Christian McCaffrey

Skip bowl games -- heck yes, even if you aren't an NFL prospect!

Skip bowl games -- heck yes, even if you aren't an NFL prospect!

When Stanford's Christian McCaffrey joined LSU's Leonard Fournette in opting not to participate in their team's bowl games this season, it unleashed a controversy. A lot of people feel it's going to destroy bowl games if this becomes a trend. Or that it's a terribly disloyal decision to bail on their teammates for selfish reasons.

And of course, those arguments are a major load of baloney mixed with a ton of naivete.

Let's talk about McCaffrey. He's skipping the Sun Bowl to protect his NFL draft future, when getting hurt in a very meaningless bowl game could cost him millions. Just ask former Notre Dame star Jaylon Smith, who tore up a knee in the 2015 Fiesta Bowl and is still paying for it during his aborted pro career.

It's a business decision for these players, just like the ones college coaches make when they abandon their teams for a new job prior to a bowl game, leaving an assistant coach to clean up their leftovers.

I whole-heartedly endorse these players sitting out the bowl games and, in fact, I'll take it a step further.

If my son happened to be a fifth-year senior playing for one of these teams heading for a meaningless bowl game -- even if he had NO NFL PROSPECTS at all -- I'd hope that he'd sit out all the practices leading up to the game and the game itself.

Enough is enough. The only reason teams choose to participate in these dud games is to get the extra practices bowl teams are allowed. It's a chance to further integrate young players into the system. I'd tell my son, go ahead and give up your spot to one of those young players.

You put in four or five years to a college football program, you've sacrificed enough study time during final exams and subjected your body to enough bumps, bruises and painkillers. Get out while you can still have the hope to walk 18 holes on a golf course or play a couple of sets of tennis.

Loyalty? Come on, by the time these kids have played three or four seasons of college football they've generated enough money for their school. They've proved their loyalty over and over.

Man, the Sun Bowl? El Paso, Texas? I've been there, seen that.

And it is really not worth anybody's blood, sweat and ACL.

Ducks must gang up on Christian McCaffrey

Ducks must gang up on Christian McCaffrey

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is back to his former self just in time to run up against Oregon's poor run defense Saturday at Autzen Stadium. 

The Ducks should be afraid, very afraid. 

"We can't let Christian McCaffrey have easy scores in space," Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal said. "He's the best change-of-direction player I've seen in a long time." 

Oregon (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) hosts Stanford (6-3, 4-3) at 1 p.m. in a game the Ducks must have in order to remain alive for bowl eligibility. Avoiding that dreaded seventh defeat on Saturday will require UO to locate, track and bring down McCaffrey on a regular basis. 

If the Ducks can prevent him from shredding them, they will have chance to win because Stanford is as one-dimensional on offense as its ever beed. The Cardinal ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game (142.8) and has just seven touchdown passes on the season. 

The problem for UO is that McCaffrey (122.5 yards per game) is the best running back in the league and the Ducks have the second-worst rushing defense in the Pac-12, allowing 238.7 yards per game. Oregon allowed USC running back Ronald Jones to rush for 171 yards and four touchdowns during Saturday's 45-20 loss to the Trojans. 

McCaffrey, last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, has had a down year by his standards (980 yards and six touchdowns). But in the team's last two games, wins over Arizona and Oregon State, he rushed for 169 rushing yard with two touchdowns at the Wildcats and then for 199 yards and a touchdown against the Beavers. 

"They are playing a lot better than they were earlier in the year," UO coach Mark Helfrich said of Stanford, while partially crediting that to a healthier McCaffrey. 

"They are using him very similarly to how they have in the past," Helfrich said. "It's just not as much."

A reduction in touches for McCaffrey can be attributed to injuries (he has missed one game) and the emergence of sophomore Bryce Love, who has gained 428 yards rushing this season. The byproduct has been a fresher McCaffrey. 

Containing him will require the most basic of football disciplines: Tackling. 

However, that discipline has become more complicated nationwide because of rules against full contract during practice, and few teams have struggled to adapted to that situation more so than the Ducks. They missed many tackles on Jones at USC and we should all expect them to whiff on plenty more against Stanford. But if the Ducks can  prevent McCaffrey from breaking off a glut of big plays, they would have a chance to win. 

Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke said from watching Stanford game video that disciplined teams that pursue well have avoided allowing McCaffrey, a great cutback player, to run wild. 

"He's not bad," Hoke said with a smile. "What we have to do is play good team defense."

Neal added the team would need a total commitment to getting everyone to him on returns, as well. 

"I love No. 5. I respect the guy in a 1,000 different ways...It's phenomenal to watch him," Neal said.

Neal and Oregon would prefer to not see much from McCaffrey to admire on Saturday. If the Ducks can keep him somewhat in check, they will win. If not, Oregon's bowl chances will go up in flames and everyone can turn their attention to basketball, if they haven't already done so.