Pre-Christmas bowl games lack the panache of their post-Christmas brethren, but devy owners should never be caught up in the name on the front of the jersey. While depth of talent may be underwhelming in comparison, good players come from all over. To the games.
Memphis Tigers vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
ESPN, 12:00 p.m. EST
This should be a very fun bowl game, as long as Wake Forest’s offense decides to show up. The Demon Deacons were an inconsistent team who blew out a solid Duke team and upset then #14 NC State. They also gave up 45.5 points in their losses but averaged 45 points in their wins. Memphis is an explosive offensive team, with the eighth-ranked team per S&P+. S&P+ has the Tigers favored by 12 points.
This game features two electrifying players with potential NFL upside in Memphis running back Darrell Henderson and Wake Forest wide receiver Greg Dortch. Henderson finished tenth in the Heisman trophy voting, while Dortch was a first-team All-American punt returner by the Football Writers Association of America, and a second-team All-American all-purpose player by the Associated Press. However, Henderson will be sitting out this game after he declared for the NFL draft.
The Tigers have former four-star and Arizona State transfer Brady White at quarterback. He’s listed at 6’3”, 205 pounds, but may be a little bit smaller than that based on what I’ve seen. His numbers this year are solid, but nothing that will blow you away: 3,125 yards, 63.3% completion percentage, and a 25:8 touchdown to interception ratio. He struggled against his best competition, throwing for just three touchdowns to five interceptions in four games against Missouri, UCF and Houston.
Da’Monte Coxie was the receiver looking to fill Anthony Miller’s shoes for Memphis, and he’s done a pretty good job. Coxie is a former three star recruit, but was a one time LSU commit who also had an Alabama offer. He’s a legit 6’3”, but looks a little skinnier than 200 pounds. With over 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns this year, Coxie is a productive player to remember for next year’s draft.
Darrell Henderson is likely the name you’ve heard from of between these two teams. He has over 1,900 yards and 22 touchdowns this year, making him one of the most productive backs in the country. He’s listed at 5’9”, 200 pounds, but I think he may be a little shorter than that. Henderson runs with short, choppy strides, but when he hits the second level and hits his top speed not many people can catch him. In briefly watching Henderson, he’s not touched on most of his long runs and looks a little stiff. Combining that with his short stature and level of competition, I can’t see him being a standout at the next level right now. For me, he projects as a non-feature, committee-type back who won’t get much higher until we have a verified 40-yard-dash time. Patrick Taylor will carry the load for the Tigers, and he’s a bigger back at 6’3”, 223 pounds. With over 100 yards in each of the last three games, Taylor is a name to remember.
For Wake Forest, quarterback Jamie Newman came in to take over for the injured Sam Hartman and has looked like a legit ACC quarterback. I watched all of his first start against NC State, and came away impressed that he was able to lead the team to an upset victory. Newman has a decent arm and is a good runner. He’s pretty raw as a player but if he continues to develop he will battle Hartman for the starting job next year and one of them will give Wake Forest a legit option at the position.
Dortch is questionable for the game, but it would be great for everyone if he played. An explosive player, he could have a huge day against a Memphis defense that isn’t anything special and just gave up a huge day to UCF. Dortch has great speed, short area quickness, and hands. However, he is very undersized. With a deep WR class, Dortch will likely be a day three pick if he gets drafted/declares.
ARMED FORCES BOWL
Houston Cougars vs Army Black Knights
ESPN, 3:30 p.m. EST
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