Who to watch in the bowls: December 27th

December 26, 2019

Bowl sched heats up with CFP playoffs loomimg … Just a couple of more sleep before Saturday’s ‘real’ post-season begins with the two national CFP playoff games. However, there is a full slate of 5 games on tap on Friday with at least a couple with some interesting draft prospects. Unfortunately, folks may have to go deep into their cable guides to see potentially Friday’s best game when Iowa plays Southern Cal in the Holiday Bowl at 8 PM ET on FS1. The Hawkeyes, in particular, have a couple of potential top 10 prospects for 2020 in junior OT Tristan Wirfs (#74, 6-5, 320) and junior DE A.J. Epenesa (#94, 6-5, 280). Wirfs, for example, is actually reportedly higher than Georgia’s Andrew Thomas on some boards around the NFL, while Epenesa is generally considered to be the best DE prospect in the country after Ohio State’s Chase Young. In fact, those who can get this game might see one of the bowl season’s better one-on-one matchups when Epenesa goes up against rising USC junior OT Austin Jackson (#73, 6-6, 310) who has some late first round potential of his own. USC also has one of college football’s more productive receivers in WR Michael Pittman (#6, 6-3, 220) who had 95 receptions for over 1,200 yards this past season, while RT Drew Richmond (#53, 6-6, 315) and ILB John Houston (#10, 6-2, 220), a pair of dependable veterans, are solid third-day prospects. If there is a positive for the sometimes beleagured USC program its that they are loaded with quality young players lead by true freshman QB Kadon Slovis (#9, 6-2, 200).

Friday’s other four games are all on ESPN headlined by an old-time Big XII match-up between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl which kicks off at 6:45 PM ET. That will give fans who haven’t yet seen the Cowboys’ redshirt sophomore RB Chubba Hubbard (#30, 6-0, 210), who led all college runners with almost 2,000 yards this fall. NFL scouts will also be keeping an eye on CB A.J. Green (#4, 6-0, 190) and OG Marcus Keyes (#76, 6-3, 310). Unfortunately, the Aggies best prospect, junior DT Justin Madubuike, – in fact, their only legit candidate for the upcoming draft – opted to sit out the bowl game after announcing his intention to enter this year’s draft.

The other game worth a look, at least from the perspective of the draft, on Friday is the Pinstripe Bowl match-up between Michigan State and Wake Forest which gets underway at 3:20 PM ET later this afternoon. This game features one of the more intriguing QB prospects this year in Wake Forest junior Jamie Newman (#12, 6-4, 230) who has gone from a virtual draft unknown to a legit mid-second day candidate. Newman, for example, is currently the #8 prospect on the GBN positional ranking and the 71st ranked prospect overall on the GBN Big Board. Newman is a big guy with a cannon, although he still needs to improve his overall accuracy and decision-making in the pocket. So far this fall, Newman has completed 62% of his pass attempts while throwing for 23 TDs versus 10 picks. The athletic Newman, who looks a little bit like a poor man’s Cam Newton, has also run for just under 500 yards and another 6 scores. The Deacons also feature an emerging edge rushing prospect in junior DE Carlos Basham (#9, 6-5, 275) who had 9 sacks this fall, while CB Amari Henderson (#4, 6-0, 180) is a cagey, veteran ball-hawking cover corner who had 4 picks this fall.

And speaking of QBs worth a second look, a quick look at this year’s NCAA stats lists Washington State’s Anthony Gordon (#18, 6-2, 210), a 6th year senior who had thrown all of 3 passes coming into the season, as the nation’s top passer after he threw for over 5,200 yards and 45 TDs this past season. Gordon, though, hasn’t gotten a ton of love from the NFL yet as he is viewed as more of a product of the WSU system who doesn’t have prototype arm strength. However, Gordon will have another chance to impress pro scouts when the Cougars play Air Force at 10:15 PM ET.