The Senior Bowl, now in its 65th year of existence, has long been the top postseason all-star game for college football players hoping to make a career in the NFL. The game and the practices that precede it have been used as a proving ground, helping establish who can and can't play against the highest level of competition.
For the almost its entire history, the Senior Bowl has divided its roster into a North and South team. During a brief spell in the 1990s, teams were picked by the representing AFC and NFC coach before then returning to the original format. Despite the prominence of the southern states like Texas and Florida in college football, the South holds a mere 32-27 lead in the series with the North. There have also been three ties, all of which were between 1965 and 1975.
The Senior Bowl has undergone some significant changes in just the past few years under new director Phil Savage, a former Cleveland Browns GM. The 2015 edition of the game will be Savage's third. Under his guidance, the game has become more team friendly, with greater access to players for scouts and coaches. As a result, the game has evolved into a heavily covered media event.
However, as a result of the Senior Bowl's increased visibility, more and more top players have begun turning down invitations. This year, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, two of the highest-rated quarterbacks in their draft class, decided to stay home and avoid risking injury or a poor showing in front of the throng of talent evaluators and reporters. Sometimes that choice backfires, as was the case with A.J. McCarron, a signal caller who passed on an invite to protect his draft status but fell to the fifth round.
The Senior Bowl has also pushed lesser-known players to the forefront. In 2011, Cal defensive lineman Cameron Jordan put on a show in the practices. He eventually went in the first round to the Saints, becoming a Pro Bowler a few years later. This year's early risers appear to be Miami wideout Phillip Dorsett and Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton.
The Senior Bowl kicks off Saturday, January 24 at 4 p.m. ET. The NFL Network will broadcast the game as well as the practices.