Bowl season starts today, but it's not as exciting as it sounds.
I cleave on to our final gasps of live football just like everyone else. For as much as I love the draft, those cold and dark months from February to August without a single unpredictable play wear on you in the worst way. I'll enjoy bowl season, I'll enjoy the playoffs and I'll enjoy the doggone Pro Bowl just because I don't know what's going to happen.
With that said, I have to admit: I don't want to watch Buffalo versus Charlotte today. Charlotte's bowl berth is a big deal, but I'm not going to sit down and watch the game — and the night game (Utah State versus Kent State) does little to move the meter for me as well.
We may get to Saturday and nothing would tickle my fancy more than a chaotic clash between Florida International and Arkansas State. But if you want to watch good football, here’s a list of games to watch from top prospect performances of the 2020 NFL Draft class to share garnered from the TDN staff.
Here are their recommendations for some of the top games from eligible projects, rather than, objectively bad bowl games.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo vs. Charlotte (Friday 2:30 p.m. ET)
Joe Burrow vs. Alabama (Joe Marino)
Let's start where we can't go wrong: The best performance of the best season for arguably the best prospect this year. Joe Burrow stared down Goliath — a team LSU recently couldn't score on if its lives depended on it — and posted an 80 percent completion percentage, about 10 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
What was most impressive about Burrow's game against Alabama was the poise. He was on the biggest stage of his career, and that's just the personal stake. From a wider perspective, the entirety of Louisiana football was riding on that game, and Burrow played mistake-free football in hostile territory against the standard of college defenses.
Burrow vs. Texas (Trevor Sikkema)
Burrow's game against Texas is a warranted inclusion. Before LSU had all the gas of an undefeated king of the SEC, before Burrow was a Heisman favorite, it had to get that first win against a top-10 team. Another 80 percent completion percentage, another 10 yards per attempt and five touchdowns to zero interceptions.
The Texas secondary was still relatively healthy earlier in the season, and in hostile territory, Burrow showed again his excellent gamesmanship, a cool head in amped-up situations and an incredibly live arm. Some of his most impressive off-platform, mobile throws this season came early against Texas, which are forgotten in the shadow of his subsequent performances.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl: Utah State v. Kent State (Friday 7:30 p.m. ET)
Derrick Brown vs. LSU (Kyle Crabbs)
We featured LSU in the previous bowl game — let's now put them on the receiving end of a stellar performance. The LSU offensive line just won the Joe Moore Award, and deservedly so after the Tigers’ historic offensive output. But it takes more than just being the best offensive line in college football to neutralize Derrick Brown, apparently.
Brown's game against LSU is the best game of any defensive tackle I have graded this year. He is a top-10 talent accordingly, but you shouldn't limit yourself just to this tape. There isn't a bad film of the young man to watch in 2020.
Javon Kinlaw vs. Alabama (Benjamin Solak)
With all that praise to Brown, the only defensive tackle in the class that has posted any game close to Brown's caliber of weekly performances is Javon Kinlaw, who delivered one of the best single efforts of the year against the Alabama juggernaut.
Kinlaw's stats for the game aren't anything to write home about — he only posted four tackles and one sack — but the entirety of his defense was outclassed by the strength of the ‘Bama roster. Only Kinlaw regularly won his matchup against every single offensive lineman he faced. He scored elite in three important traits (explosion, lower-body power and upper-body strength) off of this game alone.
New Mexico Bowl: Central Michigan v. San Diego State (Saturday 2:00 PM EST)
Tee Higgins vs. Virginia (Jordan Reid)
I wanted to adhere strictly to declared underclassmen and seniors for this exercise, but at the end of the day, we all want to watch top underclassmen, don't we? I suppose a nine-reception, 182-yard, three-touchdown game in a championship matchup delivers on that promise, doesn't it? Enter Tee Higgins.
You've got to go through a condensed game to watch it, but it’s worth it. Shout out to the ACC for all of these cutups.
Higgins is not personally my favorite wide receiver prospect in the class, but this was a great example of how he wins. He is such a good player on the sideline and at the catch point because of his concentration and body control, and if you can win in contested situations, you can provide value in the NFL.
CeeDee Lamb vs. Texas (Joe Marino)
CeeDee Lamb is my favorite WR prospect in this class, and while it's tough to pick a favorite game, Texas is a tremendous candidate: 10 receptions, 171 yards and three touchdowns are about as good of a stat line as you'll find, even for a Big 12 receiver.
The Texas game is such a great feature for Lamb because so many of his highlights concern adjustments in the air to downfield bombs, but the yards after catch aspect of his game is so underrated. It's what makes him a top-10 player in this class when all is said and done, and a threat at all three levels.
Camellia Bowl: Florida International v. Arkansas State (Saturday 5:30 PM EST)
Andrew Thomas vs. Notre Dame (Kyle Crabbs)
Here's an underclassman who declared, and not only declared, is going to go early in the first round. Andrew Thomas' film has been dominant against almost every edge rusher he's faced (though LSU speedster K'Lavon Chaisson might have something to say about that), and in the Notre Dame game earlier this season, he once again displayed what makes him special.
Power, technique, balance and control. Thomas is such a strong player. He never plays out of control and is seemingly always able to recover and adjust on the fly. Those instincts and reflexes are great for any position, let alone one in which you're playing at 320 pounds. Thomas faced a bevy of NFL players in this game and beat them all handily.
Jon Greenard vs. Miami (Benjamin Solak)
Finally, all the way back to the opening week of the season, we look at the dawn of once-transfer, now-Senior Bowler Jonathan Greenard, who dominated the SEC in his sole season of play for Florida. Greenard was a Louisville transfer with upside who lost the 2018 season to injury but quickly made up for lost time in his final season of eligibility.
This was the game where I fell in love with Greenard. The wicked first step and smart footwork up the arc and into the pocket reminded me of Tennessee’s Derek Barnett at times. Greenard is nothing more than a flashy name now, but as more people sit down with his tape, I see him as a riser into the Day 2, maybe Round 2 as we approach April.