The BCS bowl games are nearly here and not only will they provide us with some great games to watch, but they will also showcase some of the best incoming NFL talent that will likely be drafted in May.
Some of the best teams in the country will be going head-to-head in January, and there will be plenty of intriguing matchups to watch for. Of course, all eyes will be on the national championship game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers, but the Rose Bowl between the Michigan State Spartans and the Stanford Cardinal could be just as exciting, if not more.
Below is a complete schedule for the BCS bowl games, followed by a breakdown of one NFL prospect from each team to watch for.
Note: All statistics provided by CFBStats.com.
|Jan. 1||5 p.m.||Rose Bowl||Stanford vs. Michigan State||ESPN|
|Jan. 1||8:30 p.m.||Tostitos Fiesta Bowl||UCF vs. Baylor||ESPN|
|Jan. 2||8:30 p.m.||Allstate Sugar Bowl||Oklahoma vs. Alabama||ESPN|
|Jan. 3||8:30 p.m.||Discover Orange Bowl||Clemson vs. Ohio State||ESPN|
|Jan. 6||8:30 p.m.||BCS National Championship||Florida State vs. Auburn||ESPN|
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Michigan State
Stanford: Trent Murphy, DE/OLB
With 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss, it's hard to ignore what Trent Murphy has been doing this season for Stanford. The senior outside linebacker/defensive end has a ton of potential as a pass-rusher at the pro level. He has a great frame at 6'6'' and 261 pounds that helps him dominate opposing offensive linemen.
Although there are a number of athletic and talented pass-rushers in this year's draft, Murphy has a great chance to go at the end of the first round.
Michigan State: Darqueze Dennard, CB
This year's draft class is quite simply loaded with NFL talent at the cornerback position, but Darqueze Dennard is one of the names that is quickly climbing up draft boards with his recent play. He's had four interceptions and 10 passes broken up this season along with 59 total tackles, and he will be a player to watch out for in this game.
Dennard is a physical corner despite his size. He has the speed to keep up with most receivers and some fluid hip movement that will transition to the next level, so it's hard to see him going any later than the second round.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Central Florida vs. Baylor
Central Florida: Blake Bortles, QB
With Marcus Mariota deciding to stay another season and Derek Carr struggling against the USC Trojans, one quarterback that might skyrocket up draft boards after the Fiesta Bowl is Blake Bortles.
At 6'4'' and 230 pounds, Bortles has the ideal size for a quarterback combined with the intangibles and football IQ that makes him a great signal-caller. He was able to complete 68.1 percent of his passes this season with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions, giving him a 163.3 pass rating. Along with a strong arm and a strong mind, it means that he could find a way to sneak into the top 10 with some luck.
Baylor: Cyril Richardson, OG
Few offensive guards get a lot of love, especially in college. But Cyril Richardson is a special talent that could be the first player taken at the position. He has a big frame at 6'5'' and 335 pounds, plus he has some long arms to eat up defensive players to open up some big running lanes for his running backs.
Richardson is an aggressive player in pass protection and in the ground game, so he should have no problem making an immediate impact on any team. Unfortunately for him, offensive guards just aren't valued that high, but he still should be taken early in the second round.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Oklahoma: Aaron Colvin, CB
After playing at safety during his sophomore season, Aaron Colvin has successfully made the transition to cornerback for the Oklahoma Sooners. He was a first-team All-Big 12 selection his junior year with 52 tackles and four interceptions, and while he hasn't been as productive this year, he's still a strong prospect.
Colvin is a physical corner that can come in and help make plays in the running game, using his toughness to get in and tackle the ball-carrier near the line of scrimmage. He doesn't have the top-end speed to cover slot receivers, but he has the upside to be a shutdown guy in press coverage, and a team will likely take him in the second round.
Alabama: C.J. Mosley, LB
C.J. Mosley could have been a top-tier prospect in last year's draft, but he decided to stay for his senior season. That turned out to be a fine idea, as he still has a chance to be taken very early in the draft.
With 102 total tackles and nine tackles for loss, Mosley is able to find the ball from almost anywhere on the field. He has some nice length at the position and does a good job staying low to create separation and get to the ball-carrier. He's a very intelligent linebacker that can read opposing offenses, and he has a very good chance at being a top-10 pick.
Discover Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State
Clemson: Sammy Watkins, WR
Tajh Boyd may be trying to help his draft stock at the quarterback position, but all eyes will be on Sammy Watkins, as he's easily the top receiver in the 2014 draft class. With 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns, Watkins has been one of the most productive receivers in the country.
As a vertical threat alone, Watkins would be one of the top receivers drafted, but he does so much more than run deep routes. He does a great job making plays in the open field and picking up yards after the catch, which is why he should be taken somewhere in the top 15 of the draft.
Ohio State: Carlos Hyde, RB
Carlos Hyde just keeps finding ways to help his draft stock. Despite not playing in the team's first three games, Hyde has already run for 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
The senior running back from Naples, Fla. isn't small at 6'0'' and 242 pounds, but he has a surprising amount of speed. He has no problem finding the hole and shooting through it, using his big size to pick up yards after contact and break off big runs. He's quickly becoming one of the top running backs in the draft class, and he'll likely be a third-round selection.
BCS National Championship Game: Florida State vs. Auburn
Florida State: Cameron Erving, OT
Considering the fact that he's blocked for both EJ Manuel and Jameis Winston, it's safe to say that Cameron Erving knows a thing or two about blocking for NFL-caliber quarterbacks.
With a 6'5'', 310-pound frame, Erving is surprisingly quick on his feet and can keep up with even the quickest of pass-rushers. Along with the ability to protect the quarterback, Erving's footwork also helps him considerably in the running game, and this versatility is what will help him be a first-round pick in a draft class littered with great offensive tackles.
Auburn: Tre Mason, RB
Along with a magical run for the Auburn Tigers, the team has also had the nation's best running game, averaging 335.7 rushing yards per contest thanks to Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. For Mason, he's run for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns, including an impressive 304-yard, four-score game in the SEC championship against Missouri.
Even though he's just 5'10'', Mason is a great downhill runner who isn't afraid to make contact with defenders. He has great vision and has no problem running north-south when he sees a hole. After making a run for the Heisman Trophy, Mason should be a third- or fourth-rounder.