Category Archives: Bowl Watch

JANUARY 2 BOWL PREVIEW

From a Bowl standpoint this is the last day of Bowling for Dollars, NCAA style. One big game remains for next week, but that’s another story. These games should be pretty darn good.

FLORIDA (8-4) VS IOWA (8-4); OUTBACK BOWL; 1 PM ET; ABC … If both offenses play at their highest level this could be a real dandy. But given the style of play and limited offensive talent this could be an old-fashioned 14-10 contest, which many of today’s fans can’t comprehend. JIM McELWAIN is still trying to put together enough talent on the O-side to crack the end zone on a regular basis. Luckily, he has a top notch Frosh PK in #15 EDDY PINEIRO. If the Florida D stymies the Hawkeyes O then PINEIRO may be the difference on the scoreboard. It is also possible that the Gators will have some key defenders back in reasonable health.

FLORIDA                                                                        IOWA
#20 MARCUS MAYE/S 6’0/207 INJ                              #12 GREG MABIN/CB 6’2/200
#31 JALEN TABOR/CB 6’0/191 JR                                 #14 DESMOND KING/CB 5’11/203
#34 ALEX ANZALONE/LB 6’3/244 ?INJ                      #16 C.J. BEATHARD/QB 6’2/215
#40 JARRAD DAVIS/LB 6’2/240                                    #23 LeSHUN DANIELS/RB 5’11/225
#91 JOEY IVIE/DT 6’3/295                                              #46 GEORGE KITTLE/TE 6’4/246
#94 BRYAN COX/DE 6’3/268 ?INJ                                #67 JALEEL JOHNSON/DT 6’4/310

WISCONSIN (10-3) Vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN (13-0); COTTON BOWL; 1 PM ET; ESPN … I realize that more than a few folks think this match-up is a joke because it’s BIG 10 vs. MAC, but the Broncos are a legit threat if taken too lightly. The Badgers are solid all around and will have a serious athleticism advantage. But UW can be offensively challenged at times, while WMU has enough weapons to score on anyone. A key matchup will be whether the Wisconsin secondary can cover a talented bunch of WR lead by COREY DAVIS. But then again the challenge for WMU will be whether they can pass protect well enough to buy time for TERRELL to find his receivers downfield. Look for the Badgers to pull away in the second half.

WISCONSIN                                                                      WESTERN MICHIGAN
#23 DAVID OGUNBOWALE/RB 5’11/217                        #1 KEION ADAMS/DE/ER 6’2/245
#24 COREY CLEMENT/RB 5’11/215                                 #11 ZACH TERRELL/QB 6’2/205
#42 T.J. WATT/OLB 6’5/247 JR                                        #68 DAVID CURLE/DT 6’3/303
#47 VINCE BIEGEL/OLB 6’4/247                                      #72 TAYLOR MOTON/OT 6’5/328
#65 RYAN RAMCZYK/OT 6’6/308                                    #84 COREY DAVIS/WR 6’3/213

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (9-3) VS. PENN STATE (11-2); ROSE BOWL; 5 PM ET; ESPN … The Trojans are purely and simply the team no one wants to play right now. Since switching at QB to SAM DARNOLD, #14 they are unbeatable, and posting big scores each weekend. And their young D is getting tougher as well. PENN STATE surprised everyone this season, and HC JAMES FRANKLIN has shown that he is indeed putting this program back together again. Most fans were surprised when the Nittany Lions beat Wisconsin in the BIG 10 Championship game. They may surprise again, but I doubt it very much. Mark up another W for the Trojans.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA                                                      PENN STATE
#1 DARREUS ROGERS/WR 6’1/215                                           #6 MALIK GOLDEN/S 6’0/206
#2 ADOREE JACKSON/CB/RS 5’11/185 JR                             #11 BRANDON BELL/LB 6’1/231
#9 JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER/WR 6’2/215 JR                        #13 SAEED BLACKMALL/WR 6’2/211 JR
#22 JUSTIN DAVIS/RB 6’1/195                                                  #72 BRIAN GAIA/OC 6’3/304
#72 CHAD WHEELER/OT 6’6/300                                           #88 MIKE GESICKI/TE 6’6/255 JR
#73 ZACH BANNER/OT 6’9/350                                                #94 EVAN SCHWAN/DE 6’5/256

OKLAHOMA (10-2) VS. AUBURN (8-4); SUGAR BOWL; 8:30 PM ET; ESPN … The Sooners opened the season with some tough match-ups and went 1-2, but since them have been a powerhouse especially on Offense. QB/BAKER MAYFIELD #6 is almost the ideal college level QB and can really run their Offense. Hopefully DEDE WESTBROOK can play for the Sooners in this one. Auburn is tough on Defense and if they can run on a decimated Sooners D this one could be pretty dynamic to watch as a back-and-forth battle.

OKLAHOMA                                                                                AUBURN
# 5 GENO LEWIS/WR 6’1/200                                                     #1 MONTRAVIUS ADAMS/DT 6’4/305
#11 DEDE WESTBROOK/WR 6’0/170 ?INJ                              #17 T.J. NEAL/LB 6’1/235
#13 AHMAD THOMAS/S 6’1/210                                                 #23 JONATHAN FORD/S 6’0/203
#26 JORDAN EVANS/LB 6’2/233                                                #55 CARL LAWSON/DE/ER 6’2/257 JR
#32 SAMAJE PERINE/RB 5’10/235 JR                                      #63 ALEX KOZAN/OG 6’4/300

Enjoy the games.

Pigskin

BOWL WATCH Dec. 30th

Rolling along toward the big time games we come across out first real match up in the Orange Bowl, but first let’s check everything on the 30th.

GEORGIA (7-5) Vs. Texas Christian (6-6); LIBERTY BOWL; NOON PM ET; ESPN … Somewhat down years for both programs in 2016. But both teams have solid talent and look to be better in 2017. The future for UGA begins with Frosh QB/JACOB EASON #10, who is clearly the best QB in Athens since MATTHEW STAFFORD. Expect UGA to pound the ball with the best pair of RB in college ball, who should be reasonably healthy for this contest: NICK CHUBB/#27 & SONY MICHEL #1. Can a very young Defense handle a dynamic TCU Offense? The TCU O improved as the season progressed with transfer KENNY HILL #7 at QB. On D watch for the Horned Frogs senior bookend DE CARRAWAY & McFARLAND, who can both pass rush and drop into zone coverage to confuse a young QB like EASON. Players to watch:

GEORGIA                                                                                TEXAS CHRISTIAN
#20 QUINCY MAUGER/S 6’0/200                                         #21 KYLE HICKS/RB 5’10/200 JR
#54 BRANDON KUBENOW/OC 6’3/296                              #30 DENZEL JOHNSON/S 6’2/205
#72 TYLER CATALINA/OT 6’5/303                                       #40 JAMES McFARLAND/DE 6’3/255
#73 GREG PYKE/OT 6’6/313                                                   #94 JOSH CARRAWAY/DE 6’4/250

NORTH CAROLINA (8-4) Vs. STANFORD (9-3); SUN Bowl; 2 PM ET; CBS … Look it’s an actual bowl game that is not on an ESPN Network station. Pretty amazing ain’t it. And it should actually be a pretty good quality game with lots of pro prospects to watch. UNC is led by QB/MITCH TRUBISKY, who some think will be the first QB drafted if he declares for the 2017 Draft. Lack of a top notch QB is actually the key issue that kept Stanford from making more noise in the PAC-12 this past season. Sad note is that CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY is bypassing this one to get ready for Combine and NFL Draft. Based on his absence I’d put my $ on the Tar Heels if i was a betting man. UNC will try to open this up into a track meet, while Stanford will attempt to play smash-mouth on both sides of the ball. Players to watch:

NORTH CAROLINA                                                             STANFORD
#2 DES LAWRENCE/CB 6’1/185                                             #3 MICHAEL RECTOR/WR 6’1/185
#3 RYAN SWITZER/WR/RS 5’10/185                                  #10 ZACH HOFFPAUIR/S 6’1/197 ?INJ
#10 MITCH TRUBISKY/QB 6’3/220 JR                               #24 DALLAS LLOYD/SS 6’2/213
#71 JON HECK/OT 6’6/300                                                    #34 PETE KALAMBAYA/OLB 6’3/245
#68 LUKE CROWLEY/OC 6’3/290                                        #57 JOHNNY CASPERS/OG 6’4/296
#84 BUG HOWARD/WR 6’5/210                                           #99 LUKE KAUMATULA/DE 6’7/295
#90 NAZAIR JONES/DT 6’5/295 RSO

TENNESSEE (8-4) Vs. NEBRASKA (9-3); MUSIC CITY Bowl; 3:30 PM ET; ESPN … Another interesting match-up of contrasting styles of play. The Huskers like to play D and run the clock with a balanced offense which eventually relies on pounding the rock and shortening the game. The VOLS have been defensively challenged and that has cost them some late game comebacks by opponents. In their defense the VOLS have been plagued by injuries all over the roster. QB DOBBS could decide this contest with a clutch late drive. Keep your eyes peeled for
#6 KAMARA, who is a human highlight film with the ball in his hands. Many Tennessee followers expect him to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Expect the VOLS to win a tight contest. Players to watch:

TENNESSEE                                                                          NEBRASKA
#6 ALVIN KAMARA/RB 5’10/215 JR                                    #1 JORDAN WESTERKAMP/WR 6’0/200
#9 DEREK BARNETT/DE/ER 6’3/257 JR                          #11 CATHAN CARTER/TE 6’4/240
#11 JOSHUA DOBBS/QB 6’3/207                                         #25 NATE GERRY/SS 6’2/210 ?INJ
#23 CAMERON SUTTON/CB 5’11/186                                 #34 TERRELL NEWBY/RB 5-10/200
#24 TODD KELLY/FS 5’11/208 JR                                       #52 JOSH BANDERAS/LB 6’3/240
#50 COREY VEREEN/DE 6’2/249                                       #55 KEVIN MAURICE/DT 6’5/300

SOUTH ALABAMA (6-6) Vs. AIR FORCE (9-3); ARIZONA Bowl; 5:30 PM ET; NO NATIONAL TV … Welcome to the Nothing Bowl that you might have to watch on your laptop, tablet or phone…. if you care. These are two competitive teams and it may actually be a tight battle, but I look for the Falcons to soar. NO. 8 for the AIR FORCE gets my NAME OF THE YEAR.

SOUTH ALABAMA                                                            AIR FORCE
#12 GERALD EVERETT/TE 6’4/240                                  #8 WESTON STEELHAMMER/SS 6’2/200
#72 CURTIS WILLIAMS/OT 6’5/308                                 #9 KALEN ROBINETTE/WR 6’4/215

MICHIGAN (10-2) Vs. FLORIDA STATE (9-3); ORANGE BOWL; 8 PM ET; ESPN … Now for the feature bout of the evening! Both teams had their moments in the sun, as well as some letdown games. Two of the best players in the country will be featured on he field at the same time in this contest. With FSU on Offense RB/DALVIN COOK WILL lead the charge, while All-Athlete JABRILL PEPPERS/OLB #5 tries to contain him. FSU is it’s usual wide open O, while MICHIGAN under HC HARBAUGH tries to pound his opponents into the ground. The amount of talent on the field at any given time will be overwhelming to your eyeballs. This is a nail-biter toss up contest in my eyes. South Florida will be rocking on this evening. Players to watch:

MICHIGAN                                                                         FLORIDA STATE
#4 DE’VEON SMITH/RB 5’11/228                                      #4 DALVIN COOK/RB 5’11/206 JR
#5 JABRILL PEPPERS/OLB 6’1/208 RSO                       #15 TRAVIS RUDOLPH/WR 6’1/190 JR
#26 JOURDAN LEWIS/CB 5’10/175                                 #18 RO’DERRICK HOSKINS/ILB 6’2/245
#33 TACO CHARLTON/DE 6’6/285                                 #27 MARQUEZ WHITE/CB 6’0/181
#43 CHRIS WORMLEY/DL 6’5/303                                #29 NATE ANDREWS/S 6’0/210 INJ
#78 ERIC MAGNUSON/OT 6’6/305                                 #44 DeMARCUS WALKER/DE 6’3/273
#82 AMARA DARKWA/WR 6’2/215                                 #72 KAREEM ARE/OG 6’6/330
#86 JEHU CHESSON/WR 6’3/200                                  #77 RODERICK JOHNSON/OT 6’7/307 JR
#88 JAKE BUTT/TE 6’6/250

BOWL WATCH; WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28th

PITTSBURGH (8-4) Vs. NORTHWESTERN (6-6); PINSTRIPE Bowl; 2 PM ET; ESPN … The Wildcats are a feisty bunch under HC PAT FITZGERALD. They started the season slowly, but played some really solid ball to end the year at .500. The play a bit of Offense and a bunch of Defense. But they are likely to be outclassed in this contest by a PITT team that has rolled up points in bunches, especially late in the season. Comeback POY JAMES CONNER has improved steadily all season and earned himself a /RB/# returned from his victory over cancer to excel both as a runner and receiver. He has already declared his intention to go pro after this game. Meanwhile senior QB/PETERMAN #4 has improved all season and even got an invite to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. I expect the Wildcats to hang with the Panthers for a while, but are likely to pull away in the second half. Players to watch:

PITTSBURGH                                                                   NORTHWESTERN
#5 EJUAN PRICE/DE/ER 6’0/250                                    #90 C.J. ROBBINS/DE 6’5/300
#24 JAMES CONNER/RB 6’2/230 JR                                #7 IFEADI ODENIGBO/DE 6’3/250
#53 DORIAN JOHNSON/OG 6’5/300                                #1 ANTHONY WALKER/LB 6’1/235 JR
#54 TYQUAN JARRETT/DT 6’3/335                                #21 JUSTIN JACKSON/RB 5’11/190 JR
#69 ADAM BISNOWATY/OT 6’6/300                              #76 ERIC OLSON/OT 6’6/295
#83 SCOTT ORNDOFF/TE 6’5/265                                   #80 AUSTIN CARR/WR 6’1/195
#4 NATHAN PETERMAN/QB 6’2/225

WEST VIRGINIA (10-2) Vs. MIAMI (F) (8-4); RUSSELL ATHLETIC Bowl; 5:30 PM ET; ESPN …  The Mountaineers are probably the most under-appreciated teams in the country, with their double digit win total. THat may be due in large part to laying an egg, at home, in their big game with Oklahoma on their home field.But the team is well balanced and may have most of their RB group healthy for this contest. Their OL is very solid with several pro prospects as you will see below. Their D has also shined at times and is led by their pro prospect CB/RASUL DOUGLAS. MIAMI may be playing with BRAD KAAYA @ QB for the final time. He’s started since Day 1 as a frosh, and would be a Top 4 QB prospect if he comes out early. He and STACY COLEY/WR are a dynamic duo. WVU looks to have the depth and talent to prevail in the long haul. Players to watch:

WEST VIRGINIA                                                              MIAMI
#6 DAIKIEL SHORTS/WR 6’1/205                                     #2 JOE YEARBY/RB 5’9/207 JR
#7 RUSHEL SHELL/RB 5’10/215                                         #3 STACY COLEY/WR 6’1/195
#13 RASUL DOUGLAS/CB 6’2/208                                    #6 JAMAL CARTER/S 6’1/209
#49 DARIEN HOWARD/DT 6’1/300                                 #15 BRAD KAAYA/QB 6’4/210 JR
#57 ADAM PANKEY/OG 6’5/315                                        #26 RAYSHAWN JENKINS/S 6’2/208
#65 TERRY ORLOSKY/OC 6’4/295                                    #29 CORN ELDER/CB 5’10/178
#97 NOBLE NWACHUKWU/DE 6’2/275                          #63 DANNY ISADORA/OG 6’4/310
…                                                                                                  #86 DAVID NJOKU/TE/6’4/245/RSO

UTAH (8-4) Vs. INDIANA (6-6); FOSTER FARMS Bowl; 8:30 PM ET; ESPN … This one looks like a major mismatch on paper. The talent advantage clearly goes to the UTES, and on top of that INDIANA HC KEVIN WILSON was forced to resign by the school administration last month. Watch for Utah RB/JOE WALKER/#, who “retired” back in September, and then was talked into retuning when injuries decimated the RB corps. He’s been a 200-yard per game rusher since his return. IU as a solid OL, led by DAN FEENEY/#67, the consensus top OG prospect for 2017, but he can’t block everybody at once. I expect a double-digit Win for the UTES. Players to watch:

UTAH                                                                                        INDIANA

#20 MARCUS WILLIAMS/S 6’1/195 JR                                #4 RICKY JONES/WR/RS 5’10/184
#29 JOE WILLIAMS/RB 5’11/205                                         #44 MARCUS OLIVER/ILB 6’1/235 JR
#49 HUNTER DIMICK/DE 6’3/272                                      #67 DAN FEENEY/OG 6’4/305
#52 SAM TEVI/OT 6’6/305                                                     #77 DIMITRIC CAMIEL/OT 6’7/310
#72 GARRETT BOLES/OT 6’6/296 JR

TEXAS A&M (8-4) Vs. KANSAS STATE (8-4); TEXAS Bowl; 9 PM ET; ESPN … I have great respect for HC BILL SNYDER of K-State, but not all 8-4 teams are created equal. A&M faced a tough SEC schedule on a weekly basis, while the Wildcats basically beat no one with an overall winning record. SNYDER will likely keep his team in this with a conservative game plan relying on the opponent to make a few mistakes, while his troops protect the ball. That will work for a while until super star MYLES GARRETT/DE/#15 leads the A&M Defense in pressuring any/all K-State QBs into mistakes. GARRETT may be healthier than he has been since September for this one, which is bad news for the Wildcats. A&M also has big play potential on Offense with receivers REYNOLDS/SEALS-JONES/KIRK all able break the big play. QB/TREVOR KNIGHT/#8 should be fairly healthy and able to lead the Offense. A&M will likely pull away from State for a convincing win. Players to watch:

TEXAS A&M                                                                         KANSAS STATE
#9 RICKY SEALS-JONES/WR 6’5/240 JR                         #6 DEANTE BURTON/WR 6’2/205
#10 DAESHON HALL/DE 6’6/270                                       #9 ELIJAH LEE/LB 6’3/220 JR
#11 JOSH REYNOLDS/WR 6’4/190                                    #10 DONNIE STARKS/CB 6’0/180
#14 JUSTIN EVANS/S 6’1/195                                              #22 DANTE BARNETT/FS 6’1/195
#15 MYLES GARRETT/DE/ER 6’5/265 JR                       #24 CHARLES JONES/RB 5’10/206
#33 SHAAN WASHINGTON/LB 6’3/235                          #75 JORDAN WILLIS/DE 6’5/260
#65 AVERY GENNESY/OT 6’5/310

BOWL WATCH Dec 26th

The good news is that we are now heading into the Bowl Games featuring some really good teams. We’ve already been treated to some outstanding individual performances, but now top players on top teams will be featured just about every day. Let’s take a look at a fairly pedestrian trio of games for post-Christmas consumption.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (5-7) VS MIAMI of Ohio (6-6); ST. PETERSBURG BOWL 11 AM ET; ESPN; Excuse me while I yawn a bit over this match-up. Thank goodness there are some solid pro prospects in this contest, or there might be no logical reason to watch it, other than for nap value. Actually State showed some solid work against the usual tough SEC schedule. And their QB/NICK FITZGERALD #7 could be among the best in the SEC next season given his work this year. And MIAMI was a nice surprise to most even with a .500 record. MIAMI, the cradle of coaches historically, is slowly rebounding as a program under 3rd year HC CHUCK MARTIN. And the day is also saved by some decent NFL prospects. Keep an eye on MSU’s #47/JEFFERSON as he tries to disrupt play on the Miami side of the line-of-scrimmage, while Bulldogs’ WR Fred Ross is also a good one. This should end in a decisive win for the Bulldogs as long as they don’t try to sleep walk through the contest.

MISSISSIPPI STATE                                                     MIAMI (O)

#8 FRED ROSS/WR 6’2/207                                              #6 ROCKEEM WILLIAMS/WR 6’1/198
#39 RICHIE BROWN/ILB 6’2/245                                  #30 BUCHI OKAFOR/S 6’1/197
#47 A.J. JEFFERSON/DE/O 6’3/277                              #72 COLIN BUCHANAN/OT 6’5/313
#60 JAMAAL CLAYBORN/OC 6’4/315                            #91 T.J. JONES/DE 6’3/265
#88 NICK JAMES/DT 6’5/325

BOSTON COLLEGE (6-6) Vs MARYLAND (6-6); QUICK LANE BOWL; 2:30 PM ET; ESPN … About an hour before the kick-off of this one might be a good time to lunch of some leftover Christmas turkey if you have some. That tryptophan should work magic along with the likely lack of offense in this snoozer. A nice long nap will almost be guaranteed. The EAGLES have once again shown exceptional Defensive play through most of the 2016 season led by junior DE Harold Landry whose 15 sacks this fall were tied for the national lead.  But when you see the BC Offense in action you will likely see why Eagles fans are getting impatient with the ADDAZIO regime despite the presence of a decent QB in Patrick Towles. Meanwhile, the TERPS managed to put together 6 Wins this year, but none came against a team with a winning record. And they were slaughtered by MICHIGAN and OHIO STATE in mid-season by a combined score 121-6. At least it is unlikely BC can come close to those kind of point totals.

BOSTON COLLEGE                                                       MARYLAND
#8 PATRICK TOWLES/QB 6’5/238                                 #4 WILL LIKELY/CB/RS 5’8/175 INJ ?
#9 JOSH JOHNSON/S 6’0/198                                         #5 WES BROWN/RB 6’0/210
#28 MATT MILANO/LB 6’1/218                                      #76 MICHAEL DUNN/OT 6’5/312
#72 JIM CASHMAN/OG/T 6’7/305                                #95 AZUBUIKE UKANDU/DT 6’0/306
#7 HAROLD LANDRY/DE/ER 6’3/245 JR

VANDERBILT (6-6) Vs. NORTH CAROLINA STATE (6-6); INDEPENDENCE BOWL 5 PM ET; ESPN2 ... Same records as the teams in the previous game, but both of these teams have a semblance of an Offense to keep things interesting. SO set your smart phone alarm to wake you just on case you are still dozing from the previous snooze-fest. VANDY has been a tough out this season and actually posted W’s over WKU, UGA, Ole MIss & Tennessee. HC DEREK MASON has picked up the pieces nicely from the departure of JAMES FRANKLIN to Penn State. The Wolfpack They ended the season on a very high note with a road win against intra-state rival UNC. I would expect this to be a game that is not decided until the final possession or two. The best player in this one should be ZACH CUNINGHAM/LB #41 from Vandy who has scouts whispering top 20 if he declares for the 2017 Draft.

VANDERBILT                                                                     NC STATE
#5 TORREN McGASTER/CB 6’0/200                             #8 DRAVIOUS WRIGHT/S 5/10/208
#7 RALPH WEBB/RB 5’10/200 JR                                  #9 BRADLEY CHUBB/DE 6’4/275 JR
#41 ZACH CUNINGHAM/LB 6’4/230 JR                      #21 MATTHEW DAYES/RB 5’9/205
#69 ADAM BUTLER/DT 6’4/300                                    #29 JACK TOCHO/CB 6’0/200
#74 WILL HOLDEN/OT 6’6/312                                       #13 BRA’LON CHERRY/WR 5’11/191

Enjoy. Trust me when I say some of these games are more interesting to watch if you are scouting for pro prospects, than just watching overall game action. Give it a try.

Pigskin

Holiday Bowling Dec. 23

The last multiple game day for the Bowl Season, prior to Christmas is Friday the 23rd. Here are your 3 games for that day.

BAHAMAS BOWL; 1PM ET; ESPN; EASTERN MICHIGAN (7-5) Vs. OLD DOMINION (9-3): A feel good game for most pitting EMU  which has emerged from punching bag status to win seven games for the first time since the late 1980s and has been to only one bowl in its history against D1A newcomer Old Dominion which goes to its first-ever FBS bowl after moving up from D1AA in 2014. However, Old Dominion was a winning program on almost a yearly basis at the D1AA level. ODU head coach Bobby Wilder took 42 returning lettermen and lost only to a couple of heavyweights like NC State and Western Kentucky. I’m a big MAC fan, but I truly believe the Monarchs will win to hit the double-digit W mark. And while there are likely some pro scouts that petitioned their team to assign them to this game – hey who wouldn’t want to spend the holidays in the Bahamas – they likely would not miss much if they never left the beach as there just aren’t many pro prospects in this game, although ODU WR Zach Pascal, a productive possession receiver, could get some late-round interest. Players to watch

EASTERN MICHIGAN                                                       OLD DOMINION
#5 CODY TUTTLE/TE 6’4/250                                               #6 ZACH PASCAL/WR 6’2/214
#43 ANTHONY ZAPPONE/LB 6’2/226                               #27 AARON YOUNG/CB 5’11/185
#47 T.J. RICKS/LB 6’0/226                                                   #52 PAT O’CONNOR/DE 6’4/267
#57 RASHARD COWARD/DT 6’6/307                                #72 ANDREW WYLIE/OT 6’6/311

ARMED FORCES BOWL; 4:30 PM ET; ESPN; NAVY (9-4) Vs. LOUISIANA TECH (8-5): A highly ranked Navy squad was very much in the running to earn the non-power 5 slot in the Cotton Bowl, but the Middies were hit hard with injuries at the QB slot that tore them apart down the stretch that included losses in the American conference championship game and to Army for the first time in almost forever? At least the Midshipmen will play a bowl in the Dallas area just not what they were hoping for less than a month ago. Part of me says that in true military tradition, they rally the troops and rebound, but with a 4th string QB it will be tough, especially against a very good Louisiana Tech team that SKIP HOLTZ has put together. Indeed, given that the Bulldogs had only 9 returning starters this season, and a schedule that included 7 road games those 8 wins are pretty solid. I would expect TECH to win this game, but you know the Midshipmen will not mail it in. Keep an eye on Tech WR TRENT TAYLOR, a very talented possession receiver who has already set the CUSA single-season record with 124 catches this fall. Taylor pairs with junior WR CARLOS HENDERSON, the Bulldogs’ big-play threat who averaged 19.5 yards on 72 receptions this fall when he also scored 17 times. Henderson, one of the country’s top KO returners, also averaged over 30 yards per return this fall which included 2 for TDs. Meanwhile, if Bill Belichek and the Patriots want to take a Navy player in the 2017 draft, they’ll get a shot at a good one in WR Jamir Tillman, who kind of got lost in the Middies run oriented offense, but has the size and athleticism that NFL teams are always looking for.

NAVY                                                                                         LOUISIANA TECH
#1 BRENDON CLEMENTS/CB 5’11/188                                 #5 TRENT TAYLOR/WR 5’8/175
#4 JAMIR TILLMAN/WR 6’4/212                                           #7 XAVIER WOODS/S 5’11/190
#31 SHAWN WHITE/FB 6’1/255                                             #12 RYAN HIGGINS/QB/6-1/200
#58 DANIEL GONZALES/LB 6’2/240                                   #75 DARRELL BROWN/OT 6’4/300
#31 SHAWN WHITE/FB/6-0/255                                            #1 CARLOS HENDERSON/WR/5’11/195/JR

DOLLAR GENERAL BOWL; 7 PM ET; ESPN; TROY (9-3) vs. OHIO (8-5): The nightcap in Friday’s tripleheader promises to be a wide-open affair between to teams that can move the ball. Next year was supposed to be the breakout year for Troy under head coach NEAL BROWN, but the Trojans showed flashes all year despite losing 24 lettermen from 2015. The more experienced, consistent team in OHIO may win the day under the steady, veteran hand of head coach FRANK SOLICH, who just keeps rolling into his 70’s. Bobcats’ edge rushing DE TARELL BASHAM may be the best pro-prospect on the field as he will be returning to Mobile for the Senior Bowl in January; this fall Basham had 11.5 sacks. Indeed, there could be a pretty good one-on-one matchup between Basham and Troy OT Antonio Garcia, the Trojans top prospect..

TROY                                                                                           OHIO
#20 TERRIS LEWIS/LB 6’2/240                                               #6 SEBASTIAN SMITH/WR 6’3/206
#23 WILLIAM LLOYD/LB 6’2/214                                           #12 JORDAN REID/WR 6’3/207
#53 ANTONIO GARCIA/OT 6’7/302                                       #24 TORAN DAVIS/SS 6’0/212
#77 XAVIER FIELDS/OG 6’5/329                                            #93 TARELL BASHAM/DE 6’4/263

 

Saturday December 17 Bowl Watch

The annual bowl schedule kicks off Saturday with a full slate of 5 games including a couple that are definitely worth a look. Here’s a quick preview of who to watch in Saturday’s bowl games.

New Mexico (8-4) vs Texas-San Antonio (6-6); Gildan New Mexico Bowl; 2 PM ET; ESPN: The 40-something-game bowl schedule leading up to the CFP national championship kicks off with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl between traditional rivals New Mexico and Texas-San Antonio. At least the home-town Lobos won 8 games this fall, but neither team has much in the way of talent for the 2017 draft. New Mexico is led by seniors RB Teriyon Gipson (#8, 5-8, 185), LT Reno Henderson (#75, 6-4, 275) and DT Nik D’Avanzo (6-3, 295). All three are solid collegiate players who earned second-team Mountain West all-conference honors this fall, but they are undersized by NFL standards and likely will be thrilled just to get a free agent pro tryout next fall. Meanwhile, UTSA is one of those 6-6 teams that squeak into a bowl because there just aren’t plus-.500 teams to fill out the schedule. At the same time, UTSA may have the best prospect for the 2017 draft in this game in veteran SS Michael Egwuago (#8, 6-0, 220), a hard-hitter with some range who could also get some looks as an OLB, while veteran RB Jarveon Williams (#2, 5-9, 200) and LT Jevonte Domond (#78, 6-5, 300) have some free-agent potential. The Roadrunners – meep, meep – also have an intriguing edge rusher in rangy junior DE Marcus Davenport (#93, 6-7, 245), while redshirt freshman MLB Josiah Tauaefu (#55, 6-1, 230) became UTSA’s first ever first-team all-conference nominee in their 4-year D1A history after piling up over 100 tackles this fall.

HOUSTON (9-3) VS. SAN DIEGO STATE (10-3); LAS VEGAS BOWL; 3:30 PM ET; ABC:
We all get a look at Houston as the post-Herman era begins. This should be a fascinating match-up, with some high powered O and big play D on display. The hope is that with a few weeks to rest GREG WARD/QB will be relatively healthy for the Cougars. And the Cougars may need Ward to be very healthy because the Aztecs have a number of really good pro prospects including RB Donnel Pumphrey, the nation’s 2nd leading rusher, OG Nico Siragusa, and CB Damontae Kazee each of whom has at least some second day potential. Throw in the fact that Pumphrey is simply a lot of fun to watch. I expect the Offenses to march up and down the field most of the day, which means a couple of turnovers could well decide the game. Quite a few pro prospects for you to be watching in this game. HOUSTON should prevail as long as WARD is in top shape. Prospects to watch:

HOUSTON                                                                    SAN DIEGO STATE
#1 GREG WARD/QB 5’11/185                                        #12 MALIK SMITH/S 6’0/190
#21 CHANCE ALLEN/WR 6’3/215                                #19 DONALD PUMPHREY/RB 5’9/180
#26 BRANDON WILSON/DB 5’11/205                       #23 DAMONTAE KAZEE/CB 5’11/185
#41 STEVEN TAYLOR/LB 6’1/225                               #54 CALVIN MUNSON/LB 6’1/240
#47 TY CUMMINGS/K 6’/185                                       #56 NICO SIRAGUSA/OG 6’5/330
#81 TYUS BOWSER/OLB 6’3/240                               #58 ALEX BARRETT/DE 6’3/260
#94 CAMERON MALVEAUX/DE 6’6/270                  #71 DAN BRUNSKILL/OT 6’5/260

APPALACHIAN STATE (9-3) vs. TOLEDO (9-3) CAMELIA BOW; 5:30 PM ET; ESPN
Another game that has potential to be highly competitive and has a decent group of Draft eligible players for you to scout on. KAREEM HUNT/RB is an overlooked star for the Rockets. He’s a 1,000-yard rusher and can catch out of the backfield. MARCUS COX/RB is also a solid prospect for App State. I would project the MAC’s TOLEDO to have the better overall team and more depth so I’ll pick them by a TD, but it wouldn’t be a huge upset got the Mountaineers to rise up and smite them. Prospects to watch:

APPALACHIAN STATE                                            TOLEDO       
#3 ALEX GRAY/S 6’3/220                                              #3 KAREEM HUNT/RB 5’11/225
#6 KENNAN GILCHRIST/LB 6’2/225                       #23 DeJUAN ROGERS/S 6’0/190
#14 MARCUS COX/RB 5’10/200                                 #74 STORM NORTON/OT 6’7/305
#85 BARRETT BURNS/TE 6’4/245                            #80 MICHAEL ROBERTS/TE 6’5/270
#88 JOHN LAW/LB 6’0/230                                        #91 TEYVON HESTER/DT 6’3/300

ARKANSAS STATE (7-5) vs UCF (6-6); CURE BOWL; 5:30 PM ET; CBSSN:
Well they can’t all be top notch games when there are so many bowls to fill up. This might do OK at the box office since its pretty much a home game for UCF. To UCF’s credit the team went 0-12 in 2015, and under new HC SCOTT FROST, they improved to a .500 record. State was inconsistent this season compared to recent years. Take the home team by a Field Goal (+3). There are a few prospects worth keeping an eye on.

ARKANSAS STATE                                                    CENTRAL FLORIDA
#21 CODY BROWN/S 6’2/205                                        #10 SHAQUILL GRIFFIN/CB 6’1/192
#61 DEVN MONDE/OC 6’5/305                                    #21 DRICO JOHNSON/FS 6’1/207
#79 JEMAR CLARK/OT 6’6/306                                   #51 ERROL CLARKE/LB 6’3/230
#94 WAYLON ROBERSON/NT 6’2/340

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (6-6) vs SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (6-6); New Orleans Bowl; 9 PM ET; ESPN: Hard to describe Saturday’s nightcap between a couple of 6-6 teams as much more than some scheduling filler for ESPN. The good news is that fans from neither school will have to travel very far as an excuse to spend a couple of nights in New Orleans. If this game has a redeeming quality its that it could feature a pretty good RB dual between ULL senior Elijah McGuire (#15, 5-10, 210), a mid-round prospect for the 2017 draft who ran for over 1,000 yards this fall, and USM  junior Ito Smith (#25, 5-9, 195), a rising collegiate star who ran for over 1,300 yards and 15 scores this fall, while also catching 42 passes. However, ULL’s McGuire is likely the only truly legit draft prospect on either team, although both ULL and USM have a number of possible free-agent candidates including LBs Otha Peters (#7, 6-2, 230) and Tre’maine Lightfoot (#4, 6-0, 235) and WR Al Riles (#2, 5-10, 215) of Louisiana and QB Nick Mullens (#9, 6-1, 200), C Cameron Tom (#70, 6-3, 290), DE Dylan Bradley (#94, 6-1, 265), LB Elijah Parker (#17, 6-2, 220) and SS D’Nerius Antoine (#12, 6-0, 215) of Southern Miss.

Enjoy!!

National championship bowl watch

CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP; #1 CLEMSON (14-0) vs. #2 ALABAMA (13-1); 8:30 PM ET; ESPN

The prelims are done and the stage is set for what could be a very good CFP national championship game between unbeaten, top-ranked Clemson and perennial power Alabama in Glendale Santa Clara later Monday evening.  Despite its one loss, Alabama comes in as the favorite, but Clemson made a statement that they may not go easily when the steamrolled a very good Oklahoma team in the semi-finals on New Year’s Eve. And adding just a little spice to the whole business is the fact the game also features the top two finalists in this year’s Heisman voting in Alabama junior RB Derrick Henry and Clemson sophomore QB DeShaun Watson. Indeed, the only missing piece to this year’s championship game could be Clemson junior DE Shaq Lawson, the Tigers’ top prospect for the 2016 draft who injured a knee early in the semi-final win over Oklahoma and likely will be a game-time decision. If healthy, Lawson is one of college football’s more explosive edge rushers with the potential to go in the first 10-15 picks this coming April. Same for brash Tigers’ sophomore CB Mackensie Alexander, who has top 15-20 potential of his own. Meanwhile, Clemson junior FS Jayron Kearse figures to be a second-day pick, while Clemson veteran DT D.J. Reader, a 325-pound run-stuffing interior defender, along with TE Jordan Leggett, OG Eric Mac Lain and WR Charone Peake are mid-to-late round candidates.

Win or lose or draw in the desert, Alabama again figures to be one of the dominant teams at the upcoming draft, In fact, the program has had at least one player selected in the opening round in each of the past 7 years; indeed, the Tide has had at least one player taken in the top ten in 6 of those 7 years. Whether Alabama makes in 7 out of 8 with a top ten pick remains to be seen, but Alabama could have as many as a half dozen first-round prospects including junior DT A’Shawn Robinson, DEs Jarran Reed and junior Jonathan Allen, MLB Reggie Ragland and junior RB Derrick Henry, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner who has already run for over 2,000 yards and 25 TDs. Meanwhile, junior TE O.J. Howard should be at, or near, the top of his positional ranking this year, although for now he appears to be a more likely second-day pick, as will junior MLB Rueben Foster. Interestingly, all the Alabama juniors agreed to not even look at their draft evaluations until after their final game. That includes junior DE/OLB Tim Williams, arguably the most explosive pass rusher in college football who originally said he was returning to school, but is reportedly reconsidering entering the draft where he projects to be another second-day prospect. Meanwhile, other Alabama seniors that could get calls in the later rounds include QB Jake Coker, RB Kenyan Drake, C Ryan Kelly, OLBs Denzel Devall and Dillon Lee, and CB Cyrus Jones. Prospects to watch:

CLEMSON                                                                              ALABAMA

QB DeShaun Watson, #4, 6-1, 210, SO                                  QB Jake Coker, #14, 6-4, 235
RB Wayne Gallman, #9, 6-0, 215, SO                                    RB Derrick Henry, #2, 6-2, 245, JR
WR Charone Peake, #19, 6-2, 215                                           RB Kenyan Drake, #17, 6-0, 210
OT Isaiah Battle, #79, 6-6, 290                                               TE OJ Howard, #88, 6-5, 245, JR
OT Joe Gore, #73, 6-5, 290                                                      OT Dominick Jackson, #76, 6-5, 315
OG Eric Mac Lain, #78, 64, 315                                               C Ryan Kelly, #70, 6-4, 300
C Ryan Norton, #54, 6-3, 285                                                  DE Jonathan Allen, #93, 6-4, 315, JR
DE Shaq Lawson, #90, 6-2, 275, JR                                       NT A’Shawn Robinson, #86, 6-3, 315, JR
DT DJ Reader, #48, 6-2, 325                                                    OLB Tim Williams, #56, 6-4, 230, JR
MLB BJ Goodson, #44, 6-0, 250                                             OLB Denzall Devall, #30, 6-1, 255
CB Mackensie Alexander, #2, 5-10, 190, RSO                      OLB Dillon Lee, #25, 6-3, 245
FS Jayron Kearse, #20, 6-3, 210, JR                                       OLB Ryan Anderson, #22, 6-2, 255, JR
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                          ILB Reggie Ragland, #19, 6-2, 255, JR
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                          ILB Reuben Foster, #10, 6-0, 240, JR
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                          CB Cyrus Jones, #5, 5-10, 200
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                          S/CB Eddie Jackson, #4, 5-11, 195, JR
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx DE Jarran Reed, #90, 6-3, 315

Bowl Watch

TAXSLAYER BOWL; Noon ET; ESPN
PENN STATE (7-5) vs GEORGIA (9-3)

Hate to break it to the folks in Memphis, in a sport notorious for ‘mythical’ things no one is going to slay anyone’s taxes. Take it to the bank if you’ve got anything left to take to the bank. Fortunately, we’ll get some real football as Georgia and Penn State meet for only the second time in the two school’s storied football pasts. And the other meeting was about a storied as they get when Penn State held off Georgia 27-23 to win the 1983 ‘mythical’ national championship. Of course, there won’t be any national champion crowned in Jacksonville as both teams are wrapping up troubled seasons. Pro scouts aren’t complaining though and will be out in numbers to check on a number of interesting and/or perplexing prospects in this game. Most perplexing, of course, is Penn State junior QB Christian Hackenberg (#14, 6-3, 230). Hackenberg entered the season considered to be the leading contender to be the #1 pick overall, but suffered through a truly miserable season in which he completed just 53% of his pass attemtpts for less than 200 yards per game. Hackenberg wasn’t helped by an offensive line that brought new meaning to the term ‘leaky’; however, potential elite QBs are supposed to make everyone around them better, not get dragged down to that level. Hackenberg still has the natural physical skills to rate as a good gamble in the second round, but might seriously consider going back to school to see if he can clean up his game. Penn State DE Carl Nassib (6-7, 275) also falls into that interesting/perplexing category. Nassib, who looks more like a power forward, had barely entering the season, but ended up leading the country in sacks with 15.5. The issue for pro scouts is whether Nassib is a one-year type wonder, or whether he in fact has the physical skills that translate to success at the next level. Indeed, the best pro prospect for the Nittany Lions could ultimately be junior DT Austin Johnson (#99, 6-3, 325); he’s a massive interior defender, but is still light on his feet. And like Nassib Johnson had a breakout year this fall as he posted 70 tackles overall – a ton for a DT – including 5.5 sacks and 8 other tackles for loss. Johnson combines with senior Anthony Zettel (#98, 6-3, 285), a somewhat undersized, but very quick one-gap penetrator, to give the Lions one of the most formidable set of defensive tackles in college football.

Former Georgia head coach Mark Richt learned just how hard college football can be when he was fired at the end of the season despite winning an average of ten games per year in his 15-year career with the Bulldawgs. Problem for Richt was his team could just never win the big one, so he is off to his alma mater Miami. Richt did leave behind a couple of the edge rushers in the country in OLBs Jordan Jenkins (#59, 6-3, 255) and junior Leonard Floyd (#84, 6-3, 235). Floyd, in particular, has first-round ability but scouts would like to see him play that way all the time after posting just 4.5 sacks this season. Certainly, both will get their chances to get after PSU’s Hackenberg. Meanwhile, veteran LT John Theus (#71, 6-5, 305) is a solid middle round prospect, while WR Malcolm Mitchell (#26, 6-1, 195) and RB Keith Marshall (#4, 5-10, 215) have both had very promising career derailed by injuries, but could be possible later round steals if healthy.

LIBERTY BOWL; 3:30 PM ET; ESPN
KANSAS STATE (6-6) vs ARKANSAS (7-5)

The only good reason for a 7-5 SEC team to be playing a 6-6 Big XII squad after New Year’s is that ESPN needs the programming to fill its schedule. If there is a saving grace to this game – and its not much – its that there are several good prospects to watch in this game. Arkansas junior TE Hunter Henry (#84, 6-5, 255), for example, is the top-rated TE for the 2016 draft, while K-State OG Cody Whitehair (#55, 6-4, 305) is one of the better prospects at that position; both are considered to be second-round candidates. Meanwhile, Hogs’ junior RB Alex Collins (#3, 5-10, 215) is coming off a breakout year in which he ran for almost 1,400 yards and 17 scores; same for Arkansas QB Brandon Allen (#10, 6-2, 210) who could be a late-round sleeper type. At the same time, K-State CB/KR Morgan Burns (#33, 5-10, 205), who had 4 KO returns for TDs this fall, is one of the best kick returners in the country.

ALAMO BOWL; 6:45 PM ET; ESPN
OREGON (9-3) VS. TCU (10-2)
This was all set up to be A Tale of 2 QBs ’til BOYKIN got drunk and acted out. Now he’s at home, hopefully feeling stupid. So now we are down to one QB question; Is VERNON ADAMS the next Russell Wilson, a talented but short QB prospect. I’ll be watching for his hand size at the Combine. Had ALLEN not missed 3 games with injuries this Oregon team might have been in an actual Play-Off spot. Then again, with a horrible Defense that ranked 113th in yardage allowed per game, they probably didn’t deserve a slot, ADAMS or no ADAMS running the O. Watching non-Draft eligible stars keep your eyes on DUCKS Soph RB/ROYCE FREEMAN, who romped for1706 yards rushing at 6.6 ypc and including 14 TD. TCU Head Coach GARY PETERSON must feel like the Football Gods have a curse on him. They lost by 3 points to Baylor last season and were treated like outcasts by many folks last season. They came back to win 10 games this season, but now have lost their key offensive component in a high profile showdown game for national recognition and recruiting clout. Watch JOSH DOCTSON, if anyone can get the ball to him. He’s going to be a star in the NFL ala LARRY FITZGERALD, IMO. But unless PATTERSON pulls out some magic in replacing BOYKIN this could look like a stacked video game in Oregon’s favor. The DUCKS win with the only real question being by how much. Prospects to watch:

OREGON                                                                   TEXAS CHRISTIAN  
#2 BRALON ADDISON/WR/RS 5’10/190 JR        #7 KOLBY LISTENBEE/WR 6’1/185
#3 VERNON ADAMS/QB 5’11/190                           #9 JOSH DOCTSON/WR 6’3/200
#9 BYRON MARSHALL/WR 5’10/200 JR/INJ    #22 AARON GREEN/RB 5’11/202
#33 TYSON COLEMAN/LB 6’1/235                        #26 DERRICK KINDRED/S 5-10/210
#44 DEFOREST BUCKNER/DE 67/290                #33 JADEN OBERKROM/K 6’3/187
#48 RODNEY HARDRICK/LB 6’1/245                   #57 DAVION PIERSON/DT 6’2/305
#56 ALEX BALDUCCI/DT 6’4/310                          #74 HAL VATAI/OT 6’6/308
#64 TYLER JOHNSTONE/OT 6’6/295                   #90 TERRELL LATHAN/DE 6’5/290

CACTUS BOWL SATURDAY JAN 2ND 10:15 PM ET ESPN
ARIZONA STATE (6-6) vs. WEST VIRGINIA (7-5)
Welcome to another pretty much meaningless Bowl Game$ unless you are an avid fan of one of these schools. The edge in competition played goes slightly to ASU, but not by much. THis game may have the most meaning to WVU HC DANA HOLGORSEN, who may be the end of his tenure for the Mountaineers. He has one of the smallest recruiting bases in the Conference and goes into the majority of his games with less talent than his opponents. On the plus side for fans actually at this one, both teams have Offenses that ranked in the Top 30 nationally. WVU actually had a reasonable Defense ranking 53rd, while ASU was a punching bag for opponents offenses ranking 100th. THey were particularly onerous against the pass, giving up 321 yards/game which ranked 123rd in the nation. But based on overall talent this should be a close contest. Watch for ASU QB/MIKE BERCOVICI to target #15 DEVIN LUCIEN and #8 DJ FOSTER all night, while WVU will set up the passing game for QB/SKYLER HOWARD with the running attack led by #4 WENDELL SMALLWOOD, a Junior, who rushed for 1447 yards, including 9 TD. This should be a contest in which turnover/takeaways could swing momentum, and the last Offense with the ball could be in position to win the game. Prospects to watch:

ARIZONA STATE                                                           WEST VIRGINIA

#2 MIKE BERCOVICI/QB 6’1/205                                #8 KARL JOSEPH/S 5’11/197 INJ
#8 DJ FOSTER/WR/RB 5’11/195                                   #9 KJ DILLON/S 6’1/203
#15 DEVIN LUCIEN/WR 6’1/200                                #35 NICK KWIATKOWSKI/LB 6’2/235
#55 CHRIS WESTERMAN/OG 6’4/301                      #57 ADAM PANKEY/OG 6’5/312 JR
#8 LLOYD CARRINGTON/CB 6’0/195                       #78 MARQUIS LUCAS/OT 6’4/318
#18 KWEISHI BROWN/CB 6’0/205                            #86 JOSH LAMBERT/K 5’11/215 JR
#32 ANTONIO LONGINO/LB 6’2/230                        #91 NICK O’TOOLE/P 6’3/228
#38 JORDAN SIMONE/S 6’0/195

Bowl Watch

FIESTA BOWL; 1 PM ET; ESPN
OHIO STATE (11-1) vs. NOTRE DAME (10-2)
These two teams were in serious consideration for a Final Four spot until they both lost their final games to Michigan State and Stanford respectively. The Championship Play-Off committee may have gotten lucky that they both fell. The next luckiest entity is the Fiesta Bowl itself for getting two such big name programs. This Bowl looks to be the most glamorous non-Play Off contest.
OHIO STATE may be the most talented program in the country from top to bottom, but while URBAN MEYER played coy at the QB position for half a season, the Buckeyes Offense never got itself into full gear. There were also times when MEYER’s offense looked like WOODY HAYES was sending him the play calls. The Buckeyes only attempted 294 passes all season. They ran the ball 500 times, which sounds to me like numbers from the Wishbone era. They ranked 98th in D-1 while averaging 187 passing yards per game. On the bright side, they ranked 11th in rushing Offense at 242 yards per game. Notre Dame ranked 60th against the run so it would seem that QB/J.T. BARRETT and his running stye of QB play should cause Notre Dame problems. Expect EZEKIEL ELLIOTT to add to his 1672 yards rushing and 19 TD on the season in this one.
NOTRE DAME may deserve a Purple Heart of some sorts for persevering in the the face of a seeming epidemic of injuries. Their leading rusher was a WR last year in C.J. PROSISE, who gained 1032 yards for 11 TD while averaging 6.6 ypc. QB/DeSHONE KIZER/#14 was a major surprise as a RS Frosh being forced into the starting job. He has the receivers and running game to lead the Irish to points, if the Notre Dame OL can handle the Buckeyes front seven led by guys named BOSA/LEE/PERRY.
The talent on these two teams look like an NFL Combine list. I give BRIAN KELLY, his staff and players for persevering to 10-Wins given their injury lists each week and a schedule that included 6 other Bowl teams. But I think the relatively healthy Buckeyes will be too much to handle as he night wears on. Expect a fairly high scoring game with Ohio State pulling away in the second half. Prospects to watch:

OHIO STATE                                                                             NOTRE DAME
#3 MICHAEL THOMAS/WR 6’3/210 JR                                  #2 CHRIS BROWN/WR 6’2/195
#1 BRAXTON MILLER/WR 6’1/215                                          #7 WILL FULLER/WR 6’0/180 JR
#11 VONN BELL/S 5’11/205 JR                                                  #9 JAYLON SMITH/LB 6’2/235 JR
#15 EZEKIEL ELLIOTT/RB 6’/225 JR                                   #20 CJ PROSISE/RB 6’1/220 JR
#37 JOSHUA PERRY/LB 6’3/255                                            #22 ELIJAH SHUMATE/S 6’/215 INJ
#57 CHASE FARRIS/OG 6’5/310                                             #45 ROMEO OKWARA/DE 6’4/260
#68 TAYLOR DECKER/OT 6’7/315                                         #72 NICK MARTIN/C 6’5/301
#81 NICK VANNETT/TE 6’6/260                                            #78 RONNIE STANLEY/T 6’6/315 rJR
#92 ADOLPHUS WASHINGTON/DT 6’4/295 SUS              #91 SHELDON DAY/DT 6’2/290
#97 JOEY BOSA/DE 6’6/275 JR

ROSE BOWL; 5 PM ET; ESPN
IOWA (12-1) vs. STANFORD (11-2)
Iowa may be one of the great surprise teams of the past decade with their perfect 12-0 Big Ten regular season. But some of their shortcomings were exposed against the Spartans. And one of those is likely to come up again in their match-up with Stanford. Their lack of quality depth could allow Stanford to wear them down and pull away in the 4th Quarter of play. Iowa will be counting heavily on their 20th ranked Defense to hold down the 39th ranked Stanford Offense. But I’m not sure how they shut down Stanford’s young super star CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY/#5. McCaffrey led D-1 in total offense, with 3469 total yards, which broke the record of BARRY SANDERS. He does it all with smarts, speed and moves that break defenders’ ankles. The Hawkeyes secondary may have a few surprises in place to slow down QB/KEVIN HOGAN and his receivers. One of the biggest may be CB/DESMOND KING, who led the nation with 8 INT in 2015. He’s an all around player as evidenced by his 67 tackles on the Corner. IOWA’s tough D also featured two players with over 100 tackles in the LB combo of JOSEY JEWELL & COLE FISHER.
Iowa’s pedestrian Offense will have a tough time pounding out yardage all day against a stout and deep Cardinal D. BLAKE MARTINEZ/ILB leads that crew with his 132 tackles this season. STANFORD’s D ranked 44th overall this season, while the Iowa O was 67th overall.
Either way you slice it the nod goes to Stanford. Just like Michigan State got out-classed and out-muscled last night against Alabama, I expect this to not be close when the final gun sounds. Sorry Big Ten. Prospects to Watch:

IOWA                                                                             STANFORD
#4 TREVAUN SMITH/WR 6’2/205                            #4 BLAKE MARTINEZ/ILB 6’2/247
#14 DESMOND KING/CB/RS 5’11/200 JR               #8 KEVIN HOGAN/QB 6’4/225
#27 JORDAN LOMAX/S 5’10/205                            #21 RONNIE HARRIS/CB 5’10/175
#33 JASON CANZERI/RB 5’9/192                           #48 KEVIN ANDERSON/OLB 6’4/245
#36 COLE FRAZIER/LB 6’2/235                               #51 JOSHUA GARNETT/OG 6’5/325
#63 AUSTIN BLYHE/OC 6’3/290                             #78 KYLE MURPHY/OT 6’7/300
#65 JORDAN WALSH/OG 6’4/290                          #89 DEVIN CAJUSTE/WR 6’4/229
#80 HENRY KREIGER-COBLE/TE 6’4/250

December 30 Bowls

BIRMINGHAM BOWL, NOON ET; ESPN
AUBURN (6-6) vs. MEMPHIS (9-3)
At first blush this might look like a serious mismatch given the records of both teams. But the reality of an SEC schedule vs. an AAC one cannot be ignored. It also cannot help Memphis that HC JUSTIN FUENTE is already on the job at VA TECH. DARRELL DICKEY will take over the helm for this battle. Conversely, Auburn is missing DC WILL MUSCHAMP who is on the job at South Carolina already. In a statistical oddity Auburn has identical statistical FCS rankings in total Offense and Defense. Unfortunately, the ranking is rather poor at 91st on both sides of the ball. On paper you have to wonder what Auburn is going to do to stop Memphis which enters the game with a national ranking on Offense of 12th. It’s not very hard to figure out why Auburn ranks 91st on Offense. The primary blame lies with the QB position, where the combo of WHITE/JOHNSON combined has thrown for 10 TD and 9 INT. Injuries at RB have also slowed the running game which ranked 40th in the nation. Auburn’s top WR is RICARDO LOUIS with a whopping 45 catches and 3 TD. Memphis is of course led by top QB prospect PAXTON LYNCH, who completed 69% of his throws this past season for 3670 yards and a TD/INT ratio 28 TD/3 INT. IN my book he should be a Top 5 Draft Pick. Because defenses have to concentrate so much of LYNCH and his passing game a solid RB group manages to average just under 200 yards per game. I look for Auburn to try some creative work from the start, but tricks can only go so far. As long as Memphis is patient their offense should win out and eventually pull away form the Tigers. But I still believe Auburn has more talent than their record indicates. This could be a pretty exciting contest for much of the game with Memphis winning by about 10.
Prospects to watch:

AUBURN                                                                      MEMPHIS
#5 RICARDO LOUIS/WR 6’2/215                               #5 MOSE FRAZIER/WR 5’11/185
#6 DE’VONTE LAMBERT/DE 6’6/282                    #12 PAXTON LYNCH/QB 6’7/230 JR
#1 MONTRAVIUS ADAMS/DT 6’4/296 JR            #39 REGGIS BALL/S 5’11/210
#8 CASSANOVA McKINZY/LB 6’3/253                  #40 ALAN CROSS/TE 6’1/245
#17 KRIS FROST/LB 6’2/240                                     #53 LEONARD PEGUES/LB 5’11/240
#55 CARL LAWSON/ER 6’2/257                               #77 TAYLOR FALLIN/OT 6’6/325
#72 SHON COLEMAN/OT 6’6/313 JR

BELK BOWL; 3:30 PM ET; NORTH CAROLINA STATE (7-5) vs MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4)

Still not sure what a belk is. An animal related to an elk; maybe a plant native to North Carolina. Any help would be appreciated. Whatever a bel is they named a bowl game in Charlotte and this year’s game features a pretty good match-up between two of the best senior QBs in college football in Dak Prescott of Mississippi State and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett. Prescott, a kind of a poor man’s Tim Tebow, albeit with a much better arm, passed for over 3,400 yards this fall as he completed 67% of his passes, including 25 for scores against just 4 picks, while he ran for another 540 yards; he’s considered to be a second day prospect. For his part, Brissett wasn’t quite as efficient throwing for 2,500 yards with 19 TD passes on a 61% completion mark, but like Prescott also only had 4 picks. Brissett also isn’t quite as highly rated as Prescott, but does seem to be moving up draft boards around the league as he has good size and arm strength.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ Prescott could be joined on the second day by several teammates including rangy, big-play junior WR De-Runnya Wilson, DT Chris Jones and CB Will Redmond (although the latter is out with an injury. At the same time, other members of the Wolfpack to watch with later round potential include G/T Joe Thuney, OT Alex Barr, CB Juston Burns and DE Mike Rose. Prospects to watch:

MISSISSIPPI STATE                                                     NORTH CAROLINA STATE

QB Dak Prescott, #15, 6-2, 230                                        QB Jacoby Brissett, #12, 6-4, 235
WR De’Runnya Wilson, #1, 6-4, 215                               OT Joe Thuney, #54, 6-3, 295
DT Chris Jones, #98, 6-4, 310                                          OT Alex Barr, #71, 6-6, 320
CB Taveze Calhoun, #23, 6-0, 180                                  DE Mike Rose, #90, 6-2, 280
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                  CB Juston Burns, #11, 5-11, 210

MUSIC CITY BOWL, 7 PM ET; ESPN
TEXAS A&M (8-4) vs LOUISVILLE (7-5)
We’ll see if the Aggies can generate Offense without any of their top QB like Baylor did yesterday. JAKE HUBERNAK, a JC transfer, who was 12/27- 92 yards- 1 TD for the year in mop up work is the newest starter for the Aggies, who have seen their top 2 QB leave school in the past few weeks. Meanwhile, Louisville has improved greatly as the season progressed and right now is a dynamic run/pass team featuring an exciting a true frosh QB in #8 LAMAR JACKSON, who has weapons galore to throw to. Despite a slew of new starters on their Defensive unit, the CARDINALS ranked 14th overall on Defense this past season. They also led their conference (ACC) in takeaways during 2014 with 27. They are strong at every level of the defense and HUBERNAK will be hard pressed to mount a consistent offense, despite some very solid offensive weapons, especially at WR. Meanwhile, Louisville has improved greatly as the season progressed and right now is a dynamic run/pass QB in #8 LAMAR JACKSON, a true frosh. JACKSON is actually a better runner than passer at this early stage of his college career, but the basic talent is there. He passed for 1613 yards passing, while completing 56% of his throws for 10 TD & 8 INT. JACKSON also rushed for 734 yards, including 9 TD. This could play to Louisville’s advantage since A&M’s defense finished 97th against the run, yielding 206 yards per game. I expect a young Louisville squad to set the tone for 2016 with a solid win over A&M in this game. Prospects to watch:

TEXAS A&M                                                         LOUISVILLE
#11 JOSH REYNOLDS/WR 6’4/190 JR              #13 JAMES BURGESS/LB 6’0/229
#21 TRA CARSON/RB 6’0/235                             #44 PIO VATUVEI/DE 6’2/296
#38 DREW KASER/P 6’3/210                               #45 JOHN WALLACE/K 6’1/190
#56 MIKE MATTHEWS/OC 6’2/290                  #78 AARON EPPS/OT 6’7/288
#74 GERMAIN IFEDI/OT 6’5/325 JR                 #97 DE’ANGELO BROWN/DT 6’0/308
#79 JOSEPH CHEEK/OG 6’6/310                       #98 SHELDON RANKIN/DL 6’2/303
#93 ALONZO WILLIAMS/DT 6’4/295

HOLIDAY BOWL; SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (8-5) vs WISCONSIN (9-3); 10:30 PM ET; ESPN

It will be the Big Ten versus the PAC-12 in San Diego in Wednesday’s nightcap in something of a Rose Bowl lite that has the potential to be a very entertaining game. Certainly, pro scouts will be out in force at the Holiday Bowl to check out a number of potentially interesting prospects for the upcoming draft, starting with USC senior QB Cody Kessler. Kessler was one of the more productive passers in college football this past season when he completed 68% of his pass attempts for over 3,300 yards and 28 scores against just 6 picks. However, Kessler has never gotten much love from NFL personnel people as he lacks prototype size and doesn’t have a real rocket for an arm. As a result, Kessler could very well last well into the third day of the 2016 draft where he could be something of a steal for some team. On the other hand, USC junior OLB Su’a Cravens likely won’t have to wait anywhere nearly that long to get a call this spring if he opts to enter the 2016 draft. Cravens, who could also get some looks as a SS, the position he was originally recruited at, figures to go somewhere in the middle of the second round. Meanwhile, USC has several other mid-to-late round candidates including CB Kevon Seymour, RB Tre Madden, DE Greg Townsend, DTs Delvon Simmons and Antwuan Woods, OLB Anthony Sarao, and FB Soma Vainuku. The best prospects for the Trojans, though, are true sophs CB Adoree Jackson and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster who won’t be draft eligible until 2017.

The big news for Wisconsin heading to the Holiday Bowl is that star junior RB Corey Clement could be back in uniform for the Badgers. Clement had been considered to be one of the top 4-5 prospects at the position for upcoming draft, but barely played this fall because of several injuries, most notably a sports hernia condition. For the record, Clement is not expected to turn pro this winter. That would make unheralded OLB Joe Schobert as the Badgers top prospect for the upcoming draft. Schobert isn’t overly big or athletic, but he just seems to find a way to get into the backfield where he registered 9.5 sacks and 9 other tackles for loss this fall. Schobert figures to be a late third or early 4th round pick this April. Meanwhile, other Badgers with later round possibilities include OT Tyler Marz, FS Tanner McEvoy, SS Michael Caputo, CB Darius Hillary and FB Derek Watt, the younger brother of star NFL DE J.J. Watt. Prospects to watch:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA                                                                        WISCONSIN

QB Cody Kessler, #6, 6-1, 215                                                                              QB Joel Stave, #2, 6-3, 220
RB Tre Madden, #23, 5-11, 225                                                                           RB Corey Clement, #6, 5-10, 220, JR
FB Soma Vainuku, #31, 6-0, 255                                                                        FB Derek Watt, #34, 6-1, 240
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, #9, 6-3, 210, SO                                                     OT Tyler Marz, #61, 6-6, 320
DE Greg Townsend, #93, 6-3, 275                                                                     LB Joe Schobert, #58, 6-1, 240
DT Antwuan Woods, #99, 6-, 320                                                                      FS Tanner McEvoy, #3, 6-5, 235
DT Delvon Simmons, #52, 6-4, 295                                                                   SS Michael Caputo, #7, 5-11, 210
LB Su’a Cravens, #21, 6-1, 225                                                                            CB Darius Hillary, #5, 5-10, 190
LB Anthony Sarao, #56, 5-11, 235
CB Adoree Jackson, #2, 5-10, 185, SO
CB Kevon Seymour, #13, 5-11, 185

Bowling Time

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL;  BAYLOR (9-3) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (11-2); 5:30 PM ET; ESPN

Both of these teams had Final Four aspirations in November but BAYLOR lost its top 2 QBs and UNC had to face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. But this still looks like a very attractive match-up to watch which probably deserves to be played on January 1. ART & KENDAL BRILES have a lot of confidence in their current starting QB even if no one else does. CHRIS JOHNSON/6’5/235/#13 is looking to be this season’s CARDALE JONES. He had been moved to WR because of RUSSELL/STIDHAM ahead of him, but he brings a nice combination of run/pass ability. Here’s the other good news for Baylor fans; they face a UNC Defense that ranked 77th in FBS. Even without their top RB & WR the Bears should have plenty of ammunition to score points on that UNC D. KD CANNON & JAY LEE still offer good targets for JOHNSON and forgotten Sr. RB/DEVIN CHAFIN has picked up the slack in the running game. It may require a couple of takeaways by the Tar Heel Defense to slow down Baylor’s O. It appears as though the UNC attack should be able to move the ball against Baylor’s 56th ranked Defense. The UNC Offense ranked 20th overall and is equally adept at the running and passing game with dual threat QB DOMINIQUE WILLIAMS/QB and star Soph RB/ELIJAH HOOD/#34, who gained 1345 yds rushing for 17 TD. WILLIAMS, by the way, accounted for 32 TD, 21 passing & 11 more rushing. A solid match-up for you to concentrate on is BAYLOR’s DL featuring OAKMAN, PALMER & BILLINGS, against the solid UNC OL and RB/HOOD. This may sound crazy but I’ll take BAYLOR with JOHNSON at the helm to win in a shootout. Bet the over folks, because the weather should be warm and the field will be dry. Prospects to watch:

BAYLOR                                                                     NORTH CAROLINA
#2 SHAWN OAKMAN/DE 6’9/280                       #10 JEFF SCHOETTMER//LB 6’2/235
#4 JAY LEE/WR 6’3/215                                          #12 MARQUISE WILLIAMS/QB 6’2/220
#28 DEVIN CHAFIN/RB 6’0/225                          #14 QUINSHAD DAVIS/WR 6’4/210
#58 SPENCER DRANGO/T 6’5/310                      #42 SHAKEEL RASHAD/OLB 6’2/245
#69 PAT COLBERT/T 6’6/305                                #78 LANDON TURNER/OG 6’4/325
#75 ANDREW BILLINGS/DT 6’1/310 JR             #98 JUSTIN THOMASON/DT 6’4/290
#92 JAMAL PALMER/DE/LB 6’3/240

TEXAS BOWL; LSU (8-3) vs TEXAS TECH (7-5); 9 PM ET; ESPN

Sort of an irony that the Texas bowl will be played in -well – Texas with presumably Texas Tech as the presumptive home team, but its likely that LSU, from just down the road, has the majority of fans. The Tigers also have the majority of prospects for the 2016 draft including junior CB Tre’Davious White and massive G/T Vadal Alexander, both of whom could get some late first round interest this coming April. LSU could also have a bunch of other second-day picks including OLB Deion Jones, FS Jalen Mills, along with juniors Jerald Hawkins, the other bookend OT, MLB Kentrell Brothers and C Ethan Pocic. Of course, the LSU player that just about every NFL would like to get their hands on is star sophomore RB Leonard Fournette, who had almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage this fall including over 1,700 on the ground as he averaged 6.4 yards a pop and scored 18 times. Fournette though won’t be draft eligible until 2017. Texas Tech also has a pretty good OT in veteran LT Le’raven Clark, who could be a steal in the middle rounds, while RB Dwayne Washington and OLB Pete Robertson have later round credentials. Prospects to watch:

LSU                                                                                TEXAS TECH
RB Leonard Fournette, #7, 6-0, 230                            OT Le’Raven Clark, #62, 6-5, 320
TE Dillon Gordon, #85, 6-3, 310                                   RB DeAndre Washington, #21, 5-8, 200
OT Vadal Alexander, #74, 6-5, 330                               OLB Pete Robertson, #10, 6-2, 240
OT Jerald Hawkins, #65, 6-5, 305, JR                         DE Brandon Jackson, #9, 6-3, 270
C Ethan Pocic, #77, 6-4, 310                                           LB Micah Awe, #18, 6-0, 225
LB Kentrell Beckwith, #52, 6-1, 255
LB Deion Jones, #45, 6-0, 230
CB Tre’davious White, #16, 5-10, 195
FS Jalen Mills, #28, 6-0, 200
P Jamie Keehn, #38, 6-3, 235

ARIZONA BOWL; COLORADO STATE (7-5) vs NEVADA (6-6), 7:30 ET; ASN

I have held my tongue and pen for over a week now, but this game exemplifies how the NCAA has prostituted the Bowl Game process for a few more dollars. Both of these teams play in the Mountain West Conference, and even the Conference Commissioner complained about the match-up as a Bowl Game. Perhaps the best news is most of you won’t even be able to find it on your TV menu because as of press time it’s only being broadcast on the Arizona Sports Network basically on cable in the state of Arizona. There is no practical reason for this game to exist. Come on NCAA, wise up and contract the Bowl schedule… please. The biggest news for this game is that you may get a chance to watch one of the top WR Draft prospects in RASHARD HIGGINS/WR/#82 of the Rams. The team switched to a predominately running attack this season under new HC MIKE BOBO, and yet HIGGINS still managed to catch 66 balls for 933 yards and 8 TD. I can’t see him going back for his senior season under the new coaching regime and philosophy. Prospects to watch:

COLORADO STATE                                                 NEVADA
#16 TRENT MATTHEWS/S 6’3/210                          #6 DON JACKSON/RB 5’10/210
#31 CORY JAMES/OLB 6’1/240                                 #8 IAN SEAU/E/OLB 6’2/255
#82 RASHAD HIGGINS/WR 6’2/190 JR               #49 JORDAN DOBRICH/LB 6’2/235
#86 KIVON CARTWRIGHT/TE 6’4/245                 #94 LENNY JONES/DE/ER 6’3/270
#90 JOE KAWULOK/DE 6’6/260

BONUS COVERAGE: The 4th game today – well actually the first – is the Armed Forces Bowl (2 PM ET; ESPN) in Fort Worth between California (7-5) and Air Force (8-5) probably features the fewest number of draft prospects of any of the day’s games. Hwever, it also has the top prospect today in Cal junior QB Jared Goff (#16, 6-4, 210) who has top 5-10 potential for this spring’s draft. Goff has a couple of very good skill weapons to work with in big-play junior WR Kenny Lawlor (#4, 6-1, 195) and tough RB Daniel Glasco (#2, 5-11, 210). Cal OG Jordan Rigsbee (#73, 6-3, 305) is also a good one. Meanwhile, the Air Force isn’t going to have anyone drafted, but DE Alex Hanson (#87, 6-3, 260) could possibly get some free agent consideration.

DEC 28 BOWLS

MILITARY BOWL: PITTSBURGH (8-4) vs NAVY (10-2); 2:30 PM; ESPN …

Pitt and Navy will play in the Military Bowl in Annapolis in a renewal of an old-time eastern football rivalry. What makes this version of Pitt-Navy a bit unusual is that it is the 10-2 Midshipmen, who came within a game of possibly qualifying for a January 1st bowl, are the ranked team coming in. Even more odd is the fact that Navy make actually have the better draft picks than Pittsburgh. The Panthers, though, have the top prospect in this game in junior WR Tyler Boyd (#23, 6-1, 200), one of the more dynamic playmakers in college football. However, Boyd is coming off an up-and-down season which got off to a rocky start because of some off-field issues that has seen his draft grade slip from a potential top 10-15 prospect into the middle of the second round range. Boyd, though, is Pitt’s only lock to be drafted, although a number of other Panthers including DE Ejuan Price (#5, 6-0, 250), an odd-sized edge rusher who had 11.5 sacks this past season, TE J.P. Holtz (#86, 6-3, 250), C Artie Rowell (#57, 6-1, 300), DT Darryl Render (#91, 6-2, 300), OLB Nic Grigsby (#3, 6-0, 220) and CB Lafayette Pitts (#6, 5-10, 195) are either later round or free agent candidates. Draft prospects from the academies, of course, are always limited by their future military commitments, but Navy has at least a couple of players that NFL teams will be looking at including star QB Keenan Reynolds (#19, 5-11, 195) and FB Chris Swain (#37, 6-0, 245). Reynolds, in fact, was one of the top players in all college football this past season and in a perfect world should have at least been invited to the Heisman trophy presentation after he ran for over 1,200 yards and 21 TDs this season while passing for another 1,000 yards. Reynolds needs three rushing TDs against Pitt to reclaim the all-time career rushing TD mark that he set earlier in the season, but then lost to Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon last week. In fact, while nominally a QB, Reynolds will be scouted as a RB this winter.  Meanwhile, Swain is a bowling ball type FB who ran for over 90 yards this season. NFL teams will also take a look at a couple of Navy defensive linemen in DE Will Anthony (#90, 6-1, 255), an explosive edge rusher who had 7.5 sacks this season, and stumpy DT Bernard Sarra (#77, 6-0, 300).

QUICK LANE BOWL: MINNESOTA (5-7) vs CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5); 5 PM; ESPN2 …

This is another one of those games that make the case (for those that want to make it) that there really are too many bowls. I mean does anybody really want to be in Detroit the last week of December to watch a sub.500 Big Ten team battle a 7-5 MAC team. But that’s what one gets with Minnesota against Central Michigan in a game that doesn’t even get on ESPN’s main network. At least, Minnesota has some definite draft possibilities on the defensive side of the ball including veteran CBs Briean Brody Calhoun (#29, 5-10, 190) and Eric Murray (#31, 5-11, 200), both of who have at least some second-day potential, along with DE Thieren Cockran (#55, 6-5, 260), OLB De’Vondre Campbell (#26, 6-4, 240) and SS Antonio Johnson (#11, 5-11, 200) who led the team in tackles this fall with 99. To a large degree, defense is also the name of the game at Central Michigan where SS Kavon Frazier (#5, 6-0, 215) is the team’s only real draft prospect, although veteran C Nick Beamish (#54, 6-3, 310) and TE Ben McCord (#89, 6-3, 240) are possible free agent targets.

Bowl Games post Christmas

WE are now getting down to the nitty gritty of the Bowl Season with an escalation in quality of the teams involved. By next week we will be watching the Final Four games, but for now how about some info on the Big Six Saturday contests for the day after Christmas.

ST PETERSBURG BOWL: UCONN (6-6) v MARSHALL (9-3); 11 AM ET; ESPN … Perennial Conference USA powerhouse MARSHALL had another strong season bringing a 9-3 record to this contest against surprise 6-6 UCONN from the surprisingly strong AAC. It looks like a mismatch to me with UCONN relying on its Defense to put them in position to compete on most game days. But this game looks like a mismatch even for the 34th ranked UCONN D. MARSHALL comes into the contest with the 62nd ranked Offense which improved late in the season under Frosh QB/CHASE LITTON, who completed 59.3% of his throws for 2387 yards and a 22/7 TD/INT ratio. And as the season progressed star RB/DEVON JOHNSON got healthier helping to present a balanced offensive attack that even UCONN will be hard pressed to stop. But the biggest mismatch will take place when UCONN has the ball. They will be asking an Offense that ranked 115th in FBS play to score points against 47th ranked MARSHALL Offense. Dual threat Huskies QB BRYANT SHIRREFS/Soph offers dual talents having completed 60.3% of his throws as well as rushing for 428 yards. But his TD/INT ratio of 9/7 is worrisome against a very quick Marshall D led by LB/EVAN McKELVEY and his 113 tackles. I would expect that MARSHALL will wear out the Huskies and pull away to a double digit victory. Prospects to watch:

MARSHALL                                                                                UCONN
#3 DEVONTE ALLEN/WR 6’2/200                                       #22 ANDREW ADAMS/S 6’0/197
#17 TAJ LETMAN/SS 6’2/190                                                 #90 JULIAN CAMPBELL/DT 6’0/302
#31 EVAN McKELVEY/LB 6’3/215                                         #95 KENTON ADEYEMI/DE 6’4/285
#47 DEVIN JOHNSON/RB 6-0/243

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL; WASHINGTON (6-6) vs SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (9-4); 2 PM ET; ESPN … If nothing else this game may settled the age old question whether a .500 power conference 5 teams is really better than a fair-to-middling 9-win team from a non-power 5 league when the Huskies from the PAC-12 face the Golden Eagles from the C-USA. That’s about the only question likely to be answered in this game which also has few legitimate draft prospects. Washington OLB Travis Feeney, though, could get some mid-to-late round attention while WR Jaydon Mickens, TE Josh Perkins, and DT Taniela Tupou are possib;le free agent pickups. Same for RB Jalen Richard and CB Kalen Reed, Southern Miss’ best pro prospects. Prospects to watch:

WASHINGTON                                                                     SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
OLB Travis Feeney, #47, 6-3, 225                                            RB Jalen Richard, #30, 5-8, 210
WR Jaydon Mickens, #1, 5-9, 175                                            WR Mike Thomas, #1, 6-0, 200
TE Josh Perkins, #82, 6-3, 230                                               OT Rashod Hill, #75, 6-5, 310
DT Taniela Tupou, #90, 6-2, 295                                            OT Norman Price, #72, 6-4, 315
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                         LB Brian Anderson, #18, 5-10, 240
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                         CB Kalen Reed, #11, 5-10, 195

SUN BOWL; MIAMI (8-4) VS. WASHINGTON STATE (8-4); 2:30 PM ET; CBS
This is the first bowl game this year between in which both teams come from power 5 conferences, although things actually started poorly for both of these teams in 2015 but they both got on a role. It took a head coaching change in Miami. State rose to occasion under the guidance of MIKE LEACH and bounced back strong from a 3-9 record in 2014, one of the best turnarounds in major college football. State finished the year with the 22nd ranked Offense in the country averaging 80 yards a game rushing (120th ranked) but finishing first in FBS football with an average of 397 yards passing per game. Pass defense was the strength of the Miami D, at 196 yards per game, so that might make for an interesting match-up. Soph LUKE FALK, potentially a leading prospect for the 2017 draft, completed 70.7 % of his throws for the Cougars and had a 36 TD passes, with only 8 INT. His number top targets were GABE MARKS & DOM WILLIAMS, a sure handed receiver with 73 catches for 997 yards and 11 TD who should be a 4th Rounder at worst next April. DEON BUSH/S leads a strong and athletic Miami secondary who may push the envelope with WSU’s receivers.
Miami ranked 62nd in Offensive yards though BRAD KAAYA/QB/#15 completed 61.7% of his throws for 3019 yards and 15 TD. Things were surprisingly sluggish in the MIami running game despite having Soph JOSEPH YEARBY/#2, just miss gaining 1000 yards (939). The Hurricanes’ OL looks a bit soft and out of shape which might account for some of their problems. No MIami receiver was able to top 50 catches despite quality names like COLEY/WATERS/SCOTT to catch MAAYA’s throws. The WSU Defense ranked 93rd in the country overall and unless they are able to pressure KAAYA, could give up a lot of yardage and points. I’ll take WASHINGTON STATE in a barn burner. In a way this may be a very traditional football game in the sense that whoever wins the turnover/takeaway battle will win the contest between two pretty evenly matched teams. Prospects to watch:

MIAMI                                                                         WASHINGTON STATE

#6 HERB WATERS/WR 6’2/195                               #80 DOM WILLIAMS/WR 6’2/190
#11 RASHAWN SCOTT/WR 6’2/205                          #9 GABE MARKS/WR 6’0/181
#2 DEON BUSH/S 6’1/205                                         #56 JOE DAHL/OT 6’4/305
#17 TYRIQ McCORD/LB 6’3/235                              #97 DESTINY VAEAO/DE 6’4/295
#47 UFOMBA KAMALU/DT 6’6/295                         #8 JEREMIAH ALLISON/LB 6’2/225
#93 CALVIN HEURTELOU/DT 6’3/315                 #30 TAYLOR TALIULU/S 5’11/206

PINSTRIPE BOWL; DUKE (7-5) vs. INDIANA (6-6); 3:30 PM ET; ABC … If all hands are on deck and healthy this could be another game to provide the high speed entertainment of a video game. INDIANA finished the season with the 16th ranked offense in the FBS. To the surprise of many they were incredibly balanced on Offense rushing for 205 yards/game (29th) and passing for 286 yards/game (25th). When healthy QB/NATE SUDFELD passed for 3184 yards, including 24 TD and only 5 INT. UAB transfer RB/JORDAN HOWARD/#8 ran for 1213 yards @ 6.2 ypc when healthy. They will face a Duke D that ranked 46th in the country, but can make big plays, forcing multiple turnovers. They are led by S/JEREMY CASH a Top 100 pro prospect. The DUKE Offense was not as prolific as we’ve come to expect under HC DAVID CUTCLIFFE, ranking 40th overall. But on most game days Jr. QB/THOMAS SIRK is a dangerous dual-threat QB. SIRK passed for 2462 yards and 15 TD, while also leading the team in rushing with 648 yards, for 6 TD. The INDIANA D ranked 120th on Defense allowing over 500 yards per game to opponents. How about we just say last team with the ball probably wins an exciting match-up. Prospects to watch:

DUKE                                                                                INDIANA
#35 ROSS MARTIN/K 5’10/185                                       #7 NATE SUDFELD/QB 6’5/240
#87 MAX McCAFFREY/WR 6’2/195                              #8 JORDAN HOWARD/RB 6’1/225 JR
#62 MATT SKURA/OC 6’4/305                                     #85 MICHAEL COOPER/TE 6’5/257
#89 BRAXTON DEAVER/TE 6’5/240                           #78 JASON SPRIGGS/OT 6’7/305
#16 JEREMY CASH/SS 6’2/205                                      #56 NICK MANGIERI/DE 6’5/270
#41 WILL MONDAY/P 6’4/210

INDEPENDENCE BOWL; TULSA (6-6) vs VIRGINIA TECH (6-6); 5:45 PM ET; ESPN … Okay lets be honest, other than a send-off for long-time Hokies’ head coach Frank Beamer, this a match-up between a pair of 6-6 teams is the kind of game that only a family member or really dedicated alum could love. And even that might be a stretch as we suspect that while Shreveport is probably very nice at this time of year, it probably isn’t going to make many people’s list of top places to be to spend the holidays. Those that do check in on the Golden Hurricanes and Hokies will want to check out Tulsa WR Keyarris Garrett. Certainly, pro scouts are aware of Garrett, one of the most productive players in the country who caught 88 passes while he was second nationally with just under 1,500 receiving yards. Garrett isn’t a burner, but is built along the lines of Anquan Boldin and is just plane hard to cover because of his physicality, although right now he is still rated as a middle-round prospect at best. Same for Tech DT Luther Maddy, who isn’t all that big but is a very quick, disruptive interior defender who can get into the backfield. Its also the same story of Hokies’ DE/OLB Dadi Nicolas, who has a burst off the snap, but has had his share of off-field troubles along the way. The Hokies also have a pretty good TE tandem in senior Ryan Malleck and redshrt sophomore Bucky Hodges, who could figure in the latter part of the second-day if he opts to enter this year’s draft. Prospects to watch:

VIRGINIA TECH                                                            TULSA

QB Michael Brewer, #12, 6-0, 200                                    WR Keyarris Garrett, #1, 6-3, 225)
TE Ryan Malleck, #88, 6-5, 245                                         FS Michael Mudoh (#1, 5-10, 205)
TE Bucky Hodges, #7, 6-5, 255, RSO
DE Dadi Nicolas, #90, 6-3, 240
DE Corey Marshall, #96, 6-2, 365
DT Luther Maddy, #97, 6-0, 295

FOSTER FARMS BOWL; UCLA (8-4) vs NEBRASKA (5-7); 9:15 PM ET; ESPN … No one would forgive the folks at UCLA for thinking ‘we win 8 games in a tough conference and this crummy bowl nobody’s ever heard of against a sub-.500 is the best they can do.’ For the record, the storied Foster Farms Bowl is played in Santa Clara, which I guess means that at least the Bruins can save some money on travel costs. If there is a reason to watch this game, its to check a trio of very good junior DTs thinking of entering the 2016 draft including UCLA’s Kenny Clark and Maliek Collins and Vince Valentine of Nebraska. The Bruins’ Clark, in particular, is a rising prospect with mid-first round potential for the upcoming draft. Meanwhile, UCLA also has a number of decent other mid-round prospects including RB Paul Perkins, WR Jordan Payton, OLB Aaron Wallace and PK Ka’imi Fairbairn, this year’s Lou Groza award winner who hit on a 60-yarder during the season. Of course, the UCLA guy most scouts would really like to see – LB Myles Jack – won’t be in uniform as he has been sidelined since the third week of the season with a knee injury, although he has already announced he will be entering the draft. And for future reference UCLA freshman QB Josh Rosen is one of the top young passers in the country, although he won’t be draft eligible until 2018. Prospects to watch:

UCLA                                                                                          NEBRASKA

QB Josh Rosen, #3, 6-3, 215, FR                                                OT Alex Lewis, #71, 6-5, 290
RB Paul Perkins, #24, 5-10, 200                                                OT Zach Sterup, #57, 6-7, 320
WR Jordan Payton, #9, 6-0, 215                                                DT Maliek Collins, #7, 6-2, 300, JR
TE Thomas Duarte, #18, 6-3, 225, JR                                       DT Vince Valentine, #98, 6-2, 320, JR
C Jake Brendl, #54, 6-3, 290
DT Kenny Clark, #97, 6-3, 310
OLB Aaron Wallace, #51, 6-3, 245
PK Ka’imi Fairbairn, #15, 6-0, 185

CHRISTMAS EVE BOWL GAMES

BAHAMAS BOWL; NOON ET; ESPN
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (7-5) vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN (7-5)
This is the story of two pretty good college teams that faced tough schedules and battled their way to this game out in the middle of the Caribbean for the Christmas Holidays. Certainly this presents one of the most interesting venues of all the Holiday Bowls. And it also features some surprisingly equal looking match-ups. Let me give you a couple of examples. Both teams rank in the the Top 30 for D1, oops FBS, Offenses at 21st for WMU and 29th for MTS. Amazingly, both starting QB completed 66.7% of their throws for 27 TD and 8 INT on the season. Both, BRENT STOCKSTILL (MTS) & ZACH TERRELL (WMU), also had 100 catch receivers in RICHIE JAMES (100) and DANIEL BRAVERMAN (103) respectively. But the top pro prospect for WMU is Junior COREY DAVIS/WR who hauled in 77 catches for 13 TD. Both teams have effective running games, which function by committee. Although MTS struggled somewhat with the 56th ranked Defense in the nation they have a top S prospect for the next Draft in KEVIN BYARD, who is a solid tackler as well as a ball hawking INT man. BYARD and WMU OT/WILLIE BEAVERS are both currently listed as participants in the Senior Bowl. Unless the defense step it up and create some turnovers look for this edition of the Bahamas Bowl to be just as wide open and high scoring as last year’s contest which featured Western Kentucky. Prospects to watch:

MIDDLE TENNESSEE                                                          WESTERN MICHIGAN
#80 ED’MARQUES BATTIE/WR 6’0/197                               #84 COREY DAVIS/WR 6’3/205 JR
#75 DARIUS JOHNSON/OG 6’3/305                                      #70 WILLIE BEAVERS/OT 6’5/309
#38 TT BARBER/LB 6’1/229                                                     #89 ERIC BOYDEN/TE 6’4/250
#20 KEVIN BYARD/S 5’11/225                                                   #1 RONTAVIOUS ATKINS/S 6’0/207
#42 XAVIER WALKER/S 6’4/212

HAWAI’I BOWL; 8 PM ET; ESPN
CINCINNATI (7-5) vs SAN DIEGO STATE (10-3)

Potentially interesting match-up out in the Hawai’i Bowl with Cincinnati taking on San Diego State. Unfortunately, the best reason to watch this game, at least from a draft prospect perspective – Cincinnati junior QB Gunner Kiel – will not play because of what have been described as ‘personal issues’. However, the second best reason to watch Thursday evening – San Diego State junior RB Donnel Pumphrey (#19, 5-9, 185) will be in uniform. And while he’s not very big, Pumphrey, who ran for over 1,550 yards this fall and for good measure also led the team in receptions with 27, is incredibly quick and elusive such that he is considered to be a mid-round candidate for the upcoming draft. So is Cincinnati LT Parker Ehinger (#6-6, 320) who figures to slide inside to OG at the next level. Meanwhile, other Bearcats to watch with late-round pontential include WRs Mekale McKay (#2, 6-4, 210), Chris Moore (#15, 6-1, 205) and Shaq Washington (#19, 5-9, 185), and DE Silverberry Mouhon (#92, 6-2, 255).  For its part, San Diego State also has a pretty good LT in monstrous Pearce Slater (#71, 6-6, 335), another mid-round prospect, while OG Darrell Greene (#72, 6-3, 325) also has pro size. And while he likely won’t be drafted this year, SDSU LS Jeff Overbaugh (#60, 6-2, 240), an Alaskan who is headed to the Senior Bowl, is arguably the best long-snapper in the country.

DECEMBER 23

POINSETTA BOWL: BOISE STATE (8-4) v NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-5); 4:30 PM ET; ESPN … Today’s bowl doubleheader has a definite MAC flavor to it as teams from the conference will be in both games stating with Northern Illinois playing Boise State in the Poinsetta Bowl in San Diego. This game also features the highest rated prospect in either of the day’s games in BSU SS Darian Thompson (#4, 6-1, 210), a big hitter with second-day potential who also had 5 picks this past season. BSU also has several other seniors who figure to get some late round or free agent interest including C Marcus Henry (#72, 6-3, 295) and CB Donte Deayon (#5, 5-9, 160). However, the Broncos’ best players other than safety Thompson are underclassmnen such as big-play junior WR Thomas Sperbeck (#82, 5-11, 175) and sophomore RB Jeremy McNichols (#13, 5-9, 205). And yes, freshman QB Brett Rypien, the Mountain West newcomer of the year this fall, is the nephew of former NFL QB Mark Rypien. For its part, Northern Illinois also features one of the best young players in the country in sophomore CB Shawun Lurry (#19, 5-8, 180), an opportunistic ball-hawker whose 8 interceptions this past season led the country. As a true soph, though, Lurry won’t be draft eligible until 2017. In fact, it may be until 2017 when the next Husky gets drafted as they don’t have a ton of senior talent, although MLB Boomer Mays (#45, 6-0, 245), CB Paris Logan (#29, 5-9, 195) and OG Aidan Conlon (#61, 6-2, 305) could get some free agent calls.

GODADDY BOWL: BOWLING GREEN (10-3) v GEORGIA SOUTHERN (8-4); 8 PM ET; ESPN … One would think that there really couldn’t be much to get excited about watching a meaningless bowl game between Bowling Green and Georgia Southern, but one would be wrong. Indeed, Bowling Green features one of the best offenses in college football led by QB Matt Johnson (#11, 6-0, 220), who led the nation in passing yards this fall with 4,700. Johnson also tossed 43 TD passes while being picked off just 8 times. Hard to know what the NFL will make of Johnson because he lacks prototype height at barely 6-feet, although his reply might consist of two words: Russell Wilson. Meanwhile, here’s a quick trivia question (and be careful it might be a trick question): which of this year’s two star Big XII receivers, Corey Coleman of Baylor or TCU’s Josh Doctson, led the country in receiving yards. It was a trick as the answer is BGSU sophomore WR Roger Lewis (#1, 6-0, 200) who had 1,476 yards this past season when he averaged almost 18 yards per catch. And while he is still technically a true sophomore, Lewis is actually draft eligible this year because he attended a prep school for a year after graduating high school. For good measure Bowling Green also has a pretty good back in RB Travis Greene(#8, 5-9, 190), who ran for 1,200 yards this fall. In fact, RBs could be wild in this game as GSU junior Matt Brieda (#36, 5-10, 190) had over 1,500 yards on the ground and actually led the country with an 8.2 yards per carry average. Brieda, though, is unlikely to enter this year’s draft, and isn’t all that big anyway. Indeed, its unlikely that any GSU player will be drafted althougfh OLB Antwione Williams (#37, 6-2, 245) and FS Matt Dobson (#7, 6-1, 210) could be free agent candidates.

BOCA BOWL PREVIEW

TUESDAY DEC. 22

BOCA RATON BOWL 7PM/ET ESPN
TEMPLE (10-3) vs. TOLEDO (9-2)
Two solid teams, who felt just short of winning their respective conferences will match up in a game likely to be decided on the ground, more so than an aerial circus display. Neither PHILLIP ELY/QB/TOLEDO/#12 nor PJ WALKER/QB/TEMPLE/#11 is likely to light up the scoreboard with their passing skills. Neither of these two QB came even close to completing 60%+ of their passes this season at 54.9% & 57% respectively. Defense and running attacks are more likely to highlight the evening. Lightweight RB/JAHAD THOMAS/#34 at only 170 lbs. is a scatback who will touch the ball in as many variations as the coaching staff can dream up. He’s a big play waiting to happen. He rushed for 1257 yards and 17 TD this season. On the other side a healthy (we hope) RB/KAREEM HUNT/#3 is a legit power runner who may be coming out for the 2106 NFL Draft. HUNT runs mostly between the tackles, but once in the clear can outrun most college defenders. HUNT, in limited playing time, ran for 894 yards, at 5.5 ypc, and 10 TD.
Toledo has a solid defensive front-7 and ranked 10th in the country, allowing only 115 yards per game rushing. But their secondary was flat out horrible. They gave up an average of 263 yards per game passing to rank 103rd nationally. TEMPLE, meanwhile, was a stalwart unit on the defensive side, ranking 18th overall in the country. Their star player is of course TYLER MATAKEVICH, who won the BEDNARIK Award this year. But their front 7 is solid overall and should really present a challenge for Toledo to run against.
Primarily for that reason, I project TEMPLE to win a fairly close, but very low scoring game by today’s offensive standards. If either team gets particularly sloppy and turns over the ball a lot the score could get lopsided quickly. I hate to sound like an old-fashioned football guy, but expect field position to be crucial in deciding this game’s outcome. Prospects to watch:

TEMPLE                                                                  TOLEDO
#1 TAVON YOUNG/CB 5’10/185                            #3 KAREEM HUNT/RB 5’11/225 JR
#8 TYLER MATAKEVICH/LB 6’0/230                 #8 ALONZO RUSSELL/WR 6’4/205
#9 MATT IOANNIDIS/DT 6’4/290                      #43 TRENT VOSS/E/LB 6’3/220
#19 ROBBY ANDERSON/WR 6’3/190                 #97 ORION JONES/DL 6’2/290
#71 ERIC LOFTON/T/G 6’3/300                           99 ALLEN COVINGTON/DE 6’3/275
#79 KYLE FRIEND/OC 6’2/305

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
AKRON (7-5) v UTAH STATE (6-6); Boise; 3:30 PM ET; ESPN

If today’s other game is sort of what’s right about the bowls which give deserving second-tier teams a chance at a post-season, this game between a 7-5 MAC club and a .500 Mountain West squad kinda represent what’s wrong with the bowl schedule. In fact, about the only thing that the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – also know affectionately as the Blue Bowl because that is indeed blue turf on the field – has on the Boca Raton game is that the name kind of rolls off the tongue in an odd sort of way.  The Potato Bowl also doesn’t have the same talent as the Boca Raton game, but like that game does feature a pretty good OLB in Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell (#9, 6-4, 250), a prototype 3/4 edge rusher who figures to be a mid-to-late second day prospect. Fackrell, in fact, spent a good part of the season camped out in opposing MWC backfields where he had 14 tackles for loss on the year including 4 sacks. Fackrell, though, is likely the only player from this game to be drafted, although pro teams will at least check out USU QB Chuckie Keeton (#16, 6-2, 210) who at one-time in his career was one of the most productive dual-threat QBs in the country, however, his career has been derailed the past few years by knee injuries. Keeton has a couple of targets who could conceivably get some free agent interest in WRs Hunter Sharp(#4, 5-10, 200) and Brandon Swindall (#11, 6-2, 205). Meanwhile, Akron’s best player is active LB Jatavis Brown (#1, 5-11, 225), who isn’t very big, but makes plays all over the field to the tune of 108 tackles and 10.5 sacks this season.

Miami Beach Bowl

December 21: MIAMI BEACH BOWL; Western Kentucky (11-2) versus South Florida (8-4); 2:30 PM ET; ESPN … Fans looking for a little football something to help get warmed up before this evening’s potentially epic NFL Monday night game between Detroit and New Orleans might want to check out the Miami Beach Bowl which promises to be one of the better early games on this year’s bowl schedule. The best reason to watch is WKU QB Brandon Daughty (#12, 6-2, 210), one of the most productive passers in college history. Indeed, the 6th year senior figures to pass the 12,000 career passing yard mark sometime early in the first quarter this afternoon. That figure includes almost 4,600 yards this season, second only to Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, while his 45 passing TDs lead all of big-time college football. And while Doughty is still only considered to be a middle round prospect for the upcoming draft as he lacks a huge arm and has had a bit of an injury history, he is the kind of athletic, accurate passer – he completed 72% of his throws this year and has a career completion mark just under 70% – that NFL teams like to bring in as a developmental type QB. Daughty hopes to have TE Tyler Higbee (#82, 6-5, 250), another mid-to-late round prospect who caught 38 passes this fall, available this afternoon, but he will likely be a game-time decision because of an injury. Whether Higbee is able to go or not, Daughty should have plenty of targets including veyteran wideouts Jared Dangerfield (#21, 6-2, 205) and Antwayne Grant (#3, 6-0, 195), both of whom are late-round or free-agent types. The best of the bunch though is explosive junior WR Taywan Taylor (#2, 6-0, 195) who caught 79 passes to date for 1,400 yards. At the same time, the WKU defense has several potential free-agent candidates of its own in DTs Jontavius Morris (#3, 6-3, 305) and Bryan Shorter (#94, 6-2, 280) and LB Nick Holt (#10, 6-0, 230). The Hilltoppers’ D also has a pair of decent veteran corners who if nothing else lead the league in unique names in Wonderful Terry (#5, 5-9, 190) and Prince Charles Iworah (#30, 5-10, 200). For its part, South Florida also has several free agent candidates including productive TE Sean Price (#12, 6-3, 250) and FS Jamie Byrd (#2, 5-10, 185), along with P Mattias Ciabatti (#49, 5-11, 190).

LAS VEGAS BOWL

SATURDAY DECEMBER 19 LAS VEGAS BOWL, Las Vegas, Nevada 3:30 ET ABC

UTAH 9-3 VS BRIGHAM YOUNG 9-3
How about we rename this the Mormon Bowl, although its not exactly clear how these two conservative schools that both prohibit alcohol consumption on campus ended up in Sin City for their bowl. Go figure! The battle between intra-state rivals BYU and Utah is also something of a grudge match to say the least. Unofficially, a lot of folks in the state of UTAH refer to these games as Holy Wars. If you have been following the news items out of Vegas this week it is clear that some players on both teams do not like each other either. The COUGARS have already been labeled as “dirty players” by some UTES. BYU has double motivation to win this game: It is BRONCO MENDENHALL’s final game as HC before he leaves to take overa t Virginia, while the UTES dropped the rivalry match from it’s yearly schedule just this decade to schedule games with MICHIGAN.

Another factor that should make this a solid watch is the statistical fact that the teams are pretty evenly matched. Neither one had a great season, but both are in my Top 25, though nearer the bottom than top. They also have some very similar strengths and weaknesses. BYU ranks 43rd overall in Total Offense, while UTAH is down at 81st. BYU ranks 36th overall in Defense, while UTAH ranked 41st. Some of those numbers probably tighten up further given that UTAH played in the tough PAC-12, while BYU is an Independent. The schedule this season was considerably tougher on the whole for UTAH, in this man’s opinion.

Quality at the QB position is a plus for both sides. BYU’s projected starting QB TAYSOM HILL went down in the opener with a knee injury, after missing much of last year with a broken leg. In stepped TANNER MANGUM who had been on a Mission until last Spring. The emphasis changed from a running attack to a passing attack and MANGUM was a star. He threw for for 21 TD, with only 7 INT and completed 62.1% of his throws. The COUGARS ranked 21st in the nation in passing Offense. He had 5 players catch over 30 balls on the season. UTAH with senior TRAVIS WILSON at the helm, ranked 95th in passing nationally though WILSON had a solid 62.4% completion percentage. The drop-off for WILSON was the fact that he had 10 INT to go with his 13 TD throws. The UTES also suffered a huge loss, this one late in the season, when RB/DEVONTAE BOOKER went down to injury after having gained 1261 yards rushing, as well as catching 37 balls. In essence we have two good QB facing up against Defenses that ranked 49th (BYU) and 92nd (UTAH) against the pass.

Both Defenses have some future NFL players, most notably BYU DE BRONSON KAUFUSI, who ghas second-day potential, but perhaps the most dynamic defender to watch looks like a poor fit for the NFL because of his size. Despite racking up 109 tackles the disruptive UTES ROVER/GIONNI PAUL stands 5’10/225 lbs. You should hear his name called many times in this contest, and I suspect he’ll be just tall enough to fit nicely in the CFL as a LB. I’m thinking the UTES will feel right at home playing against a passing attack like BYU has, and their talent edge may prevail. It could also be a major factor that even though BYU is solid in their Kicking game, UTAH is exceptional. Rugby style PUNTER TOM HACKETT is a consensus All-American for the 2nd straight year after averaging 47.8 yards per punt on 55 punts, which included 24 punts being downed inside the 20. He may have a legit shot to be the NFL’s first rugby style punter next year. PK ANDY PHILLIPS is also top notch having scored 111 points this sean, while hitting 23/27 FG attempts. Give me the UTES by a thin 3 points in a game that should present a little bit of everything for your early Holiday Season viewing pleasure.
Prospects to watch:

UTAH                                                                                BYU

#2 KENNETH SCOTT/WR 6’3/208                               #10 MITCH MATTHEWS/WR 6’6/215
#7 TRAVIS WILSON/QB 6’7/235                                   #22 MANOA PIKULA/LB 6’1/235
#9 TEVIN CARTER/S 6’2/220                                         #19 DEVON BLACKMON/WR 6’1/185
#33 TOM HACKETT/P 5’11/195                                      #72 RYKER MATTHEWS/OT 6’6/320
#41 JARED NORRIS/LB 6’2 240                                     #91 TRAVIS TUILOMA/DT 6’2/285 JR
#51 JASON FANAIKA/DE 6’3/270                                 #90 BRONSON KAUFUSI/DE 6’7/265
#60 SAIOSI AIONO/C 6’2/305                                       #10 MITCH MATHEWS/WR/6-6/215

BONUS COVERAGE: While the players in the Vegas bowl might not end up having a ton of fun off the field, figure that Sun Belt champion Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech, which produced the likes of good ole boy Terry Bradshaw, not to mention our old friend Billy Ryckman, may at least check out the sights in the Bayou when the play in the New Orleans Bowl. And while the Arkansas State State-Louisiana Tech match-up will hardly be a classic, there will be a number of intriguing prospects on the field especially for the Bulldogs. QB Jeff Driskel (#6, 6-3, 235), the one-time starter at Florida, likely will get some late-round or free agent interest, while RB Kenneth Dixon (#28, 5-9, 215), who ran for almost 1,000 yards and 17 scores this year despite missing a couple of games, is one of the better all-around backs in the country after catching 28 passes including 5 for scores. The Bulldogs best prospect though appears to be emerging DT Vernon Butler (#9, 6-2, 310) is a disruptive interior defender who currently looks to have a mid-third round grade. Louisiana Tech also has a couple of decent later round/free agent type corners in Adairus Barnes (#21, 5-10, 190) and Kentrell Brice (#23, 5-10, 200). On the other hand, Arkansas State doesn’t have anyone who looks to be a lock to be drafted in 2016, although TE Darion Griswold (#19, 6-5, 265) and WR J.D. McKissic (#23, 5-9, 185) could draw some late-round interest, while RB Michael Gordon (#34, 5-9, 205) and CB Rocky Hayes (#3, 5-10, 185) are productive collegiate veterans who could get some free-agent calls.

Hard to imagine that anybody outside the state is going to be all that thrilled to be in Albuquerque for the cleverly named New Mexico Bowl (2 PM ET; ESPN) between Arizona (6-6) and New Mexico (7-5). Certainly, Arizona had much bigger expectations heading into the season such that the trip to the New Mexico game may feel more like punishment rather than a consolation prize. On the other hand, the Lobos are just happy to be in any bowl at all after being shutout of the post season since 2007. The one group outside the Lobos who just might be happy enough to be in Albuquerque are the pro scouts in attendance as they are hoping to get one last look at star Arizona junior LB Scoobie Wright, the DPOY in college football in 2014 who barely played this season because of a knee injury. However, Wright hopes to be back on the field on Saturday for one last chance to impress if, as expected, he declares for the 2016 draft despite the injury plagued campaign. The Wildcats also have a couple of later round prospects in OT Lene Malava (#77, 6-5, 300) and DE Reggie Gilbert (#8, 6-3, 265), while junior WR Cayleb Jones (#1, 6-3, 215) is another quality underclassmen with second-day potential. For its part, New Mexico is led by versatile RB Jhurrell Presley (#8, 5-9, 200).

Along with conference champion Arkansas State, the first day on the bowl schedule has a real Sun Belt flavor to it as the league has two other teams – Appalachian State (10-2) and Georgia State (6-6) – also on the docket. Appalachian State, for example, plays Ohio (8-4) in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery (5:30 PM ET), while GSU has a date with San Jose State (5-7) in the Cure Bowl in Orlando (7 PM ET; CBS Sports).  Appalachian State has a couple of solid prospects in DE Ronald Blair (#49, 6-3, 275), who had 7.5 sacks this year and has been invited to the Shrine all-star game, along with veteran safety Doug Middleton (#21, 6-0, 210), while Ohio’s best prospect is  CB Ian Wells (#41, 5-9, 205) although he’s likely no more than a fringe free agent candidate. Meanwhile, not sure what the Cure Bowl is supposed to actually cure, but it could start with what’s wrong with the a bowl system that has a sub-.500 Mountain West team on the schedule and a 6-6 Sun Belt squad. However, at least SJSU does have a nice college back in scatback Tyler Ervin (#7, 5-10, 180), who ran for almost 1,500 yards and caught 44 passes, while also contributing as a kick returner; they also have a decent corner in Jimmy Pruitt (#8, 5-10, 205), while Georgia State is led by underrated QB Nick Arbuckle (#4, 6-1, 210) who threw for over 4,000 yards this fall.

January 2 Bowls

PITTSBURGH (6-6) vs. HOUSTON (7-5); Armed Forces Bowl; Ft Worth; Noon ET; ESPN … Playoff schmayo!! Florida State against Oregon; who cares! Alabama-Ohio State; big deal! Kicking off at 11 AM local time in game between teams with a combined 13-11 record the day AFTER New Year’s. Football just doesn’t get any better! In fact, both teams are just happy to be here, or at least in Fort Worth. If there is a saving grace to this game, though, it may the chance to check out rising Pitt OT T.J. Clemmings (#68, 6-5, 315), who if nothing else will be one of the more interesting pre-draft stories. Clemmings played DE hi first three years at Pitt before switching over to OT at the start of the 2013 campaign and has since evolved into a potential first-round pick at the position; he’s got outstanding length including prototype long arms as well as very athletic feet – he was recruited by several DI basketball programs coming out of high school, although he could stand be a little stronger and more physical. Pitt also has a couple of possible free agent targets in OG Matt Rotheram (#74, 6-5, 330) and FS Ray Vinopal (#9, 5-10, 200), while the Panthers also feature two of the very best underclassmen in the country in WR Tyler Boyd (#23, 6-2, 195) a big-play wideout who had 69 receptions for 1,150 yards this fall, and RB James Conner (#40, 6-2, 230) who ran for 1,675 yards and 24 scores this fall; however, both are true sophomores who won’t be draft eligible until 2016. For its part, Houston also could have a pretty fair prospect as junior WR Deontay Greenberry (#3, 6-2, 200) has reportedly signed with an agent and will be entering upcoming draft. He’s a skilled receiver with second-day potential who caught 150 passes over the past couple of seasons. Meanwhile, DT Joey Mbu (#92, 6-2, 315) is a decent third-day type.

IOWA (7-5) vs. TENNESSEE (6-6); Taxslayer Bowl; Jacksonville; 3:20 PM ET; ESPN … Have to ask prior to kickoff if sponsoring a college football bowl game is a good use of one’s ‘taxslayer’ dollars? At least the two teams in this game have better than a combined W-L record of 13-11. Oh, wait a moment … Lets try again: at least this game features a top 10 prospect. Okay, a reason to watch as Iowa LT Brandon Scherff (#68, 6-5, 320) is indeed a top 5-10 candidate for the upcoming draft, although he lacks the prototype length and long arms. However, Scherff is about as aggressive and nasty as any offensive lineman in this year’s draft. For good measure, Iowa also has a top DL prospect on the other side of the ball in DT Carl Davis (71, 6-4, 315) a late second-round possibility for this coming spring. In fact, Iowa has one of the better DT combinations in the country as underrated Louis Trina-Pasat (#90, 6-2, 290) could also sneak into the second day.

The arrow may be pointing up at Tennessee where Butch Jones appears to have the program going in the right direction. Its still going to take some patience in Knoxville, though, as there isn’t much veteran talent; indeed, the Vols two-deep includes only four seniors, the fewest of any program in all college football. And of those only CB Justin Coleman (#27, 5-10, 190) and RB Marlin Lane (#15, 5-10, 210) are considered prospects, although neither is more than a late rounder.

#11 KANSAS STATE (9-3) vs. #14 UCLA (9-3); Alamo Bowl; San Antonio; 6:45 PM ET; ESPN … Not sure how this game featuring two nine win teams worked it way into the lineup, but we’ll take it. So will pro scouts who will clearly be focused on UCLA junior QB Brett Hundley (#17, 6-3, 225). Hundley has already indicated he will be entering the draft where he is currently rated as the #3 QB behind Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Florida State‘s Jameis Winston; however, despite the fact that he completed over 70% of his pass attempts this year and had 21 TD passes versus only 5 picks while also running for over 500 yards and another 8 scores, Hundley still only appears to be carrying a second round grade so he’ll be looking for a statement outing against K-State to push himself closer to the opening round. UCLA also has a talented QB of the defense in MLB Eric Kendricks (#6, 60, 230) who isn’t all that big but an find the ball; indeed, he had 139 tackles this season including 8.5 for loss while he also picked off 3 passes. Meanwhile, Kendricks’ more celebrated teammate Myles Jack (#30, 6-1, 230) had 80 tackles of his own while also getting snaps at RB, but as a true sophomore won‘t be draft eligible until 2016. UCLA also has an interesting second tier DE in Owamagbe Odighizuwa (#94, 6-3, 270), who should get some looks early on the third-day, while SS Tony Jefferson (#23, 6-0, 190) and former Miami G/T Malcolm Bunche (#78, 6-5, 320) are more late rounders or free agent targets.

Kansas State, which gets as much out of its talent as any program in the country, also has a potential second-day prospect in WR Tyler Lockett (#16, 5-10, 175), a sneaky quick receiver with great hands who doubles as an outstanding kick returner. Meanwhile, other Wildcats to watch include QB Jake Waters (#15, 6-1, 210), a late-round candidate who isn’t flashy, but doesn’t make many mistakes; steady C B.J. Finney (#66, 6-3, 305) and DE Ryan Mueller (#44, 6-2, 245).

WASHINGTON (8-5) vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (6-6); Cactus Bowl; Tempe; 10:15 PM ET; ESPN … It may be a stretch to describe this game, in which the two teams have a combined record of 14-11, as saving the best for last, but that’s the case at least in terms of the fact that Washington would appear to have the best draft class of any of the team’s playing on Friday. Indeed, the Huskies have at least a pair of opening round prospects in rising DT Danny Shelton (#55, 6-2, 335), a wide-body with surprising quickness for such a big guy who is quietly working his way up boards across the league closer to the top ten, and athletic OLB Shaq Thompson (#7, 6-2, 235), a sometime RB who just may be the most versatile player in the entire 2015 draft class. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if a 3-4 team looking for an edge-rushing backer took an opening round flyer on DE Hau’oli Kikaha (#8, 6-2, 250), who was second in the country in sacks with 18. Washington could actually have had a 4th potential first rounder, but CB Marcus Peters was booted off the team after several run-ins with the coaching staff. At the same time, WR Kasen Williams (#2, 6-2, 225) is a later round prospect, while LB John Timu (#10, 6-1, 245), OT Micah Hatchie (#72, 6-5, 305), and DE Andrew Hudson (#93, 6-2, 255) are free agent types.

If Washington represents the best the day has to offer in terms of draft prospects, then Oklahoma State may be the worst. The Cowboys do have a couple of players who could get some late round interest this coming May in DT James Castleman (#91, 6-2, 300) and OT Dan Koenig (#58, 6-5, 300), however, junior WR/KR Tyreek Hill, the Cowboy NFL teams were really intrigued by is was booted off the team after he was involved in a domestic violence incident.

Bowl Watch New Years Day

National playoff semi-finals:

#3 FLORIDA STATE (13-0) vs. #2 OREGON (12-1); Rose Bowl; 4:30 PM ET; ESPN … The preliminaries are done and its time to get down to the real business in college football defending national champion Florida State, the only remaining unbeaten team in the FBS ranks, faces rising West Coast power Oregon in the first ever DIA non-championship playoff game in college football history with the winner to play the winner of the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl tilt for the national title on January 12th. And just in case this game didn’t need any more drama, it will also feature the top two QB prospects for the 2015 draft – and just maybe the first two players selected at the upcoming draft – going head-to-head when Florida State redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (#5, 6-4, 235) and Oregon junior Marcus Mariota (#8, 6-4, 215) lead their respective teams. Certainly, its an opportunity for both to cement their grades with full contingents from both Tampa Bay and Tennessee, which hold the first and second picks at this year‘s draft respectively, sending full contingents of front office personnel including the G.M.s to Los Angeles for the game. In the end, though, there is probably more pressure on Winston who had an up-and-down season this fall that included dealing with a messy off-season situation dealing with an alleged incident of sexual assault.

Winston and Mariota, though, are just the tip of the iceberg of talent that will be on the field on Thursday afternoon. In particular, Florida State figures to be the dominant school at the 2015 draft. Indeed, in addition to Winston, junior DT Eddie Goldman (#90, 6-3, 315) and junior CB P.J. Williams (#26, 6-0, 200) are likely first-round picks, while C/T Cam Erving (#75, 6-5, 310), OGs Josue Matias (#70, 6-5, 335) and Tre Jackson (#54, 6-3, 340), junior DE Mario Edwards (#15, 6-3, 295), TE Nick O’Leary (#35, 6-3, 245), junior CB Ronald Darby (#3, 5-11, 190) are all projected second-day candidates. For the mathematically challenged that’s 9 Seminoles likely to go in the top 100 picks more than any other program is expected to have taken in the full 7-rounds of the draft.

The irony in this game is that while Oregon doesn’t have the same depth of talent for the 2015 draft as Florida State, the Ducks are probably the favorites on the field, in large part because of how inconsistently the Seminoles played this season. However, the draft cupboard at Oregon isn’t exactly bare after Mariota, although the loss of veteran CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to a season ending knee injury late in the campaign certainly didn’t help. Oregon, though, still has a couple of huge, athletic 5-tech junior DEs in Arik Armstead (#6-5, 295) and DeForest Buckner (#44, 6-6, 290), both of whom are solid second-day prospects. The Ducks also have an improved offensive line anchored by C Hroniss Grasu (#55, 6-3, 300) and veteran RT Jake Fisher (#75, 6-5, 305), while other Oregon players to watch include DE Tony Washington (#91, 6-2, 245), WLB Derrick Malone (#22, 6-1, 220), CB Troy Hill (#13, 5-11, 170), and OG Hamani Stephens (#54, 6-3, 315).

#1 ALABAMA (12-1) vs. #4 OHIO STATE (#12-1); Sugar Bowl; 8:30 PM ET; ESPN … The SEC and Big Ten have been pretty regular dance partners at New Year’s Day bowl games in the BCS era, but none with anywhere near this kind of magnitude, although it still has something of a David versus Goliath feel with the Buckeyes just hoping they can hang with the mighty Crimson Tide. And so much of whether Ohio State can in fact play with Alabama may depend on how well Buckeyes‘ red shirt freshman QB Cardale Jones (#12, 6-5, 250) handles the pressure. Jones, the 3rd QB the Buckeyes have been forced to use this year after Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett were injured, has all of one career start, although he hardly looked out of place in leading OSU to a resounding 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the conference champion. However, other than they fact they both wear red unies, any other similarity between Wisconsin and Alabama is purely coincidental. In fact, even though the Tide is in something of a rebuilding phase, or at least as much as the program under Nick Saban ever rebuilds rather than just reloads, Alabama is the consensus favorite to win the national title; they also figure to be one of the dominant teams at the 2015 draft. Indeed, Alabama has a couple of legitimate top ten junior prospects in silky smooth WR Amari Cooper (#9, 6-1, 205) and physical strong safety Landon Collins (#26, 6-0, 215). Meanwhile, junior RB T.J. Yeldon is a second-day possibility, while Alabama also has several other mid-to-late round prospects in OG Arie Kouandjio (#77, 6-4, 315), WR/KR Christion Jones (#22, 5-11, 190), RT Austin Shepherd (#79, 6-5, 320), MLB Trey DePriest (#33, 6-2, 250), OLB Xzavier Dickson (#47, 6-2, 270), and NT Brandon Ivory (#99, 6-3, 310). The Tide also made a smooth transition at QB where veteran Blake Sims (#6, 6-0, 210) has done a surprisingly efficient job replacing A.J. McCarron after holding off the challenge of junior Jake Coker (#14, 6-5, 230).

Ohio State also has a potential elite opening round prospect in rising DE Joey Bosa (#97, 6-5, 285), but he’s a true sophomore who won’t be draft eligible until next year. Same for star junior LT Taylor Decker (#68, 6-6, 315) who appears likely to return for his senior year next fall. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes’ top prospect for the 2015 draft is DT Michael Bennett (#83, 6-2, 290), a very quick, smart interior defender who figures to get a second round call, while CB Doran Grant (#12, 5-10, 195) is a later second-day candidate. At the same time, veteran TE John Heuerman (#86, 6-5, 255), WR Devin Smith(#9, 6-0, 200), and C Chad Lindsay (#78, 6-3, 305) are later round prospects.

Other New Year’s Day bowls:

OUTBACK BOWL Tampa, FL NOON/ET/ESPN2 WISCONSIN (10-3) vs AUBURN (8-4)
This looks to be uninteresting match-up, as long as you discount the humiliation heaped on the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game. The BADGERS Offense has to work around their weak QB situation and with a new Head Coach as AD BARRY ALVAREZ works the sidelines after the defection of ANDERSEN to oregon State. But with their usual huge OL and record setting RB/MELVIN GORDON/#25/6-1/210, who has already stated his intention to head for the NFL, they will try to jam it down the throats of an Auburn Defense, which couldn’t stop a runny nose most Saturdays last Fall. GORDON seems likely to break the draught of 2 straight years without a 1st Round RB in the NFL Draft. He has speed to burn, great vision and excellent field vision. He’s also breaking a lot of tackles this year. Other Badgers to watch include; #49/SAM ARNESON/TE/6’4/254; #54/KYLE COSTIGAN/G/C/6’5/315: #73/DENNIS LEWALLEN/G/6’6/320; #78/RON HAVENSTEIN/RT/6’7/327, who is on the Senior Bowl roster. There could be a chance that the Tigers will light up the solid Badgers D with their passing game and option running by QB/NICK MARSHALL/#14/6’1/210, who has improved greatly as a passer this season. SAMMIE COATES/WR/#18/6’2/200, might well be a first rounder in his own right. Other key Tigers to watch are: #44/CAMERON ARTIS-PAYNE/RB/5’11/210, SENIOR BOWL; #50/REESE DISMUKES/OC/6’3/296, SENIOR BOWL; #81/C.J. UZOMAH/TE/6’4/260; #90/GABE WRIGHT/DT/6’3/290, Senior Bowl; #98/ANGELO BLACKSON/DT/6’4/305; #25/TAVON REED/CB/5’11/195; #9/JERMAINE WHITEHEAD/FS/5’11/195. If MARSHALL outs on a show, the Badgers could get buried again. There is lots of talent here so let’s hope it’s a competitive game.

CITRUS BOWL ORLANDO, FL 12:30/ET/ABC MINNESOTA (8-4) vs MISSOURI (10-3)
I guess we could refer to these two teams as Cinderella candidates for the college football season. JERRY KILL/HC continues his marvelous job of rebuilding the Gophers football program and their record and competitive play were a big boost for the much maligned Big 10 this past season. Now they take on the MISSOURI Tigers who surprised most with an SEC Championship game appearance. MInnesota’s lack of speed on both sides of the ball may show up today when Mizzou unleashes it’s vaunted pass-rush, led by #56/SHANE RAY/DE/OLB/6’3/245, who is expected by many to be a high Round 1 Draftee, when/if he declares. MInnesota will need big days on Offense from RB/DAVID COBB/#27/5’11/225, who is a 1,000+-yard rusher, and TE/MAXX WILLIAMS/#88/6’4/255, who emerged as a serious target this season. WILLIAMS dad BRIAN, was a former Round 1 pick and played for almost a decade with the GIANTS. MAXX, has hinted he is coming out for the Draft, which would be a nice boost to a mediocre TE group. Keep an eye on a favorite of mine, who could inflict major damage on Minnesota with his speed RB/RS/MARCUS MURPHY/#6/5’9/195. Other prospects to watch for Minnesota include: #5/DEMIEN WILSON/ILB/6’2/244; #47/CAMERON BOTTICELLI/DT/6’5/295: #2/CEDRIC THOMPSON/SS/5’10/210. B For MIZZOU make note of these guys: #8/DARIUS WHITE/WR/6’3/205; #88/JIMMIE HUNT/WR/6’0/215, my favorite; #21 BUD SASSER/WR/6’2/210; #96/LUCAS VINCENT/DT/6’2/305; #33/MARKUS GOLDEN/DE/6’3/260; #9/BRAYLON WEBB/SS/6’0/205. I think the Gophers will wear down from more speed and depth on the Mizzou sidelines. It could get lopsided late.

COTTON BOWL ARLINGTON, TX 12:30/ET/ESPN BAYLOR (11-1) vs MICHIGAN STATE (10-2)
This could be one of the best match-ups of the Bowl Season. These are two teams that arguably would have been in the Play-Offs if it were an 8 team tournament. But their styles are refreshingly different. The Spartans, although they have excellent athletes, are more traditional in their reliance on their Defense to win the day, and the Offense is out there to control the clock and not make mistakes. BAYLOR has a solid defense, but one that flies around and will take chances. Offensively, they are potent-plus with BRYCE PETTY/#14/QB/6’3/230 leading the charge. I think he’s a major QB talent and will be an NFL starter in a couple of years. In most games his biggest challenge is keeping a huge stable of weapons happy. Two of the biggest prospects for Baylor OAKMAN & DRANGO have indicated they intend to stay in school, but lots can happen in the next two weeks. CONNOR COOK/QB/#18/6’4/220 of State has also indicated he will return for his senior year of college. Here are some additional Spartans to watch today; #33/JEREMY LANGFORD/RB/6’/205; #14/TONY LIPPETT/WR/6’3/190; #25/KEITH MUMPHREY/WR/6’0/210; #89/SHILIQUE CALHOUN/DE/6’4/260/JR; #34/TAIWAN JONES/ILB/6’3/250; #15/TRAE WAYNES/CB/6’1/185; #27/KURTIS DRUMMOND/FS/6’1/200. LANGFORD, LIPPETT * DRUMMOND are all committed to play in the Senior Bowl. For Baylor these guys are legit NFL prospects: #5/ANTWAN GOODLEY/WR/5’1-/220, SR BOWL; #42/LEVI NORWOOD/WR/6’1/195; #58/SPENCER DRANGO/OT/6’5/315/JR; #2/SHAWN OAKMAN/DE/6’9/275/SO; BRYCE HAGER/ILB/6’2/235/SHRINE; #36/SPENCER ROTH/P/6’4/225/Shrine. This is my must watch day game this New Year’s Day.

New Years Eve bowls

New Year’s Eve

#9 MISSISSIPPI (9-3) vs. #6 TEXAS CHRISTIAN (11-1); Peach Bowl; Atlanta; 12:30 PM ET; ESPN … Pretty good game to start your New Year’s Eve celebrations with a couple of Top 10 teams with a little something to prove. Ole Miss, for example, had visions of playing for the national championship after upsetting Alabama earlier in the season, but kind of ran out of gas down the stretch. Meanwhile, TCU is still seething about the fact that the once-beaten Horned Frogs went from 3rd in the national playoff standings to 6th – and on the outside looking in – on the final week of the year, all that despite winning their season finale by 52 points. Unfortunately, while the game could be very competitive, neither team is exactly loaded with top prospects for the 2015 draft. In fact, neither team has anyone close to being a first round candidate for 2015, although Ole Miss at least has a couple of DBs with second-day potential in FS Cody Prewiit (#25, 6-2, 215) and ball-hawking CB Senquez Golson (#21, 5-9, 180). The Rebels also have several later roud prospects including veteran QB Bo Wallace (#14, 6-3, 205) and DB Serderius Bryant (#14, 5-9, 185). However, Ole Miss does have several future first-round candidates in LT Laremy Tunsil (#78, 6-5, 315) and DT Robert Nkemdiche (#5, 6-4, 280), although the NFL will have to wait at least a year as both are true sophomores.

TCU is even less likely than Ole Miss to have anyone selected at this year’s draft until the third-day, however, the Horned Frogs may still have the best player on the field in junior QB Trevone Boykin (#2, 6-1, 215), an athletic dual-threat who threw for over 3,700 yards and 30 scores this fall, while running for another 642 yards and 8 scores; however, Boykin may not have the prototype size and arm strength to rate as more than a marginal pro prospect at the position, but will enter the 2015 college season as one of the early Heisman Trophy favorites. Boykin’s favorite target is junior WR John Dotson (#9, 6-3, 190) who could be a bit of a sleeper if he were to enter this year’s draft. And while they don’t have much in the way of top senior talent for the upcoming draft, the Frogs do have a number of solid mid-round types including DT Chuckie Hunter (#96, 6-1, 300), CB Kevin White (#25, 5-9, 175), OLB Paul Dawson (#47, 6-2, 230), SS Sam Carter (#17, 6-1, 215), and OT Tayo Fabuluje (#58, 6-6, 315).

#20 BOISE STATE (11-2) vs. #10 ARIZONA (11-2); Fiesta Bowl; 4 PM ET; ESPN … You know something’s changed when they play a ‘BCS’ game on New Year’s Eve. Indeed, you know something’s changed when they play a ‘BCS’ game between Boise State and Arizona. And you’ll know things have really changed when they play a ‘BCS’ game and nobody cares. Welcome to the brave new world of playoff college football! And to complicate matters in this particular game is that there also really isn’t much in the way of 2015 draft talent. Indeed, Boise State junior RB Jay Ajayi (#27, 5-11, 220), who has already declared for the draft, is the only player on either team that looks to be a sure first or second day pick. Ajayi, though, is good one with second round potential who had over 2,200 yards from scrimmage this past season when he ran for almost 1,700 yards and 25 TDs and added another 536 yards and 4 scores on 45 receptions. Ajayi will be going up against Arizona sophomore MLB Scooby Wright (#33, 6-1, 245), arguably the most impact defensive player in the country this season when he had 153 tackles including 14 sacks and 14 other tackles for loss; as a true soph, though, Wright has at least one more year in Arizona. In fact, Arizona’s best players are underclassmen including redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon (#12, 6-1, 200) and true freshman RB Nick Wilson (#28, 5-9, 200). However, Arizona does have at least one interesting senior prospect in WR Austin Hill (#29, 6-2, 210) who looked like an emerging elite prospect in 2012 when he caught 81 passes for almost 1,400 yards, but hasn’t been the same since suffering a serious knee injury prior to the start of the 2013 campaign. Hill, though, should still et some mid-round interest this coming May, while LT Mickey Baucus (#68, 6-7, 305) and safety Tra’mayne Bondurant (#21, 5-9, 200) are later round or free agent types.

#7 MISSISSIPPI STATE (10-2) vs. GEORGIA TECH (10-3); Orange Bowl; 8 PM ET; ESPN … New Year’s Eve wraps up with this year’s other non-playoff BCS bowl when Mississippi State plays Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl in one of football‘s most celebrated non-conference rivalries. Trust us; it really is! And what sets this year‘s Orange Bowl apart from the earlier bowls today is that it may actually have a potential first-round prospect for the upcoming draft in Mississippi State MLB Bernardrick McKinney (#50, 6-4, 245), a freakish athlete who the Bulldogs line up all over the field. Junior QB Dak Prescott (#15, 6-2, 225), a poor man’s version of Tim Tebow, but with a better arm, could also be an intriguing second round prospect for team’s looking for a developmental QB; developmental though could be the operative word as he really could stand another year in school to polish his skills. Mississippi State also has an underrated DE candidate in full-sized Preston Brown (#91,6-5, 270) who had 9 sacks this fall. Brown works on a unit that also includes veteran DT Kaleb Eulls (#92, 6-3, 305), another third-day prospect. Meanwhile, other Bulldogs with late-round or free agent grades include WR Jameon Lewis (#4, 5-9, 185), OG Ben Beckwith (#66, 6-3, 305), OT Blaine Clausell (#75, 6-6, 315), C Dillon Day (#63, 6-3, 300), and FS Justin Cox (#9, 6-2, 190). On the other hand, pro scouts will be excused if they go for a snack when Georgia Tech is on the field, as the Yellow Jackets have one of the thinnest potential draft classes of any program in the country outside the academies. Indeed, the only GT player even remotely close to being a draftable prospect is SS Isaiah Johnson (#1, 5-11, 195) and even he‘s barely a late-round candidate, while OG Shaq Mason (#70, 6-1, 310) and MLB Quayshawn Nealy (#54, 6-1, 236) could get a free agent call.

December 30

Tuesday, December 30

NOTRE DAME (7-5) vs LSU (8-4); MUSIC CITY BOWL Nashville; 3PM ET; ESPN … Let’s hope the Fighting Irish have found a way to rejuvenate themselves after folding at the end of their schedule this fall, with 4 straight losses to end their season. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that Irish QB EVERETT GOLSON (35, 6’/200) was getting Heisman mention back in September, but he had turned into a turnover machine by mid-October and won’t even start against LSU. That job will go to freshman QB MALIK ZAIRE (#8, 6’0, 210), although expect GOLSON to still get some snaps. And with another year in South Bend expect GOLSON to become BRIAN KELLY’s top reclamation project next fall. Otherwise, the Irish are loaded with young, emerging talent but the upper classes are thin. Indeed, Notre Dame’s best prospect for the upcoming draft is junior OT Ronnie Stanley (#78, 6-5, 320) who is sarting to attract some top 20 consideration for 2015 if he were to opt to turn pro this year, while seniors to watch feature TE BEN KOYACK (#18, 6’5/260), who is more pro ready than 2014 second rounder TROY NIKLAS last year, and CB CODY RIGGS (#9, 5’9/185).

LSU had one of the youngest depth charts in the country this season, but still managed 8 wins in the tough SEC West. And like Notre Dame, LSU’s is an offensive lineman with top 20 ability in LT LA’EL COLLINS (#70, 6’5/315), who has accepted an invite to play in Mobile and may be the most pro ready OT in the land. Meanwhile, CB JALEN COLLINS (#32, 6’2/195/) has declared his intentions to turn pro after this game and also figures to get some Top 100 consideration, as will rangy junior DE Danielle Hunter (#94, 6-5, 245), if as expected he enters this year’s draft. Other LSU Tigers on the NFL radar include RBs KENNY HILLIARD (#27, 6’0/233) and TERRENCE MAGEE (#14, 5’9/215); junior OG VIDAL ALEXANDER (#74, 6’6/340); DE JERMAURIA RASCO (#59, 6’3/265) and SS RONALD MARTIN (#26, 6’1/215). In the end, expect a lower scoring contest unless GOLSON has recaptured his early season magic. I think the Mad Hatter wins another close one, when his D turns GOLSON over a couple of times.

LOUISVILLE (9-3) vs GEORGIA (9-3); BELK BOWL, Charlotte; 5:30PM ET; ESPN … There is so much NFL Draft talent in this game it’s amazing. And the Cardinals from the ACC may have even a bit more to offer than the SEC’s UGA as Louisville reaps the benefits of some strong recruiting from the CHARLIE STRONG regime. Their top NFL prospect is WR DEVONTE PARKER (#9, 6’3/210), who bounced back nicely from an injury in the second half of the season and should get plenty of first-round interest if he checks out medically at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, DE/OLB LORENZO MAULDIN (#94, 6’4/245) is a more athletic carbon copy of last year’s 1st rounder MARCUS SMITH, while other Louisville guys to watch as prospects include: junior FS GEROD HOLLIMAN (#8, 6’0/205), who led the nation in INTs and already has declared his intention to enter the 2015 draft; RB DOMINIQUE BROWN (#10, 6’2/230); TE GERALD CHRISTIAN (#18, 6’2/245); OT Jamon Brown (#79, 6-5, 350); OG JAKE SMITH (#53, 6’3/310); and junior CB CHARLES GAINES (#3, 5’11/175). On the other hand, enigmatic RB MICHAEL DYER has been declared ineligible and will not play.

Georgia also would have had a top 10 prospect of its own, but star junior RB Todd Gurley, who many scouts rated as the best player in the country period prior to tearing an ACL earlier this year, is still rehabbing and won’t play. However, the Bulldogs still have a pretty good back in true freshma Nck Chubb (#27, 5-9, 230), although he’s still no Gurley. The Bulldogs also have an experienced HUTSON MASON (#14, 6’3/205), who develop nicely as a starter after waiting 3 years behind AARON MURRAY. He’s not elite, but has the size and arm strength to be a solid NFL back-up; he’s committed to play in the Shrine Game. In fact, UGA doesn’t have much in the way of elite prospects, but they do have a lot of guys who should be taken in Rounds 4-7 like MLB RAMIK WILSON (#51, 6’2/231); CB DAMIAN SWANN (#35, 5’11/180); C DAVID ANDREWS (#61, 6’2/295); ILB AMARLO HERRERA (#52, 6’2/244); WR  MICHAEL BENNETT (#82, 6’3/205); DE RAY DREW (#47, 6’5/280); and WR CHRIS CONLEY (#31, 6’2/205. UGA will have to control the ball to win this game with their CHUBB-led running game. If they cannot, look for Louisville to wear them out with their constant attack offense.

MARYLAND (7-5) vs STANFORD (7-5); SAN FRANCISCO BOWL, Santa Clara; 10 PM ET; ESPN … STANFORD looks to be perhaps the best 7-5 team in the nation. They got beaten up with a brutal PAC-12 schedule, but they knocked off UCLA to end the regular season on the road. For starters, junior QB KEVIN HOGAN (#8, 6’4/228) appeared to pick up the pace over the latter part of the year after an erratic start to the season and remains a decent NFL prospect if he declares, although he looks more likely to be back at school. Unfortunately, though, Hogan will be without his top target, WR TY MONTGOMERY (#7, 6’2/215), a highly productive, though, not a particularly explosive receiver and return man with an all-around game that reminds one of former NFL hall-of-Famer TIM BROWN, who is out because of a shoulder injury. However, Hogan will have his LT Andrus Peat (#70, 6-7, 31), who has top ten physical skills, but like the rest of the Cardinal offense has been inconsistent this fall. Meanwhile, other Stanford players to watch include SS JORDAN RICHARDS (#8, 5’11/208); OLB JAMES VAUGHTERS (#9, 6’2’254); ILB A.J. TARPLEY (#17, 6’2/238); 5T DE HENRY ANDERSON (#91, 6’6/295); DT David Parry (#58, 6-2, 305); along with junior CB Alex Carter (#25, 5-11, 200).

For its part, Maryland has a roster full of experienced upperclassmen who play smart and hard, but their best player is junior WR STEFON DIGGS (#1, 6’0/195) who unfortunately is nursing a bad knee and is not projected to play. That leaves senior WR DEON LONG (#6, 6’0/195), a Shrine Game commit, as their top receiving weapon. Other productive, though, not particularly flashy Terp prospects include DT DARIUS KILGO (#97, 6’2/310); ILB COLE FARRAND (#47, 6’3/245); and CB JEREMIAH JOHNSON (#14, 5/11/195, who had an excellent senior season. If Stanford HC DAVID SHAW unleashes the hounds on Offense this could be a one-sided affair.

December 29

Monday, December 29

TEXAS A&M (7-5) Vs WEST VIRGINIA (7-5): Liberty Bowl; 2 PM ET; ESPN … This could actually be a pretty good game to start one’s bowl week as both teams can move the ball and put points on the board, although West Virginia will have to do it without starting QB Clint Trickett who announced last week that he is retiring from the game because of concussion issues. Both teams also have a legitimate first round prospect in OT Cedric Ogbuehi (#70, 6-5, 300) of Texas A&M and West Virginia WR Kevin White (#11, 6-2, 215). Ogbuehi, for example, continues the line of opening round Aggie OT prospects, although it does not appear that he will go quite as high as predecessors Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews who were the 2nd and 6th picks respectively at the past two drafts. In fact, Ogbuehi‘s status has been in something of a free fall over the past couple of months as he appears to have dropped from a possible top 5 pick to a mid-first rounder. No question that Ogbuehi is athletic for a 300-pounder, but he just doesn’t seem to be as physical or instinctive as originally thought. Meanwhile, White came from literally nowhere this year to finish 5th in the country in receptions with 102 and also looks like a likely mid-first rounder, although his grade could still go either up or own depending on how he runs at pre-draft testing.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M has a couple of other third-day candidates in OG Jarvis Harrison (#51, 6-3, 325) and CB DeShazor Everett (#29, 5-11, 190), while other later round or free agent types to watch for West Virginia include WR Mario Alford (#5, 5-8, 175), OGs Quinton Spain (#67, 6-4, 345) and Mark Glowinski (#64, 6-4, 305), and CBs Ishmael Banks (#34, 5-11, 185) and Travis Bell (#29, 6-0, 190).

OKLAHOMA (8-4) vs. CLEMSON (9-3); Russell Athletic Bowl; 5:30 PM ET; ESPN … You know one is getting closer to the start of the ‘real’ postseason when teams like OU and Clemson begin showing up on the schedule, although both were probably expecting better than a bid to this game entering the season; indeed, both had visions of getting into the playoff back in August so figure that both may have something to prove in this game. This game will also feature a chance to check out star Clemson DE/OLB Vic Beasley (#3, 6-3, 225), who leads all active college players with 32 career sacks, when he goes up against Oklahoma OTs Daryl Williams (#79, 6-5, 335) and Tyrus Thompson (#71, 6-5, 320). In fact, that match-up be a better test for the OU tackles as they appear to be all over boards around the league at this time. Oklahoma also has an interesting OLB prospect of its own in junior Eric Striker (#19, 6-0, 220), a late second/early third-round candidate who isn’t very big but can really run. Meanwhile, other later round OU prospects in tweener DE Geneo Grissom (#85, 6-3, 260), OG Adam Shead (#74, 6-3, 320) and QB-turned-TE Blake Bell (#10, 6-5, 265), the former ‘Belldozer’ as a wildcat QB who has the size and physical skills to rate as something of a sleeper at TE. At the same time, joining Beasley on what is a very talented Clemson defense is DT Grady Jarrett (#50, 6-1, 290), who has the quickness to sneak into the latter part of the third-round, along with underrated MLB Stephone Anthony (#42, 6-2, 235), DE Corey Crawford (#93, 6-5, 270) and CB Garry Peters (#26, 5-11, 195).

ARKANSAS (6-6) vs. TEXAS (6-6); Texas Bowl; 9 PM ET; ESPN … The Hogs and Longhorns will renew what was once one of the better conference rivalries in college football prior to Arkansas moving over the SEC. Unfortunately, neither team is coming off much of a season as both were 6-6; however, there are a number of prospects worth watching, especially emerging Texas junior DT Malcolm Brown (90, 6-3, 320), a massive interior defender who is reportedly starting to generate significant first-round buzz for the 2015 draft. The Longhorns also have a passel of third-day candidates including a second Malcolm Brown (#28, 5-11, 230) who has been a productive back in Austin. Meanwhile, other second-tier prospects on the Texas roster include LB Jordan Hicks (#3, 6-2, 245), DE Cedric Reed (#88, 6-5, 275), CB Quandre Diggs (#6, 5-10, 205),WR Jaxon Shipley (#8, 6-0, 195), MLB Steve Edmond (#33, 6-2, 255), and C Dominic Espinosa (#55, 6-3, 300). Meanwhile, Arkansas finished 2-6 and in 7th place in the tough SEC West for a reason; the Razorbacks just aren’t that talented. DE Trey Flowers (#86, 6-4, 270) is the only player in the program who is a lock to be selected this coming. Flowers, though, is a good one who had 5 sacks and 13.5 total tackles for loss this fall and figures to be a third round pick year. Meanwhile, OLB Martell Speight (#47, 5-11, 230), an active, albeit somewhat undersized WLB led the team with 123 tackles and should get some late-round consideration; same for full-sized RT Brey Cook (#74, 6-6, 335). The most intriguing Razorback prospects, though, are the RB duo of junior Jonathan Williams (#32, 5-11, 225) and super sophomore Alex Collins (#3, 5-10, 220) both of whom ran for over 1,000 yards this fall, but won’t be available to NFL teams until 2016 at the earliest.