In this third edition of Devy Watch, we’ll take a look at the New Year’s Six Bowls plus the College Football Playoff. These are the big ones, the teams that everyone knows, the players already on your taxi squad in devy leagues. Let’s take a look anyway and see if we can uncover a not-so-obvious name or two.
Citrus Bowl: LSU vs Louisville – Dec 31 at 11 am EST on ABC
If you think Leonard Fournette is a better talent than Derrius Guice then you aren’t really paying attention. Only kidding, you are entitled to your opinion, however wrong it might be. Earlier this season, Fournette broke the school record for rush yards in a game with 284 against Ole Miss. Not to be outdone, Guice put 285 yards on Texas A&M a month later. How many times has a school rushing record been broken by two different players in the same season? With Fournette opting out of the Citrus Bowl, we get one more look at Guice as the lead back in 2016. After this, we’ll have to wait 9 months before we get to see him terrorize defenses again.
Lamar Jackson blew me away in the Music City Bowl last year. As talented and exciting as he was, you could tell he still had a long way to go. I couldn’t wait to see how much he improved coming into 2016 and he didn’t disappoint on his way to winning the Heisman. Overall, he still needs work and fortunately for him and for us, he still has at least one more season at Louisville to become a complete quarterback.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech vs Kentucky – Dec 31 at 11 am EST on ESPN
The Kentucky Wildcats haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2007. This season, both Boom Williams and Benny Snell Jr. eclipsed that mark. I’ve always found it fun when an undersized back is nicknamed Boom. Snell is a more prototypical sized back and has out-carried Williams to this point in the season. Despite not having the edge in carries, Williams has more yards. Snell, because of his bigger frame, is the goal line back and expectedly leads the team with 13 touchdowns. Kentucky knows that Snell is their best threat to score and they aren’t trying to hide that. They line him up in the Wildcat when they are in the red zone and let him go to work. Williams is draft eligible but he hasn’t made a decision yet so it’s possible that this duo could be back to lead the Wildcats’ offense in 2017.
Peach Bowl: Washington vs Alabama – Dec 31 at 3 pm on ESPN
There’s no shortage of NFL talent in this first CFP semifinal. In fact, there are way too many guys to write about so I’m going to take a shortcut and just list them all.
For Washington: Jake Browning, John Ross, Myles Gaskin, Kevin King, Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, Elijah Qualls, and Azeem Victor. Victor, the Huskies’ leading tackler, is out for the season with a broken leg but announced that he will return for his senior season.
For Alabama: ArDarius Stewart, Jalen Hurts, Calvin Ridley, Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, O.J. Howard, Johnathan Allen, Tim Williams, Reuben Foster, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs Clemson – Dec 31 at 7 pm EST on ESPN
When thinking about Clemson, you probably think about Deshaun Watson or Mike Williams first. Next, you probably think about Wayne Gallman then Artavis Scott. If you ask me, you should have already mentioned Deon Cain by now. Cain has played second fiddle to Mike Williams all season. Going into 2017, he will be called upon to replace Mike Williams and Saturday, he can use a College Football Playoff semifinal as his launching point. He has a limited role in the Clemson offense this season because of the numerous other weapons they have on hand.
Outback Bowl: Florida vs Iowa – Jan 2 at 1 pm EST on ABC
Antonio Callaway showed all the promise in the world during his freshman season at Florida. His sophomore season left a lot to be desired. He struggled off the field causing him to miss time with the team in the offseason and that hampered him on the field. Callaway, the only player in UF history to score a touchdown on a pass, catch, rush, kick return and punt return, needs to prove that he is as dependable as he is versatile. He’s dealt with double teams all season and he’s handled it unselfishly. Monday, he’ll face probably his toughest on-field test this season when he draws the attention of Iowa DB Desmond King.
Freshman WR Tyrie Cleveland lines up on the other side the formation from Callaway. Cleveland has only been active in 8 games this season and only has 13 catches to this point. His biggest catch was a 98-yarder that he wrestled away from an LSU defender to change the momentum of that game. Cleveland is one to watch, a name to know. Don’t overlook him because of this numbers this season because Florida’s anemic passing offense could barely support one receiver much less two.
Speaking of the LSU game, if you were watching, you could find the exact moment that Jordan Scarlett claimed the role of lead back for the Gators. Beginning early in the 4th quarter, he put the Gators on his back and carried them to victory with one punishing run after another. Scarlett and Lamical Perine will make nice running mates going forward.
Cotton Bowl: Western Michigan vs Wisconsin – Jan 2 at 1 pm EST on ESPN
There’s not a lot to say about Corey Davis that hasn’t already been said. Davis is the FBS all-time leading receiver and a sure-fire first round pick. To me, he is the safest wide receiver in the 2017 class. If you want more words about Davis along with a few moving pictures, check this out.
Rose Bowl: USC vs Penn State – Jan 2 at 5 pm EST on ESPN
Simply put, Sam Darnold saved USC’s season. The Trojans were 1-2 going into a game at Utah when Darnold was given his first start. He lost a close game to the Utes but he hasn’t lost since. In his 9 starts, which include wins over Colorado and Washington, Darnold has a stat line of 24 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Saquon Barkley might be the most complete running back in the country. He’s also probably the most instinctual. On top of that, he’s a freak athlete. Put that together and you get the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Trying to explain his game here wouldn’t do it justice so we’ll save that for later.
Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs Oklahoma – Jan 2 at 8:30 pm EST on ESPN
Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway handled the role of H-back in 2015 and didn’t have a single carry. This season, he moved to tailback and led the SEC with 124.7 rushing yards per game. Coming into the season, no one could see that coming. It appeared that Kerryon Johnson was Auburn’s guy, but as the season progressed, the 240-pound Pettway stole the show. He’s a completely different runner than Johnson. He’s more powerful, more likely to seek out contact and less likely to be stopped by one defender. Pettway has already decided to return to Auburn next season to show exactly what he can do in a healthy season.
Baker Mayfield decided to return to Oklahoma for his senior season. I’m not sure that does much, if anything, for his NFL stock. Joe Mixon also decided to return to Oklahoma. Mixon is talented enough to play in the NFL, but he might be undraftable right now. He needs another season to rebuild his image.