Nick Saban says college football can only blame itself for the recent trend of players skipping bowl games

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Alabama football coach Nick Saban on Wednesday said that college football, particularly with the creation of the four-team playoff, has only itself to blame for the recent trend of some top college players skipping their teams’ bowl games to avoid injury before the NFL Draft.

“We kind of created this trend,” Saban told ESPN on Wednesday. “I said as soon as we had a playoff, we were going to minimize the importance of all the other bowl games. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it kind of is what it is.”

Earlier this week, Stanford star running back Christian McCaffrey announced that he would not join the Cardinal in their upcoming Hyundai Sun Bowl against North Carolina. LSU running back Leonard Fournette, projected to be a top pick in this year’s draft, made the same decision one week earlier.

McCaffrey and Fournette are just two of the several thousand college football players participating in bowl games this season. But their decision has sparked a furious debate.

Many, including some current NFL players, have suggested McCaffrey and Fournette were selfish to abandon their teams before the season was fully over. Others pointed to Dallas Cowboys rookie Jaylon Smith, who was projected to be a first-round pick before tearing his ACL in last year’s Rose Bowl with Notre Dame. That injury, and the subsequent slide down the draft board, cost Smith roughly $4 million.

Saban, meanwhile, said that he felt it would be unfair to blame the players for leaving, suggesting that because of the college-football playoff, most bowl games have become little more than an exhibition game.

“I don’t know where all this is going, but I don’t think it’s going to change,” Saban added. “Is it good? Probably not. But you can’t blame the kids. It’s a product of what we created.”