Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5)
Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib
For a game featuring two 7-5 teams, this year’s Pinstripe Bowl will feature several solid prospects. West Virginia has one of the best and most explosive passing attacks in the nation, and is led by QB Geno Smith and WR’s Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Smith (6’3, 220 lbs.; 4,001 passing yards, 40 TD, 6 Int., 71.4 comp. %) is a likely top 5 Draft pick after having a stellar year, Bailey (5’10, 195 lbs.; 106 rec., 1,501 yards, 23 TD) was Smith’s favorite big play threat, and Austin (5’9, 171 lbs.; 109 rec., 1,266 rec. yards, 12 TD, 61 car., 598 rush. yards, 3 TD, 903 total ret. yards, 2 TD) was the ultimate Jack-Of-All-Trades for the Mountaineers, ranking second in the country in all-purpose yards. But none of these players have as much to gain or lose from their performance in this game like Ryan Nassib.
Nassib (6’3, 228 lbs.) has good size, solid arm strength, and has shown good athleticism. His stock is on the rise, as he entered the year as a late round developmental quarterback, but now might be this year’s Andy Dalton. Part of his rise has to do with the lack of projected standouts at the quarterback position available in this year’s Draft class, and part of it has to do with what he has been able to do this season and over the course of his career at Syracuse. He is in his third year as the full time starter, showing improvement each year and that he is not just a game manager, but a leader and playmaker. He has played his best when his team is down, as indicated by his 8-0 TD-INT when his team is down by seven or less points and his clutch play despite top tier talent at receiver or running back will be attractive to NFL teams.
For the year, Nassib has completed 63.2% of his passes for 3,619 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Navy (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
Arizona State DT Will Sutton
After a 1-3 start for Navy, they went on to lose only one game the rest of the year, while Arizona State started 5-1 and ended up going through a very rough conference stretch where they lost to Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, and USC in consecutive weeks, before winning their last two games. Arizona State’s offense has been able to score points, ranking 18th in the nation in scoring, and their defense has allowed 24.0 points per game, good for fourth in the PAC-12. Junior defensive tackle Will Sutton has had a great season, and will have to continue playing well to help contain the 6th best rushing attack in the nation.
Sutton (6’1, 267 lbs.) is very undersized for the defensive tackle position in the NFL, unless he packs on about 25 pounds during the summer. Despite his diminutive stature for his position, he has shown great penetration ability, ranking 8th in the nation in sacks (2nd among DT nationally) and 4th in tackles for loss (1st among DT). He put up these great numbers despite playing in only 11 games this year, and he was very consistent, notching at least 1.0 tackle for loss in every game. His best chance at being successful on the pro level might be as a three technique tackle in a 4-3 defense, where he will be able to push up field and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. As of now he looks like a late second day pick, but if he can show well against one of the best running games in the country and add some weight in the offseason without compromising his quickness, he could move up.
On the season, Sutton has 58 tackles, 20.0 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, five passes broken up, and three forced fumbles.
Alamo Bowl: Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)
Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer
Texas has had a rough season, as they’ve had to deal with a plethora of injuries this season, especially on defense, with key starters DE Jackson Jeffcoat, LB Demarco Cobbs, and LB Jordan Hicks missing significant time. Texas also had issues with the top teams in their conference, losing to Oklahoma, West Virginia, and in the last two games of the season, TCU and Kansas State. The Longhorns are balanced offensively, but aren’t considered a prolific offense, and they will go against an Oregon State defense that ranks 18th in the nation in points allowed and is one of the better defensive teams in the country. Texas might have to rely on its passing game, and that’s where Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer comes in.
Poyer (6’0, 190 lbs.) has shown very good ball skills this year, getting his hands on seven interceptions so far this year, good for second in the nation. Coming into the year, the senior wasn’t considered more than a potential second day pick, but due to his great play this season, he has boosted his stock to the point where he is in contention for a first round spot. Poyer has great size, good speed, and good athleticism, which allows him to match up with every team’s best receiver. He has improved each season in coverage; where he used to just get his hands on passes to deflect them, he now can make plays on the ball, and come up with the timely interception.
This season, Poyer has 45 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks, seven passes broken up, one forced fumble, and seven interceptions, one of which he took back for a touchdown.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Michigan State DE William Gholston
Michigan State was a team that had high hopes coming into this year; they had a top notch running back, lots of experience and talent on the defensive side of the ball, and a head coach that had seen success. However, early losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State put a dent in those plans, as did an inconsistent passing attack, and the Spartans fell into mediocrity. While the defense did play well as a whole, allowing only 16.3 points per game, some of the key players were inconsistent, including defensive end William Gholston.
Gholston (6’7, 278 lbs.) came into this season as a potential mid-first rounder, but was mostly ineffective this season. If not for a dominating performance against Wisconsin, where he posted 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack, his stat line would’ve been unimpressive. Even with a teasing performance like that, where he showed how good he can be, his season can only be seen as a disappointment. The knock on Gholston has been his lack of pass rush moves (he only has 3.5 sacks this year) and his motor, and his Draft stock has been affected by it. He still should be a second day selection because of his immense potential and amazing size/length, but he needs a good performance in this game to help his cause.
On the year so far, Gholston has 50 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 9 passes broken up, and one forced fumble.
Music City Bowl: North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)
N.C. State QB Mike Glennon
Each year, there are players that go from unknown to first or second round picks. This game will feature one of those players – N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon. The Wolfpack has been very ineffective in the run game this season, save for back to back games against Citadel and Miami (FL), and as a result have had to lean heavily on the passing game. This will be a good test for Glennon, as Vanderbilt has the 10th best pass defense in the nation, allowing just 175.8 passing yards per game and six passing touchdowns all season.
Glennon (6’6, 232 lbs.) is a tall, statuesque pocket passer with a very strong arm capable of making all the throws. He offers nothing as a runner, but he has good pocket presence and has shown good sliding ability in the pocket to buy an extra second for his receivers. While Glennon’s stats aren’t very impressive, his stock has risen because of what he has been able to do with no ground game and an average offensive line and receivers. Because N.C. State threw the ball almost 43 times per game, Glennon’s completion percentage is unimpressive and he has thrown half as many picks as touchdowns, but he is clearly an NFL talent on the rise, and a good showing against a top ten pass defense will help his cause.
This season, Glennon has completed 57.7% of his passes for 3,648 yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7)
USC C Khalid Holmes
This has been a very disappointing season for USC on many levels; an early loss to Stanford put a dent in National Championship plans, star WR Robert Woods never was 100% healthy, the defense was awful in the second half of the year, star QB Matt Barkley got hurt, and the Trojans lost 4 of their last 5 games. Both Georgia Tech and USC come into this game having lost their final two games of the season, and Barkley might not even play in this game, but it should be USC’s game to lose. No matter who starts at QB, the play of the offensive line, in particular center Khalid Holmes, will be key.
Holmes (6’4, 305 lbs.) came into the season as one of the top centers in the country after playing well last year, but he struggled with injuries early and was very inconsistent all season. Holmes’ season started with a poor showing against Syracuse, then he got injured, then he got man handled by Utah’s future top 5 pick DT Star Lotuleli, and in the regular season finale Holmes struggled against Notre Dame NT Louis Nix. As of now, Holmes is a likely early third day pick, but a poor showing against Georgia Tech and massive NT T.J. Barnes (6’7, 345 lbs.) could push Holmes down further into the Draft.