won 52-49 in a back-and-forth affair.

“Penn State and USC both really surprised me this year with how well they played, and I think that both should have been in the playoff this year,” said freshman William Buhay

After being up for most of the game, Penn State came roaring back to take a 49-35 lead, but USC then scored 17 straight points and won on a game winning field goal. Both teams should be contenders for the playoff next year.

The National Championship was incredible this year, as Clemson beat Alabama for their first championship since 1981. Clemson won on a pick play touchdown with one second remaining in the game, going up 35-31. Clemson has helped put the ACC back on the map as one of, if not the best, conferences in college football. A gutsy performance by the Tigers and Deshaun Watson put them over the top of a physical Alabama squad. Clemson will have many players to replace, as Watson and receiver Mike Williams declared for the NFL draft.

The NFL had many surprises this year, starting with the Browns winning a game after going 0-14. Throughout the NFL, injuries played a huge factor this season. A couple of the teams that were hit the hardest with injuries were the Vikings and Raiders. Both teams lost their star player, which crushed their Super Bowl chances.

“I think that the Vikings would have been really good if they had Adrian Peterson, because he is such a difference maker,” said freshman Drew Berg.

Berg is not wrong; the Vikings had the worst rushing offense without Peterson, and a healthy Peterson might have put the Vikings in the playoffs. Raiders quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr broke his leg in week 16. Prior to Carr’s injury, the Raiders were expected to be one of the teams to challenge for the AFC championship, but without him, Oakland had no chance. In the Wild Card game against the Texans, back-up quarterback Connor Cook was atrocious, posting a 5.5 QBR on a scale of 0-100. Raiders and Vikings fans can only dream of what could have happened if Peterson and Carr did not get injured.

The Atlanta Falcons have been incredible to watch this year. Matt Ryan has put up MVP numbers while carrying the Falcons through the playoffs, and all the way to the Super Bowl. Many different receivers besides star Julio Jones have stepped up big this year, such as Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed Sanu, and Austin Hooper. Although the offense has been the story for the Falcons, their defense has been able to show flashes of greatness. Atlanta’s defense is extremely young; seven out of eleven starters are either in their first or second year in the NFL. This young roster has worked succesfully through the season, winning games for the team. Rookie of the year candidate Deion Jones has been the sparkplug in the middle of the defense and Vic Beasley has improved drastically, raising his sack total from 4.5 to 15.5 this year.

Both the NFL and college seasons were incredible to watch, and the Super Bowl should also be fantastic on Feb. 5, a matchup between the Falcons and Patriots. After that, only seven more months until it’s football season once again.