We are inching ever so closer to having a slate of high impact college football games. As you will see from the below list, however, we are not quite there. Still, there are notable prospects in most games of the bowl season and we’ll pick through the best of today’s games below.
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Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army vs. North Texas
Tuesday, December 27th at 12:00 PM ET
Bless the folks suiting up for Army today, but for many reasons, they’re not a team to circle when eyeing devy prospects. For a variety of different reasons, North Texas is not a team which offers a lot of intrigue either. This is a 5-7 team out of Conference USA whose quarterbacks combined for 12 touchdown passes on the year. You’re likely a fan of one of these teams if you’re tuning in, or you just really cannot get enough college football.
Military Bowl: Temple vs. Wake Forest
Tuesday, December 27th on ESPN at 7:00 PM ET
Temple loses their coach yet goes bowling after a strong 10-3 campaign which includes a close loss to Penn State. Their backfield combination of Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead set the tone, with both rushing for exactly 918 yards on the season, though with Armstead doing so on 51 fewer carries. Armstead looks a bit more explosive, though Thomas offers more in the passing game. They’re the two best long-term prospects in this game, even if neither has the look of a premier prospect.
Wake Forest is limited offensively. Their best player from a devy angle may be tight end Cam Serigne, whose modern day tight end style could earn him a NFL look, even though he lacks the dynamic skills to be a truly coveted talent. With a year left of eligibility, he appears likely to return to school.
Holiday Bowl: Minnesota vs. Washington State
Wednesday, December 21st on ESPN at 9:00 PM ET
After briefly toying with the notion of boycotting this game, the Minnesota Golden Gophers take the field in the Holiday Bowl, giving the world the opportunity to see Mitch Leidner attack defenses with his patented throws which hit the hashmarks right in the numbers. He got some absurd preseason draft buzz, yet he’s an undraftable prospect despite over three years of starting experience.
Minnesota’s strength is its two backs: Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. Smith went for 1,084 yards and 15 touchdowns while Brooks tallied 599 yards and five touchdowns despite dealing with injuries for most of the year. Smith is the slasher with a bit more wiggle while Brooks wins with power and determination. Neither is a great prospect, though each could get a shot at a NFL roster once their college career ends.
Washington State is led by Luke Falk, whom Mike Leach hinted was staying for his senior year, though nothing has been confirmed. Despite the system concerns, he has plus traits in many areas and is better than many of the Air Raid type prospects we have seen. Whenever he declares, he could certainly be one of the top signal callers selected. He is the top devy prospect in this game.
When you have a quarterback putting up big numbers, it stands to reason plenty of pass-catchers are having good seasons. Three Cougar receivers are over 700 yards, led by Gabe Marks and his 867. He’s got a day three ceiling yet may be a better prospect than Vince Mayle a few years back.
Cactus Bowl: Boise State vs. Baylor
Tuesday, December 27th on ESPN at 10:15 PM EST
This is the premier contest of the day from a devy perspective. Boise State is headlined by Jeremy McNichols, who recently announced he is entering the 2017 draft. Despite lacking the name value of many other draft-eligible players, McNichols could be a top-five runner in this class thanks to his three-down appeal and determined, decisive running style. Much like Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi before him, McNichols should be a Bronco back who sticks for a long time in the NFL.
Under center, Brett Rypien has had two strong seasons despite them being his first two years of major college football. He has not thrown as much as he did in 2015, yet has gained efficiency with a 23-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 9.74 YPA. He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, yet he has emerged as a name to watch in a deep class of sophomore quarterbacks.
The Baylor Bears are not nearly as stacked as they were last year, but there’s still plenty of notable talent on this team. They’re led by KD Cannon, a smooth athlete with excellent long speed who’s emerged as one of the nation’s better deep threats while quietly rounding out his intermediate game. I think typecasting him as a deep threat would be a misnomer; he can make plays in tough areas and runs with more tenacity after the catch than you would expect. Given his skill-set is always in command, I’d expect him to have a day two floor if he declares with a day one ceiling.
His partner in crime – Ishmael Zamora – has been very good in his redshirt sophomore season, displaying a physicality which complements Cannon very well and using his size/speed combination to post some monster games. There are whispers he will declare, though I think he’d be best suited to return to Baylor and be the top receiver in 2017. There are still numerous areas he could improve which can vault him into day two.
A young receiver I am a fan of is Blake Lynch, who despite a 6-foot-3, 205 pound frame can move with ease and work well in tight spaces. He’s got a long ways to go but the early returns for the redshirt freshman are promising. He should see ample work in this game.
With Shock Linwood joining the trend of backs sitting out their bowl games, we will see extended action for Terence Williams, the best running back prospect on Baylor’s roster with or without Linwood in the lineup. A big back with excellent downhill running skills, Williams is poised to post a monster 2017 campaign as he returns as one of the Baylor’s best offensive weapons. His hype should start to build with this bowl game.