The Fiesta Bowl was widely regarded as the most intriguing of the non-College Football Playoff games, as it matched up a pair of heavyweights, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Notre Dame. One of the many must-see facets of the contest was a chance to catch two of the nation’s best defenders and a pair of likely top draft picks, the Buckeyes’ Joey Bosa and the Fighting Irish’s Jaylon Smith, doing their thing on the same field.

Unfortunately, that subplot did not last very long, and we can only hope that neither does the fallout from Smith’s knee injury, one that saw him carted off the field in the first quarter. Bosa was also forced to leave the game just a few minutes in, as he was ejected for targeting.

Smith, the Butkus Award winner as college football’s top linebacker, suffered his injury when his foot appeared to catch the turf at University of Phoenix Field in Glendale, Ariz. Smith crumpled to the ground and clutched his knee, which had bent in a scary-looking way.

AD
AD

Smith is a junior who was expected to make himself available for the NFL draft. He still may do that, but if the knee injury is serious, it could affect his draft stock, which currently has him as a top-10 pick on many boards.

Bosa, a junior who has already said he will enter the draft, doesn’t have the same concerns. However, he surely didn’t want his decorated OSU career, one that appears to have made him a lock for the top five and a contender to be the first overall selection, to end on such an ignominious note.

Bosa’s ejection came on a letter-of-the-law call after he hit Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. The defensive end made contact with Kizer’s chest, but he led with the crown of his helmet, an act specifically prohibited in the NCAA rule book.

AD

And just like that, with over five minutes left to play in the first quarter, the Fiesta Bowl was left without arguably its two best players. However, there was still plenty of star power on hand in a game that featured seven first- or second-team AP all-Americans in addition to Smith and Bosa: for Ohio State, offensive tackle Taylor Decker, safety Vonn Bell, running back Ezekiel Elliott and guard Pat Elflein; and for Notre Dame, wide receiver Will Fuller, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and defensive lineman Sheldon Day.

AD
AD