Bowl watch: Thursday, December 28th

December 27, 2017

MILITARY BOWL (Annapolis): Navy (6-6) vs Virginia (6-6); 1:30 PM ET; ESPN

Maybe the best thing about the Military Bowl match-up of 6-6 teams in Annapolis is that nobody has to travel very far to get there. And maybe the second best thing about this game is that Virginia actually has more really good prospects for the upcoming draft than one would normally expect from a .500 club including FS Quin Blanding (#3, 6-2, 215) and MLB Micah Kiser (#53, 6-1, 240), both of whom are both among the most productive defenders in college football. Kiser, for example, was 6th in the nation with 134 tackles, including 5 sacks, while Blanding, who also had 4 interceptions, was 13th with 121 stops. Both are early third day type prospects for the upcoming draft. Meanwhile, QB Kurt Benkert (#6, 6-4, 215) is something of a dark horse candidate at the position after throwing for 25 TDs this fall, while other UVA veterans to watch include OTs Jack English (#67, 6-5, 305) and Brandon Pertile (#55, 6-4, 320) and 5-tech DE Andrew Brown (#9, 6-4, 285).

CAMPING WORLD BOWL (Orlando): #22 Virginia Tech (9-3) vs #19 Oklahoma State (9-3); 5:15 PM ET; ESPN

The Camping World Bowl between a couple of very good 9-3 teams could come down to a battle of the unstoppable force – the Oklahoma State offense – against an unmovable object – the Virginia Tech defense. In fact, this is the only bowl this season that pits an FBS top-five scoring offense (OSU) against an FBS top-five scoring defense (Virginia Tech). The Oklahoma State offense is led by a pair potential first-round prospects in QB Mason Rudolph (#2, 6-5, 230) and big-play WR James Washington (#28, 6-0, 205). Rudolph, who’d like a good performance against the tough Hokies’ D to make the case that he is more than a system passer and really does belong in the opening day discussion, threw for almost 4,600 yards and 35 TDs this fall when he completed 65% of his pass attempts. Meanwhile, Washington has been one of the most dynamic big-play receivers in college football as he averaged over 20 yards a catch on 69 total receptions this fall a dozen of which went for scores. And the Va Tech defense can’t concentrate only on slowing down Washington as fellow WR Marcel Ateman (#3, 6-3, 220), who also had over 1,000 receiving yards this year, maybe the most dangerous #2 receiver in the country. At the same time, other Cowboys to watch include OTs Aaron Cochran (#78, 6-7, 350) and Zach Crabtree (#60, 6-6, 310), while MLB Chad Whitener (#45, 6-0, 245) and FS Tre Flowers (#31, 6-2, 200) lead the defense.

The Hokies have a legit opening round prospect of their own in junior OLB Tremaine Edwards (#49, 6-4, 250), who has a really intriguing combination of size and athleticism. He’s also a very active edge player who had 102 tackles this past season including 5.5 sacks. Indeed, Edwards is versatile enough that he could get looks as a 3-4 OLB as well as a traditional 4-3 DE. Virginia Tech also has a pretty good pair of cover corners to match-up with the Oklahoma State duo of Washington and Ateman in CBs Greg Stroman (#3, 6-0, 180) and Brandon Facyson (#31, 6-2, 195). For good measure, Stroman, who had 4 picks this year, is also a very good PR who averaged almost 12 yards a return this year and brought two back for scores. Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech offense is very young but does have a couple of veteran anchors upfront in OG Wyatt Teller (#57, 6-4, 315) and C Eric Gallo (#64, 6-2, 300), both of whom could get some late-round or free-agent interest this spring.

ALAMO BOWL (San Antonio): #13 Stanford (9-4) vs #15 TCU (10-3); 9 PM ET; ESPN

The Stranford-TCU match-up in the Alamo Bowl features an intriguing dual of two teams that can move the ball, although they do in contrasting styles. Stanford, for example, remains one of the prototype offensive machines in college football, although explosive junior RB Bryce Love (#20, 5-10, 195) added a new degree of speed this year. Love, in fact, was on pace to run for well over 2,000 yards thru much of the season, but he was slowed by an ankle injury late in the campaign that forced him to miss one full game and parts of a couple of others. Still, Love finished the year with 1,973 yards including an almost ridiculous 8.3 yards per carry figure and 18 TDs. Love isn’t all that big, but he has explosive speed – he still holds a couple of national age-group 100M records – along with electric quickness and agility. However, pro scouts still aren’t sold on Love, in larger part because of the size and durability issue and appear to have him graded as a potential late first or early second round prospect. Speaking of ridiculous numbers, Cardinal junior DT Harrison Phillips (#66, 6-3, 295), an emerging interior defender with the quickness to slide out to end in a 3-4 scheme, already has 100 tackles so far this fall, an almost unheard of number for a DL. Included in those numbers are 7.5 sacks as well as 10 other tackles for loss and like RB Love, Phillips is currently considered to be a solid early second day prospect with the tools to move higher. Stanford has a third promising junior prospect in FS Justin Reid (#8, 6-2, 205) who has 97 tackles of his own, while he leads the team with 5 picks. Stanford also has a number of solid seniors including ILB Bobby Okereke (#20, 6-2, 235), OLB Peter Kalambayi (#34, 6-2, 245), OLB Joey Alfieri (#32, 6-2, 245), TE Dalton Schultz (#9, 6-5, 245), OT AT Hall (#75, 6-4, 295), OG David Bright (#64, 6-4, 300), and C Jesse Burett (#73, 6-3, 305).

On the other hand, TCU spreads teams out enroute to scoring over 35 points per game this fall. However, the Horned Frogs do it without any top 100 locks for the upcoming draft, but do have a number of solid later round prospects including All-America DE Mat Boesen (#9, 6-3, 240) who had 11.5 sacks this season, WLB Travin Howard (#32, 6-1, 215), CB Ranthony Texada (#11, 5-9, 170) who had 13 pass breakups this fall, SS Nick Orr (#18, 5-9, 190), OTs Joe Noteboom (#68, 6-5, 310) and Matt Pryor (#64, 6-6, 340), OG Austin Schlottman (#51, 6-5, 300), C Pat Morris (#58, 6-2, 300) and TE Cole Hunt (#81, 6-6, 255). The key Horned Frog, though, is veteran QB Kenny Hill (#7, 6-1, 215) who masterminds the offense; Hill lacks prototype measurable, but is a good athlete with a quick release and accurate arm who completed 67% of his pass attempts this fall including 21 for TDs against just 6 picks.

HOLIDAY BOWL (San Diego): #18 Washington State (9-3) vs #16 Michigan State (9-3); 9 PM ET; FoxSports1

The first of three Big Ten-PAC-12 bowl match-ups could be just as well called the ‘No love’ bowl, at least from the perspective of the upcoming NFL draft. Washington State, in particular, has three of the most productive players in the country, but none of the three is getting the respect of pro scouts commensurate with their collegiate output. QB Luke Falk (#4, 6-4, 225) is currently college football’s 6th all-time leading passer including this past season when he completed 67% of his pass attempts for 3,600 yards and 30 TDs. However, Falk is still viewed more as a system passer who lacks prototype arm strength, although he’ll still likely be selected somewhere in the middle rounds. Same for massive OG Cody O’Connell (#76, 6-8, 365), a two-time All-American who literally does blot out the sun, but may lack the quickness and athleticism to be viewed as an elite prospect at the position. Then there is emerging DE Hercules Mata’afa (#50, 6-2, 255) who also made a number of All-America teams this fall after posting 9.5 sacks and 12 other tackles, but he may ultimately get downgraded at the draft as he lacks elite measurable. (Also note, Mata’afa will sit out the first half because of a targeting penalty). Meanwhile, other WSU later round or free agent prospects include RT Cole Madison (#61, 6-5, 315), WLB Frankie Luva (#51, 6-2, 235) and RB Jamal Morrow (#25, 5-9, 205).

For its part, Michigan State doesn’t get much love from pro scouts for the simple reason the Spartans don’t have that many legit prospects for the upcoming draft. Veteran C Brian Allen (#65, 6-2, 305), though, is a solid second-tier interior offensive line candidate who should get a call in the middle rounds, while junior RB L.J. Scott (#3, 6-0, 230) has next level physical tools, but hasn’t been all that consistent on the field and even less so off the field. Meanwhile, DE Demetrious Cooper (#6-5, 250) also looks the part, but has never been that productive, while SSLB Chris Frey (#23, 6-2, 240) could get some late-round or free-agent consideration.