Second Thoughts: College athletes starting to realize they have clout

We’re one week from Christmas Day. I hope you all get a nice gift or two. I’m looking forward to watching a lot of bowl games — a gift almost as cool as the Evel Knievel windup motorcycle I got as a kid.

The University of Minnesota football players blinked and decided to play in the Holiday Bowl. But I don’t think this will be the last time we see college athletes leverage the only power they have — whether to take the field — when they disagree with their school administrations or the money machine that powers the sports played by “student-athletes.”

Somebody must have convinced the Gophers that they were fighting a losing battle. Insisting that suspended teammates be reinstated because they weren’t charged in a disgusting sexual assault case is no way to gain public support. The U of M president wasn’t going to blink on this one.

That said, those players probably got other players thinking about the power they can wield. College athletics is big business, which means labor unrest is bound to follow.

Speaking of setting a precedent, Leonard Fournette showed how important some bowl games are to top prospects. Fournette will skip LSU’s Citrus Bowl date with Louisville to prepare for the NFL draft. Not the most loyal move, but smart. It wouldn’t matter if Fournette rushed for 42 or 242 yards against the Cardinals. He’ll be a top-five pick either way.

Alabama went from an 11-point favorite to a 15-point favorite against Washington faster than a Minkah Fitzpatrick Pick 6. The big money is on Bama in the first college football semifinal, which makes sense. The sports books in Vegas might have to set a maximum bet of 10 bucks on that mismatch. The alternative is a depressing New Year’s Eve.

This is the year I’m going to win the family bowl confidence pool. Guaranteed. Then again, I say that every year and still lose. This makes no sense because I watch a ton of football. And Jill has no idea what UTSA is and the kids think Central Michigan is where their grandparents used to live.

I resisted opening one of those stupid click-bait internet “stories” proclaiming “Ezekiel Elliott’s girlfriend is actually gorgeous!” Really. I never would’ve guessed that a rich, young Dallas Cowboy would date someone who might be characterized as gorgeous. Shocking.

Trending up: Adrian Peterson, Marcus Freeman, Josh Cunningham. The Vikings are fighting for their playoff lives and they’ll get a boost today with the return of Peterson, who heals faster than the liquid-metal android in Terminator 2. AP might need some of that villain’s moves to find a hole behind Minnesota’s leaky offensive line.

Trending down: Mike Nugent, Brock Lesnar, Joe Mixon. Nugent has had a great career and was a reliable kicker for the Bengals for years. In his first 11 NFL seasons, the Centerville grad connected on 321 of 326 extra points. Automatic. This year, he missed six. Now he’s a free agent.