NEW YORK CITY — Many fans may view Thursday’s Pinstripe Bowl as somewhat meaningless — an exhibition that won’t greatly affect the overall outcome of this season for Miami or the University of Wisconsin. Both teams fell far short of expectations by finishing 7-5 in the regular season, and one more win won’t change that reality.
For the Badgers’ NFL draft hopefuls, though, playing Thursday is at least important enough to buck the trend of prospects sitting out bowl games. Rather than eliminate any chance of suffering an injury and protecting their draft stock before receiving a big payday at the next level, UW’s seniors see value in suiting up for the Badgers one last time.
“I get it. I totally get it,” UW senior left guard Michael Deiter said when asked about other college football players who skip bowl games. "But I don’t get it for me. I couldn’t do it. That’s awesome that people are looking out for themselves. But to me, I just don’t know if, I guess maybe they weren’t having as much fun playing football with their team as I am. That’s pretty much how I view that."
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU running back Leonard Fournette sparked controversy when opting to skip their team’s bowl game in 2016, but it forged a path that more players are following two years later.
The list of prospects who intend to skip bowl games this year include West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, Minnesota linebacker Blake Cashman, Stanford running back Bryce Love, Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, Michigan State defensive back Justin Layne, LSU defensive lineman Ed Alexander and the Michigan trio of running back Karan Higdon, defensive lineman Rashan Gary and linebacker Devin Bush.
Badgers senior inside linebacker Ryan Connelly won’t play against Miami, but that’s due to him undergoing a procedure to take care of an undisclosed injury that lingered throughout the final four games of the regular season.
Three UW seniors — Deiter, right guard Beau Benzschawel and inside linebacker T.J. Edwards — could ultimately become Day 2 draft picks and certainly stand to gain security by sitting out Thursday. All three, however, intend to play.
“I think I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it,” Edwards said. "I understand why guys choose to leave and things like that. But just in my head, after Minnesota, it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, and I didn’t necessarily want the last game that I played here as a Badger to be that one. I just want to go out strong and help lead this team and go out on a good note."
Two more Badgers offensive linemen, junior David Edwards and redshirt sophomore Tyler Biadasz, could leave early for the NFL. Edwards is questionable for Thursday with a right shoulder injury, but Biadasz said he would play even if he had already decided to enter the draft.
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"I want to play one more game with these guys,” Biadasz said. "I’ve done too much stuff to not play with this group."
Deiter said he didn’t even consider sitting out, and the only reason the idea ran through his head earlier this month came because some told him about last year’s Pinstripe Bowl — when Iowa and Boston College played in poor field conditions. Deiter described that game tape as “awkward” when watching guys try to keep their footing.
It’s a factor most don’t need to consider for bowl games in warm-weather cities. The forecast for Thursday doesn’t anticipate bringing about the same issues this year, and Deiter said he intends to suit up regardless of the conditions at Yankee Stadium.
“The grass got frozen and people were barely moving,” Deiter said of last year’s Pinstripe Bowl. "They looked really un-athletic. It didn’t really spook me, but it’s definitely something you’ve got to pay attention to. If it doesn’t feel safe, you’ve got to make that decision. But I already have. I’m going to play."
Rosier to start for Miami
Senior Malik Rosier will start at quarterback for Miami when the Hurricanes face the University of Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, according to head coach Mark Richt.
Freshman N'Kosi Perry faced criticism recently for posting a sexually-explicit video on social media. Richt said Perry isn't suspended for the game and will be available Thursday if needed.
"He's available to play as of right now, but we feel like Malik is the guy that's going to give us the best shot," Richt said. "... "He's had really good practices. He's been working in that spot for the majority of bowl practices. We're looking for him to do a good job."
Rosier began the season as the starter before being replaced by Perry. Rosier's completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 1,007 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games this season and has not played in Miami's past three games.
Dixon, Harrell, Cone set to play
Badgers safety D'Cota Dixon and cornerbacks Deron Harrell and Madison Cone are expected to play Thursday, per UW coach Paul Chryst, after the defensive backs sat out of practice Tuesday with undisclosed injuries.
Right tackle David Edwards remains questionable. He's missed the past two games with a left shoulder injury.