Bonus bowl coverage … Folks can warm-up for tomorrow’s CFP semi-finals with 5 non-playoff bowls today. Unfortunately though, as we have been noting, most of the top players in today’s games won’t be playing. Tennessee, for example, will be without star QB Hendon Hooker (injury) and WRs Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt (both opt-outs) when the #6 Vols play #7 Clemson in tonight’s Orange Bowl (8 PM ET; ESPN), while the Tigers will be without QB DJ Uigalelei (transfer), DE Myles Murphy (opt-out) and LB Trent Simpson (opt-out), although star DT Bryan Bresee will reportedly play.
Same story for the Gator Bowl (3:30 PM; ESPN) between Notre Dame and South Carolina as neither of TE Michael Mayer (opt-out) nor DE Isaiah Foskey (opt-out), the Irish’s top prospects will play, nor will CB Cam Smith (opt-out), South Carolina’s best player, although QB Spencer Rattler will be in action for the Gamecocks. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will be without QB Kedon Slovis (transfer), All-America DT Calijah Kancey (opt-out) and RB Izzy Abanikande (opt-out) when the Panthers face UCLA in the Sun Bowl (2 PM ET; CBS). On the other hand, the UCLA trio of QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, RB Zach Charbonnet and Jake Bobo have been practicing with the team this week, although none of the three has formally said they’d actually play today.
Also, on the other hand, it does appear there will be pretty close to a full house tomorrow when Alabama and Kansas State meet in the Sugar Bowl (Noon ET; ESPN) in a prelude to the national semis. That means both Tide QB Bryce Young and DE Will Anderson, who could very conceivably go 1-2 when the draft kicks off in April, will be playing as will DBs Brian Branch, Jordan Battle and Malachi Moore. Same story for K-State which will have scatback Deuce Vaughn, DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, OG Cooper Beebe and CB Julius Brents.