The growing trend of NFL Draft prospects opting to forego their bowl games in favor of preparations for the Draft process has taken some of the shine off of this season’s college football schedule. But that is ultimately our problem, not theirs. As my colleague Trevor Sikkema stated earlier this week, we should applaud prospects invested in their health who choose to prep for the 2019 Draft. And although yes, we’ll sorely miss the N’Keal Harrys and the Will Griers of the world, there are no shortage of prospect match-ups. And this season features some savory showdowns.
Here are the ten best prospect match-ups in this year’s college bowl schedule.
10. Notre Dame TE Alize Mack vs. Clemson LBs Tre Lamar and Kendall Joseph
Mack may not have numbers that match his potential, but that’s quite alright. Mack’s platform in the CFB Playoff and in next month’s Senior Bowl will provide him ample opportunity to generate some positive momentum for himself as a prospect.
The Irish will be tested offensively, they’d be wise to get whatever they can from Mack in this match-up against the Clemson LBs. Lamar is a bit more of a between the hashes defender, but he’s coming off a strong performance in the slop against Pittsburgh. Kendall Joseph is (for his standards) having a bit of a down season, but he’s the kind of athletic coverage LB that can make a healthy living in the NFL.
This game should be a great litmus test for each of these three parties.
9. South Carolina WR Bryan Edwards vs. Virginia CB Bryce Hall
We’re missing out on the main event, as WR Deebo Samuel has announced he will not play in the bowl in favor of Draft preparations. For Samuel’s part, he’s had some durability issues so I think this was probably the right call. But I digress, our alternate match-up of Edwards vs. Bryce Hall is a really fun showdown.
Hall has enjoyed a breakout season this year (20 passes defensed!!!) and he’ll be tasked with helping to shut down Edwards, who has set a career high in yardage and touchdowns. With Samuel out of the picture, Edwards figures to get a larger target share in the bowl game.
8. Oklahoma OL vs. Alabama Front Seven
If you like trench play, put on a bib. This one has some drool inducing showdowns. Oklahoma features four draft eligible OL: LT Bobby Evans, LG Ben Powers, RG Dru Samia and RT Cody Ford. Alabama’s defensive front is loaded: DL Isaiah Buggs, DL Raekwon Davis, DL Quinnen Williams, EDGE Anfernee Jennings, LB Mack Wilson (who is teasing coming back in 2019) and LB Christian Miller.
Holy cow. Add in the drama of a CFB Playoff semi-final game? This game has got the goods. The downside? There might be too many dudes to watch with the Sooners have the football.
7. Boise State QB Brett Rypien vs. Boston College Secondary
One of the great mysteries of this season is why QB Brett Rypien hasn’t gotten a little more play in a down QB class. Rypien has played 7 full games in his career against Power 5 opponents (Virginia x2, Washington State, Oregon State, Baylor, Oregon and Oklahoma State). In those games he’s logged an 11:7 TD/INT ratio and averaged 309.5 passing yards per game.
He’ll have one more chance to make a big impression against a secondary in BC that hosts several NFL eligible talents. Headlined by senior safeties Lukas Denis and Will Harris, Boston College also has a starting CB in Hamp Cheevers who has shown a nose for the ball. The three have combined for 9 interceptions on the season, while the team overall has 18.
Add in pass rushers Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen, this can potentially be a strong final exclamation point on Rypien’s resume.
6. Michigan LB Devin Bush vs. Florida RBs Jordan Scarlett and Lamichel Perine
Bush is super explosive, he’ll need that closing burst and hitting power to square up the two headed monster of Scarlett and Perine. Michigan has played lights out on defense for 11 games this season…until Ohio State undressed them on rivalry weekend.
Bush and the Wolverines will be out for blood, so shutting down the Florida run game and forcing the Gators to try to move the ball through the air is the first step in redemption.
5. Georgia CB Deandre Baker vs. Texas WRs Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson
Baker followed up an outstanding junior season in the Bulldogs’ run to the title game with an (arguably) even better campaign this season. He’s not the most dynamic athlete, but he wins with intelligence and great anticipation.
The Longhorns will have the chance to throw him fastballs and change-ups in this game, depending on who they try to match-up up with between Humphrey and Johnson.
Humphrey is the more dynamic option, while Johnson is a huge size threat. Is Baker up to the test of either or both?
4. Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz vs. Miami LB Shaq Quarterman
Redshirt sophomore C Tyler Biadasz is the best interior offensive linemen in the country. Go argue with someone else, I’m not hearing your rebuttals. On the other side, Shaq Quarterman isn’t that caliber of a prospect, but he’s big and physical as hell.
Good. Let’s get some head on collisions between these two and watch the fireworks. Biadasz is something of a long shot to declare from my understanding, but a man can hope.
3. Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray vs. Alabama FS Deionte Thompson
My reservations about Kyler Murray as a pro prospect aside, this is a sexy match-up. Thompson has elite center field range and terrific ball skills. Murray loves to push the ball vertically and create explosive plays.
Time to see which one falters. Murray will have to deal with a relentless Alabama pass rush as well, so we may see some extended plays that further stretch this Crimson Tide defense and create space.
Time will tell. Bold prediction: Thompson picks one.
2. Oregon QB Justin Herbert vs. Michigan State defense
Michigan State’s defense yields just 311 yards per game, the 14th best figure in the country. They’ve held potent offenses like Penn State (17), Michigan (21) and Ohio State (26) to low scores this season and they’ll need one more to win the bowl game.
It’s a great test for Justin Herbert, he who holds the keys to the 2019 NFL Draft in his hands. Herbert was a bit of let down in last year’s bowl game vs. Boise State, throwing 2 interceptions in a losing effort.
Things will come no easier this time around. Can Herbert make a big statement and exit Oregon on a winning note?
1. Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins vs. Washington CB Byron Murphy
Can’t wait for this one, personally. Haskins’ variety as a passer can lull defensive backs to sleep, but I don’t expect Byron Murphy to fall into that trap.
Haskins and the Buckeyes throw quick game at you over and over until they look to pop you over the top…Murphy is the kind of player who shouldn’t fall for it. I’ve become convinced that Murphy is an elite prospect in the last week after studying his film intently.
Will Haskins look to challenge him? Will Haskins make the same statement Herbert has the chance to make? Time will tell.