Saturday December 28
New Era Pinstripe Bowl - NOON ESPN
Rutgers vs Notre Dame
Location: Yankee Stadium
- Rutgers gets a de facto home game across the river in the big city. Notre Dame still features a bevy of talented draft eligible prospects even with the struggles they had this year after reaching the title game last year. The defense is loaded once again with senior DL Louis Nix III and junior DL Stephon Tuitt leading the way. LBs Prince Shembo (senior) and IShaq Williams (junior) also play important roles for the Irish. On offense, there are two key receivers in TJ Jones (senior) and DaVaris Daniels (junior). The Irish have a running back by committee with juniors George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle. I can see all three juniors staying in school for a chance to play with recently reinstated QB Everett Golson who was out for the year due to academic ineligibility.
Belk Bowl - 3:20 PM ESPN
Cincinnati vs North Carolina
Location: Charlotte, NC / Bank of America Stadium (home of the Panthers)
- A short drive from Chapel Hill to Charlotte awaits the Tar Heels. Once again the Heels offer plenty of draft eligible talent. Most of the talent is on the defense again. The anchor of the defensive line is senior DE Kareem Martin. Fellow senior S Tre Boston leads the secondary and is capable of doing a great job at corner as well. Stud junior TE Eric Ebron is likely to declare for the draft as he is getting first round grades from just about everyone. Senior OT James Hurst put himself on the map this year with a flawless performance against one Jadaveon Clowney in the opener. Hurst is quickly flying up the boards and could be a first round prospect before it's all said and done.
Note: The Belk Bowl is the battle of the famous relatives bowl this year. Cincy's RB Ralph Abernathy IV is a grandson of the legendary Civil Rights movement leader. UNC's freshman WR Ryan Switzer is related to the great football coach Barry Switzer.
Russell Athletic Bowl - 6:45 PM ESPN
Miami vs (18) Louisville
Location: Citrus Bowl
- The swan song for Louisville's standout junior QB Teddy Bridgewater, perhaps? There are rumors that he is undecided on his pro plans. He would be crazy not to go pro when his stock is at an all time high and the prospect of losing HC Charlie Strong is very real. Did he not learn from seeing Matt Barkley flounder during his senior season? The Cardinals have a great receiver in junior DeVante Parker. Parker will be engaged in a battle between he and Fresno's WR Devante Adams to determine which DeVante is drafted first. Louisville features a pair of outstanding safeties in senior Hakeem Smith and junior Calvin Pryor. I get the sense that Pryor will stay in school and be "the man" in the secondary when Smith moves on. Also of note on the Cards roster is former Auburn hero RB Michael Dyer. He transferred in from a junior college after being kicked off the Tigers team and kept his nose clean in Louisville. As for Miami, it's all about building for the future after finally getting rid of the dark cloud of NCAA investigations. There isn't much in the way of draft prospects for the Canes this year besides senior QB Stephen Morris, juniors DE Anthony Chickillo and LB Denzel Perryman. Sophomore RB Duke Johnson went out for the year against Florida State with a knee injury. Miami had used him a whopping 80+ times in the two games prior and they suffered drastically as a result. Freshman phenom WR Stacy Coley is another guy to keep an eye on in future drafts. Sophomore DB Tracy Howard is another.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - 10:15 PM ESPN
Michigan vs Kansas State
Location: Tempe, AZ / Sun Devil Stadium (home of Arizona State)
- Another year, another bowl game for Kansas State. Bill Snyder has to be the best coach in America alive for what he has done for the KSU program. He built the program, retired, watched his successor destroy it, and came back to rebuild it once again. The Wildcats have a pair of solid draft prospects in senior S Ty Zimmerman and junior WR Tyler Lockett. Zimmerman is considered to be one of the best safeties in the nation, ranking inside most analyst's top 5 positional rankings. Speaking of experiencing the Matt Barkley year of disaster, Michigan senior OT Taylor Lewan is doing it. Lewan really should have came out last year when he was in the running for top tackle drafted honors. This year, he will be lucky to be in the first round after his performance. Michigan will start a true freshman QB in Shane Morris after senior Devin Gardner injured his foot and was not able to practice fully. Junior DB Blake Countess is one of the more unheralded prospects playing in a horrid Wolverines defense. Fellow junior LB Jake Ryan is recovering from an ACL tear suffered in spring practice and only started playing in mid October. Senior RB Fitzgerald Toussaint needs a good offseason draft process to recover his stock. Senior WR Jeremy Gallon could be an ideal slot receiver candidate at the next level. Gallon took the honor of wearing Desmond Howard's #21 jersey this year (it's an annual tradition for whoever wins the right to wear 21).