Saturday December 17 Bowl Watch

December 13, 2016

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.

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

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

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

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.