Besides spending time with family, there is no better way to spend the holidays than watching a great slate of bowl games. Each of the games below offers a chance to take another looker at some promising devy and NFL draft prospects. Tuning in is a great way to get a head-start on analyzing these players. Besides, a couple months from now when there is no football left to watch, you are going to be wishing you had watched these games when you had the chance.
Music City BOWL
Purdue Boilermakers vs. Auburn Tigers
ESPN/WATCHESPN, 1:30 p.m. EST
Purdue super fan Tyler Trent and the rest of the Purdue fan-base are very proud of this Boilermakers team. They have enjoyed quality wins over Iowa, Ohio State, and Boston College, finishing the regular season with six wins and six losses.
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The bright spot on offense has easily been freshman sensation Rondale Moore. He has caught 103 passes for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns so far this year as a true freshman. He has also added 203 rushing yards and added another touchdown on the ground. His exceptional season earned him AP First-Team All-American honors. Moore is already my eighth overall devy wide receiver, first among the projected 2021 class. His elite speed and athleticism make him one of the most electric play-makers in college football.
Quarterback David Blough leads the Boilermakers through the air and D.J. Knox leads them on the ground with Markell Jones contributing as well.
Auburn finished the regular season with seven wins and five losses, with each loss coming in SEC conference play. They did have impressive victories over Washington in the first game of the season and Texas A&M late in the year.
Led by Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, Auburn does not boast a high-powered offense. They only averaged 28.8 points per game on the season, which puts them 215th in the country. Stidham recently announced he will enter the 2019 NFL draft but it appears he will play in the bowl game.
JaTarvious Whitlow and Kam Martin lead the backfield with a few other backs contributing as well. The crowded backfield could have contributed to freshman running back Asa Martin’s departure, who announced he will be transferring after the season.
Once a promising recruit, wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers was among many others to transfer out of Auburn earlier this year as well. These transfers have been a disappointing trend for the Tigers lately, one they will likely need to rectify if they are going to start competing with the top teams of the SEC once again.
CAMPING WORLD BOWL
#16 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #20 Syracuse Orange
ESPN/WATCHESPN, 5:15 p.m. EST
West Virginia had a strong season, finishing with eight wins and three losses. They climbed into the top ten of the rankings midway through the season before suffering a pair of losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to close out the regular season.
Quarterback Will Grier enjoyed a big year, throwing for 3,864 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions. He was briefly part of the Heisman discussion this year but just missed out being a finalist. However, you will not see him play in this game, as he has already announced he will be skipping the game to prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft. This decision is becoming more and more popular among some of the top prospects of each class and is one I can totally understand from a health and career point-of-view.
Grier’s two big targets on the season were Gary Jennings and David Sills, who both had around 900 receiving yards and 13 or more touchdowns on the season. You can catch Sills in next year’s Senior Bowl, a great way to see how some of the top seniors in the country stack up against each other.
The three-headed monster of Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway, and Leddie Brown have led the Mountaineers on the ground this season, but the majority of West Virginia’s offense comes from the passing game.
Syracuse does not have any top devy prospects on their team, but they consistently displayed grit and toughness on their way to a successful season. They finished the regular season with nine wins and three losses, including a narrow loss to playoff-bound Clemson after defeating them a year ago.
Three players received at least 100 carries for the Orange this season, including Moe Neal, Dontae Strickland, and quarterback Eric Dungey. I bet most do not know Dungey leads all quarterbacks in college football with 15 rushing touchdowns on the season.
Isn’t Syracuse a basketball school? They sure are, but I still highly suggest tuning in to watch one of the more underrated football teams in the country.
#24 Iowa State Cyclones vs. #13 Washington State Cougars
ESPN/WATCHESPN, 9:00 p.m. EST
Iowa State started off the season losing three of their first four games but closed the season strong winning seven of their final eight. They defeated West Virginia and Oklahoma State over that stretch.
Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy was a big reason for Iowa State’s success over the second half of the season. He threw his first pass of the season against Oklahoma State, which happened to be the first game of Iowa State’s string of seven wins over their final eight games. He was one of my favorite freshmen to watch over the season.
Running back David Montgomery is many people’s top running back of the projected 2019 class. His elusiveness is off the charts, but I worry about his long speed and how often he is tackled from behind. It is certainly not the end-all-be-all, but I have concerns about his athleticism in general. On the other hand, it is hard to argue against his agility and toughness, two valuable traits at any level of football.
Wide receiver Hakeem Butler burst onto the scene as playing time opened up for him this year. He used his six-foot, six-inch size to tower over defenders and make some ridiculous catches this year. He truly looked like a man among boys out there. As of now, it is still unclear if he will enter the 2019 NFL draft. If he does, he figures to be a first-round rookie pick come rookie draft time.
Maybe snow is the only thing that can stop Gardner Minshew and the Washington State Cougars. They rattled off ten wins in their first eleven games, with a three-point loss to USC being the only blemish during that stretch. They entered the top-ten of rankings heading into rivalry week, but lost to Washington in a snow-filled Apple Cup and missed out on PAC-12 title and Rose Bowl berths.
However, the Cougars should not be ashamed. They still had a great season. Quarterback Gardner Minshew threw for 4,477 yards, 36 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. He was the engine of the offense all season. Minshew really spread the ball around, as eight different receivers had at least 300 receiving yards.
James Willimas led the team in rushing on the season and scored 16 total touchdowns, but freshman running back Max Borghi was a playmaker for the Cougars as well this year and is an interesting name to keep an eye on in devy leagues.