There’s still plenty of reasons for Sun Bowl excitement, even if your favorite player isn’t playing

By T.J. Mathewson

Contributor, 750 The Game

Don’t direct any of your bowl opt-out complaints to Oregon State Interim HC Kefense Hynson.

“The level of competition will be the same,” Hynson said following Monday’s practice. “At the end of the day, you’re going to get 11 guys out there against another 11 guys who want to win the game. Does the face of the roster look a little different? Yeah, it does.”

Dec. 29th’s Sun Bowl will certainly be lacking a lot of the notable names that guided these programs to top-25 rankings and the spice surrounding this matchup. Yeah, you bet CBS isn’t happy that none of Sam Hartman, DJ Uiagalelei, Aidan Chiles, Audric Estime, and others aren’t playing. Heck, Oregon State isn’t even the only one with a major coaching change. Troy named Notre Dame OC Gerad Parker head coach on Monday, so he won’t coach in the bowl game either.

It’s nothing new for Notre Dame, which will be looking for its third offensive coordinator in three seasons, but something that Oregon State might have a little bit more of a learning curve after Brian Lindgren followed Jonathan Smith to Michigan State.

Regardless, regular season results are pretty irrelevant to what we’ll watch in eight days.

The big bummer for many in Beaver Nation is the news that sophomore RB Damien Martinez will in fact not play in the bowl game, as announced on Monday. Martinez had been at home in Texas since his Nov. 30 arrest under suspicion of DUII, and had not been practicing with the team. Oregon State will instead be full go with Deshaun Fenwick and Isaiah Newell, who should do just fine.

What’s remarkable in a game where both teams will be missing their starting quarterback, running back, and multiple all-conference offensive linemen, is that both defenses are in pretty good shape to take advantage of it.

Oregon State is going to miss the presence of Easton Mascarenas-Arnold and Akili Arnold in the middle of their defense, let’s not kid that, but the Beavers feel confident in their replacements. Redshirt sophomore DB Jack Kane played a ton of snaps down the stretch at safety and sophomore Melvin Jordan impressed in his limited time. Both have a chance to make a case for a starting role in 2023, alongside other names like Isaiah Chisom, John Miller, and others.

“We’re excited about them,” Hynson said. “During bowls, there’s always going to be some guys that get more opportunities that are better for it that are going to be surprises to everyone.”

This is why I don’t understand all the complaining about opt-outs. You should be excited, I should be excited, the fans should be excited to watch a young, hungry product on the field. The TV rating would agree the product is pretty good.

With the amount of change we have seen in college football in the last two years, expecting bowls to remain as is was silly. These games will evolve, the teams will evolve (as we’ve seen), and the sport’s postseason will continue to evolve into the playoff expansion world.

As it does, let’s continue to support the product, and most importantly, the players who need it the most.

T.J. Mathewson is an Oregon State Beavers football contributor for 750 The Game. He also covers the Beavers for KEJO 1240 in Corvallis and has work featured throughout the season here.