Late Monday Bowl Prospects Preview

By | December 30, 2018

OKLAHOMA STATE (6-6) versus #23 MISSOURI (8-4); Liberty Bowl; Memphis; 3:45 PM ET; ESPN … Probably more than one casual college football fan who wondered how it could be that teams from the same conference ended up in the same bowl. Indeed, Missouri and Oklahoma State faced off for decades in first the old Big 8 and later in the Big XII. But in the sometimes geographically challenged world of college football, Missouri, a midwestern state if there ever was one, is now in the Southeastern Conference, and the East division of the SEC to boot. The casual fan might also ask how a 6-6 team gets to play on New Year’s Eve, but again this is the wacky world of college football where just about every gets a trophy just for showing up.

While not the greatest match-up on the bowl schedule – even just today – This game will also get plenty of attention from NFL scouts, especially from teams looking to upgrade at QB this off-season as it presents a last chance to see Missou QB Drew Lock (#3, 6-3, 225) in a competitive college game. Lock, who has all the tools pro teams are looking for in a pocket passer including decent size and next level arm strength, came into the season as the top-rated senior passer in the 2019 draft class, but was never able to build on that momentum as he struggled through an inconsistent campaign. In fact, this game has all the look of a QB fest as Oklahoma State senior Taylor Cornelius (#14, 6-5, 235) is one of the more intriguing second-tier passers in this year’s draft who could make an interesting third day selection.

While the QBs will be the main focus in Memphis, there are a number of other players worth a look including OSU junior DE Jordan Brailford (#91, 6-2, 250), a disruptive edge rusher with second-day potential who had 9 sacks this season, while Cowboys’ MLB Justin Phillips (#19, 6-0, 230) has third-day possibilities. Meanwhile, Missouri redshirt sophomore TE Albert Okwuegbunam (#81, 6-4, 255) could get some latter second-looks if he comes out this winter, while DT Terry Beckner (#5, 6-3, 295) is a mid-round candidate.

#17 UTAH (9-4) versus #22 NORTHWESTERN (8-5); Holiday Bowl; San Diego; 7 PM ET; FS1 … Call this one the ‘Rose Bowl lite’ as it features the two losing finalists from the Big Ten and Pac-12 conference championship games. And like the previous game, the most intriguing prospect in the Holiday Bowl is a veteran QB in Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson (#18, 6-3, 225). Thorson bounced back nicely from a torn ACL suufered in the Wildcats’ bowl last year at this time to lead NU to the Big Ten West title. Thorson lacks ideal arm strength and mobility, but is a smart field general with an accurate arm, the kind of player teams like to take a flyer on the middle rounds. In fact, Northwestern’s best prospect for the upcoming draft is rising CB Montre Hartage (#24, 6-0, 195), a possible late second-day pick who had 2 picks and 13 total pass breakups this year. Meanwhile, C/G Tommy Doles (#6-3, 300) and OT Blake Hance (#72, 6-5, 310) are later round or free agent candidates.

Utah’s first ever Pac-12 South title was ‘special’ in the sense that the Utes feature two of the best kickers in the country in P Mitch Wishnowsky (#33, 6-2, 220) and PK Matt Gay (#97, 6-0, 230). Utah also has a really intriguing LB in Chase Hansen (#22, 6-2, 230), a converted safety who made several All-America teams after racking up 114 tackles in 2018 including 5 sacks and 17 other tackles for loss; he should get some serious mid-round consideration if he gets out of the second-day. Meanwhile, veteran LT Jackson Barton (#70, 6-6, 315) and OG Jordan Agasiva (#79, 6-3, 320) are a couple of veteran offensive linemen who could get some late-round or free agent interest.

#19 TEXAS A&M (9-4) versus NORTH CAROLINA STATE (9-3); Gator Bowl; Jacksonville; 7:30 PM ET; ESPN … The QB beat continues in the Gator Bowl where NC State senior Ryan Finley (#15, 6-3, 215), one of the top second-tier passers in the 2019 draft class, leads the Wolfpack against the Aggies of the SEC. Finley lacks elite measurables, but he is an accurate passer with a quick release who completed 68% of his pass attempts this fall for 3,800 yards and 24 TDs against 9 picks. Unfortunately, Finley won’t have his favorite target available as junior WR Kelvin Harmon opted to sit out the bowl, however, Finley will have star C Garrett Bradbury (#65, 6-2, 300), this year’s Rimington Award winner, anchoring the offensive front along with G/T Tyler Jones (#53, 6-3, 310).

Texas A&M is one of the youngest teams in the country and likely won’t have much of an impact at the 2019 draft unless either of juniors Trayveon Williams (#5, 5-9, 200), a RB who had over 1,500 yards on the ground this fall, and/or TE Jace Sternberger (#81, 6-3, 250), who led the team in receiving this fall, opt to enter the upcoming draft where both have some second-day potential. Meanwhile, MLB Otaro Alaka (#42, 6-2, 240) and DE Kingsley Keke (#8, 6-3, 305) are the Aggies’ best senior candidates.