The holiday break is over and while many are likely stuffed and stuck to their couch, the NCAA is making sure no one will be pressed to leave their couch as there are three bowl games on deck for today. Tune in as Boston College has a handful of NFL-ready prospects, some of which will be playing to improve their draft stock before heading to the Senior Bowl. The late night Cheez-It Bowl will also have a few sleeper prospects in what is shaping up to be a defensive struggle.
FIRST RESPONDER BOWL: Boston College vs. Boise State – 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Boston College Eagles will have a handful of players with NFL Draft potential playing the First Responder Bowl. None will get more attention than senior pass rushers Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray. Allen had 6.5 sacks during his senior year, playing mostly on the edge but at 285 lbs, he may project better inside or as a 4-3 end in the NFL. He shows good use of hands and has a pass rush arsenal but his bend is limited by his frame. Allen will be at this year’s Senior Bowl as well and will likely hear his name called early in the upcoming draft.
Ray on the other hand is more athletic, offering more speed off the edge and projects as a natural edge rusher at 255 lbs. He is a project but he could develop into a good weapon at the next level.
One of the safer prospects in this year’s draft is Eagles’ guard Chris Lindstrom. The offensive lineman is a great run blocker and has the strength to dominate his man one on one. Lindstrom will also be at the Senior Bowl and will be joined by team mates Will Harris (S) and Tommy Sweeney (TE). Sweeney has caught 68 passes over the last two seasons and with his great hands could develop into a capable second-string tight end in the pros.
The Boise State Broncos will counter with senior quarter Brett Rypien, who is coming off his best season of college ball. Rypien posted his highest completion percentage (67.3%), yardage (3705) and touchdowns (30) of his career during his final season quarterbacking the Broncos. Don’t expect Rypien’s name to be called early though as his lack of arm strength will leave him as a mid-late round development quarterback.
QUICK LANE BOWL: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech – 5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
The two most name-worthy prospects for the Minnesota Golden Gophers will not be suiting up for the Quick Lane Bowl as they have chosen to prepare for the NFL Draft instead. Left tackle Donnell Greene will sit this one out as he awaits the NFL Draft. Green is a big kid at 6’6, 340 lbs and has the strength to completely manhandle opposing defenders.
The Gophers best defensive prospect, Blake Cashman will also be unavailable. The senior linebacker racked up 104 tackles this year with 15 tackles for a loss.
Keep an eye on Gophers’ pass rusher Carter Coughlin who led the Big Ten in sacks this season with 9.5. Coughlin has recorded 16 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss over his last two seasons.
CHEEZ-IT BOWL: TCU vs. California – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
If there is one player who can break the defensive struggle between TCU and Cal, it is California running back Patrick Laird who is an effective runner and pass catcher. Laird ran for 217 times this season for 935 yards while also totaling 50 receptions for 291 yards. The dual threat can get it done in both avenues with 2127 career rushing yards and 98 career receptions.
You won’t find a bigger breakout star on the Cal defense than linebacker Evan Weaver, as his ball skills and instincts were a big reason why Cal allowed just over 21 points per game. Weaver recorded 141 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two interceptions with one being a pick six.
After transitioning to safety this season, Cal defensive back Antione Davis enjoyed the best season of his collegiate career as he was frequently around the football. Four interceptions were a new career high along with five pass defenses. With Weaver holding down the second level, Davis took care of the rest on the back end.
TCU also comes in with a strong defense led by defensive end Ben Banogu who is a solid all-around lineman. A crafty pass rusher, Banogu finished with 8.5 sacks this season and has 19 career sacks. He also is adequate in run defense with 44 career tackles for a loss. Look for Banogu to be a mid-round project pick in the upcoming draft.