Friday Dec. 29 1PM/ET ESPN BELK BOWL Charlotte, NC
WAKE FOREST (7-5) by 3 VS TEXAS A&M (7-5)
Another game that finds at least on of the participants in the midst of a head coaching change. The Aggies are now moving into the Jimbo Fisher era. WAKE has gone through their upheaval and this is now HC DAVE CLAWSON’s fourth year after coming over from the MAC. WAKE has some serious pro prospects on their roster led by DE/DUKE EJIOFOR, who is a 4-3 DE prospect, who some think could be a first rounder, though I think a flood of underclassmen will knock him into Day 2 of the NFL Draft. The Duke has a non-stop motor and a penchant for making plays in opponent backfields. A&M’s best senior prospect is SS ARMANI WATTS, who plays the run and pass with equal energy and skill. I think his overall talent makes him a very good prospect for a pro team that plays some kind of a Tampa-2 zone variation. On Offense they have a game breaking receiver/return man in CHRISTIAN KIRK #3 who had 58 catches this past season. He did not touch the ball anywhere near what he should have, but if he comes out early his speed and athleticism at the Combine will likely get him some interest in the late first round. Getting him the ball with frequency in this game could have great influence on the final score. Others to watch for A&M are RB/KEITH FORD #7, P/SHANE TRIPUCKA #18, and #92 ZAYCOVEN HENDERSON/DT, though his presence is unlikely because of legal issues off the field. Other Wake prospects include TE/CAM SERIGNE #85 (SHRINE GAME), #7 MIKE WEAVER/K, #14 WENDELL DUNN/DT. And don’t forget the QB that WAKE can’t replace, though they have tried to for several seasons. #10 JOHN WOLFORD may not be much of a pro prospect, but he’s one heck of a competitor and leader. He ended being Wake’s starter (again) early into the season and passed for 25 TD with only 6 INT. When he needed he ran the ball for another 615 yards and 10 TD. Logic tells me to take the stable coaching situation so I’ll say Wake!
Friday Dec. 29 3PM/ET CBS SUN BOWL EL PASO, TX
N.C. STATE (8-4) BY 6 VS ARIZONA STATE (7-5)
New ASU Head Coach will be watching this game from a private box, while deposed HC TODD GRAHAM actually coaches the team. Seems fair to me. The Sun Devils have one of the most underrated QB in the nation. #5 MANNY WILKINS, only a junior Herm, passed for 17 TD with only 5 Picks, while completing 63.5% of his throws. He’s also mobile enough to keep defenses honest. The team also was a running threat with #4 DEMARIO RICHARD gaining 977 yards, while KALEN BALLAGE #7 pounded for another 657 yards. Combined they rushed for 28 TD. The beauty of this match-up is that the Wolfpack DL is its main defensive strength, with 4 seniors, led by All-American BRADLEY CHUBB/DE ##9. CHUBB spends most of his playing time in the opponents backfield. For his career he has recorded 60 TFL, including 26 sacks. He’s a First Round projection for the 2018 NFL Draft. His line mates should also be drafted; #35 KENTAVIUS STREET (SHRINE), #98 B.J. HILL (Senior Bowl), #27 JUSTIN JONES (Senior Bowl). There is some talk that State QB RYAN FINLEY #15 may come out early and skip his senior season in 2018. He has nice size (6’3/210), good mobility and passed for over 3200 yards in 2017 while spinning 16 TD throws to only 6 INT. One of his favorite weapons is #1 JAYLEN SAMUELS, who is a Swiss Army Knife who plays FB, H-B and TE. SAMUELS rushed for 384 yards with 11 TD, while also catching 69 passes for over 500 yards and 4 more TD. He’s talented enough to rank as a Top 100 prospect for me. ASU gave up over 450 yards and 31.3 points per game last season. If they don’t tighten up this game will get lopsided fast. Watch a couple of their LB prospects in #2 CHRISTIAN SAM, who recorded 127 tackles and #3 D.J. CALHOUN, who had 94 tackles, including 5 1/2 sacks. This game should be fun to watch with lots of Offense and quality prospects.
Friday Dec. 29 5:30PM/ET ESPN MUSIC CITY BOWL Nashville,TN
KENTUCKY (7-5) VS NORTHWESTERN (9-3) BY 3
A lot of Big Ten fans were outraged that a 9-Win team like Northwestern should be facing a 7-Win SEC team. Beware my friends. How can one argue with a Bowl that matches two teams who both bear the name of the Wildcats! This Kentucky team has talent and a creative coaching staff. MARK STOOPS is the last Stoops brother to be a Head Coach right now, and has done a solid job making the Wildcats far from an easy out in the tough SEC. On the other hand Northwestern has a balanced team that plays it close to the vest and relies on a stubborn, swarming Defense. HC PAT FITZGERALD has now taken his alma mater to 6 Bowl games since 2010. #18 CLAYTON THORSON/QB is well regarded tho he still has a propensity to throw the ball up for grabs and turning it over via INT too often. He completed just over 60% of his throws this past season but his TD/INT ratio of 15/12 is pretty bad. He can’t afford to that in this game. Especially, with the Kentucky secondary being led by S/MIKE EDWARDS #7 who led the team with 90 tackles and 4 INT. LB COURTNEY LOVE #51 is also a force on that D, having amassed 92 tackles in 2017. Kentucky has one of the biggest players in college football in backup DT MATT ELAM #69 who checks in at 6’7, 360 lbs. THORSON’s best friend most games is his RB JUSTN JACKSON #21, who rushed for 1154 yards and 9 TD. The versatile, hard working RB is scheduled to attend the Shrine Game next month. #9 GARRETT DICKERSON/TE lines up all over the place and can block up a storm. He caught 37 balls for 4 TD. Kentucky can move the ball with dual threat QB/STEPHEN JOHNSON #15 at the helm. He can handle run/pass options. He completed 60% of his throws and though only hitting on 10 TD passes, he also only turned it over on 4 INT. His best weapon is Soph RB/BARRY SNELL #26 with over 1300 yards rushing, including 18 TD. The Northwestern D is young and athletic up front, but is anchored by their S pair. #16 GODWIN IGWEBUIKE is headed for the Shrine Game after recording 72 tackles, 2 INT, 9PD. #21 KYLE QUEIRO is scheduled to play in the NFLPA Game. His stat sheets shows 57 tackles, 4 INT, 8 PD. Expect both of these guys to play big roles in controlling both the pass and run game of Kentucky. Give me the Wildcats in a lock here!
Friday Dec. 29 5:30/PM CBS SPORTS NETWORK ARZONA BOWL Tucson, AZ
UTAH STATE (6-6) VS NEW MEXICO STATE (6-6)
How did we get so lucky as to get this stellar match-up so close to New Year’s. We now have so many Bowls to play that we get a regional match-up that might well be renamed the Neighbors’ Bowl. But let’s give credit to the Aggies from Las Cruces who are bowling for the first time since 1960. That is a hell of a draught folks. But to make it even more n bizarre is the fact that their opponent in that 1960 Sun Bowl, yep you guessed it, was UTAH. How crazy can you get?! The best prospect by far in this matchup would appear to be WR JALEEL SCOTT #16 of NMSU who caught over 1000 yards worth of balls. SCOTT is a long striding 6’6/215 pounder who is headed for the Senior Bowl next month. They also feature a nice looking RB in LARRY ROSE #3. Defensively, the top Aggies prospect may be LB DALTON HERRINGTON #31 who led the Sun Belt Conference with 124 stops. Utah State’s two best pro prospects appear to be CB JALEN DAVIS #13, WHO CAUGHT MY EYE way back in September against Wisconsin. DAVIS had 5 Picks in 2017 and turned 3 of them into Pick-6 scores. JC transfer LB/SULI TAMAIVENA #13 led the team with 109 tackles. He’s a Junior technically. So you see it my not be high drama, but there are some interesting young men to watch here.
Friday Dec. 29 8PM/ET ESPN COTTON BOWL Arlington, TX
OHIO STATE (11-2) VS SOUTHERN CAL (11-2)
How about we finish off a full day of action with a match up of two teams that could both make a case for Final Four inclusion? Glamor programs and lots of very talented players to watch. Arguably we feature two of the top collegiate QB in the country, both of whom are being heavily scrutinized by NFL Scouts. We n might get a feel from DARNOLD about his 2018 intentions, but I think not. My problem is I might run out of eye drops for tired old eyes that have been watching my TV for 12 hours before this one ends. Let’s not waste a lot of time on stats you can look up all over the internet but cut to the chase about the plethora of pro prospects. One note I would drop in is that Southern Cal will need a lot of underclassmen to declare to fill the Draft pool. The same is true of the Buckeyes but they have a legit crew of seniors on hand. The hottest watch is arguably SAM “LI’L ABNER” DARNOLD, who despite leading FBS in turnovers by a QB this season, is still considered a franchise QB to be, when he gets to the NFL. He reminds me a lot of JAMEIS WINSTON, as having that “it” factor as an athlete and a leader. But he looks to have better arm talent. But on the other hand Buckeyes QB J.T. BARRETT is a vet leader who wins with his head, his arm and his legs. The overall talent is enormous on these two rosters, especially from a pro standpoint. The Buckeyes have the best OC in the nation for my money in #54 BILLY PRICE. Two Ohio State DE are headed to the Senior Bowl in #59 TYQUAM LEWIS and #11 JALYN HOLMES. But for my money if #6 SAM HUBBARD/Jr declares for the NFL Draft I think he is special and better than the other two DE. #7 DAMON WEBB is a Top 10 S, while Jr. CB/DENZEL WARD is a solid first rounder if he comes out. LB/CHRIS WORLEY #35 is top 100 if/when healthy. Ditto for CHRIS WORLEY/ON #35. WR/PARIS CAMPBELL #21, and also a Junior, is a top 10 WR if he comes out. Meanwhile, Southern Cal features RB/RONALD JONES #25, WR/DEONTAE BURNETT #80 who are both Top 100 Juniors, if they declare. Two seniors on Defense are top rated prospects for the men of Troy; #42 OLB/UCHENNA NWOSU and #4 CHRIS HAWKINS/S. Meanwhile #35 ILB/CAMERON SMITH/Jr, is likely a 2nd Rounder if he comes out early. You get the picture! If you are a true Draftnik I strongly suggest you go to your favorite major website and print up rosters and depth charts for this one. Save some time and energy for this viewing treat on Friday night.