Thursday December 29th Bowl Preview

December 28, 2016

South Florida (10-2) vs South Carolina (6-6); Birmingham Bowl; 2 PM ET; ESPN … Potentially interesting game in which the question can a pretty good 10-win non-5 power conference team run with a middling 6-win SEC team (that was actually 3-6 against power 5 opponents. The Birmingham Bowl could also be a coming out party sorts for a trio of USF players that haven’t received much national attention to date. Junior RB Marlon Mack (#5, 5-10, 195), for example, is a quick scatback who averaged 7.1 yards per rush this fall when he ran for just over 1,200 yards and caught 26 passes; and while he isn’t all that big Mack should get some early third day interest if as expected he enters the upcoming draft. same story for junior OLB Augie Sanchez (#43, 6-2, 245) who had 111 tackles this fall including 6 sacks. Meanwhile, junior QB Quinton Flowers (#9, 5-11, 210) isn’t ever likely to play in the NFL (at least as a QB), but he may just be the best all-around QB in the country nobody has ever heard of after he ran for over 1,500 yards, while passing for another 2,500. Along the way, Flowers accounted for 37 TDs as he led the Bulls to that 10-win season. On the other hand, USF isn’t likely to have any seniors drafted this year, although WR Rod Adams (#87, 6-0, 190), G/T Kofi Amichia (#75, 6-4, 300) and CB Deatrick Nichols (#3, 5-9, 190) should get some free-agent interest. No mystery why South Carolina struggled to a .500 record this fall: they just don’t have much talent. Indeed, DE rangy Darius English (#5, 6-5, 245) is the only USC player with real potential for the upcoming draft, although he is a good one with solid early third-day potential after racking up 9 sacks this past season. At the same time, LT Mason Zandi (#74, 6-8, 315) has NFL size and length and could sneak into the late rounds, while DE Marquavius Lewis (#8, 6-3, 270) and LBs Jon Walton (#28, 6-0, 230) and TJ Holloman (#11, 6-1, 230) are likely free agent targets.

Arkansas (7-5) vs #22 Virginia Tech (9-4); Belk Bowl; 5:30 PM ET; ESPN …. Still trying to figure out what the heck is a belk. Closest we’ve heard is a rarely seen marsupial native to sparsely populated hinterland areas. We’ll let you know! And teams looking for a TE in the 2017 draft will be in attendance in numbers as this game features two of the top guys in the position in Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle (#83, 6-5, 260) and Tech junior Bucky Hodges (#7, 6-6, 245). Hodges, who is really a WR in a TE’s body, in particular, has some late-first round potential for the upcoming draft, while Sprinkle, who is a little more well-rounded, is a second-day type that just about everyone around the NFL really likes. The two TEs will likely be joined in the first three rounds by speedy Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford (#1, 6-2, 195) who had 73 receptions this fall for over 1,000 yards. The Hokies also have several later round candidates including rangy CB Brandon Facyson (#31, 6-2, 200), DE Ken Ekanem (#4, 6-3, 260) and FB Sam Rogers (#45, 5-11, 230), while OT Jon McLaughlin (#71, 6-5, 295) and high-energy DT Woody Baron (#60, 6-3, 280) should get some free-agent interest. For its part, Arkansas also has a trio of solid mid-to-late round prospects in massive RT Dan Skipper (#70, 6-9, 310), who really does block out the sun, DE Deatrich Wise (#48, 6-5, 270) and DT Jeremiah Ledbetter (#55, 6-3, 280). And the Hogs could have another intriguing early third-day prospect if rising junior C Frank Ragnow (#72, 6-5, 320) opts to enter this year’s draft where he figures to be one of the first 4-5 guys at the position off the board.

#12 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs #10 Colorado (#10-3); Alamo Bowl; 9 PM ET; ESPN …  Hallelujah!! A bowl with two ranked teams! You don’t see that very often. In fact, this is the first 2016 bowl to feature a pair of top 25 teams. Of course, the Cowboys and Buffalos, who are ranked 12th and 10th respectively, may be looking at each other asking why if they are ranked so high they are stuck in this secondary bowl. Good question! However, while both teams are highly ranked, neither is really loaded with top prospects for the upcoming draft. In fact, the potential top two prospects in this game – the Oklahoma State junior pass-and-catch combination of QB Mason Rudolph (#2, 6-5, 235) and WR James Washington (#28, 6-0, 205) – both announced prior to the game that they’ll back in Stillwater next season rather than enter the 2017 draft. The Cowboys do have a third underclassmen who could get some second-day interest if he were to enter this year’s draft in junior DT Vince Taylor (#96, 6-2, 310), while FS Jordan Sterns (#13, 6-0, 210), TE Blake Jarwin (#47, 6-5, 250) and OT Victor Salako (#77, 6-5, 335) had mid-to-late round possibilities. Colorado also has a solid second-day prospect in rising CB Chidobe Awuzie (#4, 6-0, 205) who leads a strong Buffalo secondary which also includes later round candidates SS Tedric Thompson (#9, 6-0, 205) and CB Ahkello Witherspoon (#23, 6-2, 195). And while he is no necessarily getting a lot of love from pro scouts to date, maybe the most interesting guy in this game is Colorado OLB Jimmy Gilbert (#98, 6-5, 230), a rangy edge rusher with a burst who had 10.5 sacks this fall and could be really intriguing to 3-4 teams. Other Buffs who could get some late round or free agent interest include tough QB Sefo Liufau (#13, 6-3, 230), C Alex Kelley (#6-2, 305) and DT Josh Tupou (#58, 6-3, 325).