(News4usonline) – One of the benefits Oregon State and Utah State have in playing against one another in the first-ever kickoff Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl is that it makes for a good recruiting pitch to local football players.
“Southern California is huge for our recruiting class each year,” Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith said. “There are a bunch of players down here, some quality football games played. Having a presence down here through the month of December, winning a couple of games, playing in a bowl game in a bigtime place is only a benefit.”
Smith continued, “We have a lot of players from the area. We are counting on the families to come to the game tomorrow. They have been around all week, and we have seen them at the hotel, which is a beautiful thing. We have had a couple of signees at practice who we signed on Wednesday and are local here. That is one of the benefits of playing here.”
Smith and his Oregon State team got the invite after finishing with a 7-5 overall record and third place in the Pac-12 North Division behind Oregon and Washington State. The Beavers went undefeated at home, registering an unblemished 6-0 mark. It is on the road where Oregon State ran into problems.
The Beavers went just 1-5 while away from their home field during the regular season. Utah State won the Mountain West Conference and then smashed San Diego State in the conference title game to earn their spot in the bowl game.
“It was a dream come true,” Utah State wide receiver Devin Thompson said. “This whole season has been like a dream. I feel like I am waking up from it after winning the championship and being. It is an honor to be here and play in the first Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. We get to set the bar for all of the years to come for this bowl game.”
Like Smith, Aggies head coach Blake Anderson said the advantage of playing a bowl game in Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles, is being visible to possible recruits.
“It is definitely both of our footprints,” Anderson said. “If you are going to play in the Mountain West and Pac-12 (conferences), you have to recruit well here. We are fortunate enough to have a couple of guys who know the area very well. We have some past players that coached in the area. Relationships and hard work are the two things that make recruiting work.
“When they (recruits) get to your campus, they see the level of commitment that you have. We are fortunate to have all of those things in place. We definitely have a presence here, playing in the championship game definitely does not hurt for a lot of eyes to see us and the (Utah State) logo. That is definitely going to continue to help us build our footprint and get us established here.”
SoFi Stadium entered into a partnership with Jimmy Kimmel, who is both a comedian and late-night talk show host for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” The deal allowed Kimmel to have renaming rights on the LA Bowl which in turn is now the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
“Stan Kroenke designed Hollywood Park to be a sports and entertainment destination for Angelenos and visitors from across the world to enjoy. We cannot think of a better way to bring sports and entertainment together than by collaborating with celebrated late-night host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel on our collegiate bowl game,” said Jason Gannon, executive director, Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. “Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl will not only bring an incredible game day experience to fans, but it will also focus on supporting our community 365 days a year.”
For Oregon State, playing in a bowl game has been a long time coming. The last time the Beavers played in a bowl game was way back in 2013 when they beat Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl. Oregon State outside linebacker Andrezj Hughes-Murray is just happy to play in any bowl.
“Whenever a team makes a bowl game, it will really set up moves for next year,” Hughes-Murray said. “It will catapult this program forward with momentum. The guys next year can do it again, probably make it further than this team did.”
For Utah State defensive coordinator Ephraim Branda the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl represents something more than just a bowl game. It’s a different experience, he said.
“Anytime you can be the first at anything is pretty unique,” Branda said. “The stadium is beautiful and overwhelming. The bowl committee has done a phenomenal job all week. We are looking forward to being the first college football game there (at SoFi Stadium). We will be a trivia question 10 or 20 years from now, and I will have the answer for it.”
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Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He is also the publisher and editor of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. Dennis has more than two decades of reporting experience. His beats include covering sports, social and racial justice, and equal rights. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University. “I write what I’m passionate about.”