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College football bowl games preview and live chat, December 29 & 30

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Don’t ignore the lower profile matchups this week

The final weekend of college bowl games is upon us. Friday and Saturday both feature matchups between ranked teams that are chock-full of NFL talent, but don’t ignore other games involving NC State, Louisville, and Memphis. All three have a respectable supply of next-level players. Below, you’ll find information about each of the bowl games slated for this Friday and Saturday, as well as the NFL prospects to watch for each team.

As always, talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy.

Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M
Belk Bowl
Friday, 1:00 PM Eastern, ESPN

A matchup between two disappointing teams, each of which has one NFL prospect on the offense and one on the defense. Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor doesn’t have the quickest get-off, but his length and ability to bend is spectacular. The Demon Deacon’s tight end, Cam Serigne, also lacks speed, but he has good enough hands. Talented senior Texas A&M safety Armani Watts will be tasked with covering Serigne all day. On the other side of the ball, A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk is one of the fastest wide receivers in college football.

No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Friday, 3:00 PM, CBS

The entire NC State defensive line will likely be playing in the NFL next year. That includes a likely top-ten pick, defensive end Bradley Chubb. Defensive tackles BJ Hill and Justin Jones were both invited to the Senior Bowl, and don’t sleep on the other defensive end, Kentavius Street, who may be the best pure athlete of the bunch. All four will be tasked with shutting down Arizona State’s star tailback, Kalen Ballage.

Kentucky vs. Northwestern
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Friday, 4:30 PM, ESPN

Kentucky managed to exceed admittedly low expectations this year thanks in part to the play of their defense, which has been led by outside linebacker Josh Allen. Allen has seven sacks on the year, and projects as a 3-4 or 4-3 outside linebacker at the next level. Allen will have his hands full with Northwestern running back Justin Jackson. Jackson is just as effective catching the ball as he is running it. The Wildcats also feature hard- hitting safety Godwin Igwebuike.

New Mexico State vs. Utah State
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Friday, 5:30 PM, ESPN

New Mexico wide receiver Jaleel Scott is reason enough to tune into this game. The 6’6”, 215 pound phenom will be attending the Senior Bowl and could experience a similar rise to that of Corey Davis last year, as both are athletic senior wide receivers from smaller schools.

No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Friday, 8:30 PM, ESPN

If you can only watch one of the games on Friday, make it this one. There are a half-dozen pro prospects on each team. USC’s triplets, quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Ronald Jones, and wide receiver Deontay Burnett are all first or second-day players. On defense, linebackers Cameron Smith and Uchenna Nwosu lead the team in tackles, while defensive end Rasheem Green and cornerback Imam Marshall are solid contributors.

Ohio State features a couple of skilled offensive lineman in center/guard Billy Price and tackle Jamarco Jones. The real strength of the team, though, is their front seven. Defensive tackle Dre’mont Jones, linebacker Jerome Baker and defensive ends Tyquan Lewis, Jaylyn Holmes, and Sam Hubbard will all be drafted no later than the fifth round.

Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State
Taxslayer Bowl
Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson seems to be the forgotten quarterback in this class. Analysts believe he has had a down year, but he’s thrown for almost the same amount of yards as he did in 2016, while reducing his interceptions and increasing his yards per attempt. Louisville’s secondary is also underrated, with cornerback Jaire Alexander and safety Chucky Williams as the mainstays. Now that quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is out with a knee injury, the best player for the Bulldogs might be left tackle Martinas Rankin.

Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Saturday, 12:30 PM, ABC

Joel Lanning is one of the more interesting stories in college football. The former quarterback changed positions and is now a raw, but highly-athletic linebacker for the Cyclones. Wide receiver Allen Lazard is Iowa State’s jump ball specialist and another Senior Bowl invitee. Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller will also be attending the Senior Bowl after coming out of nowhere to post more than 1400 yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback and Shrine Game participant Riley Ferguson will be tossing Miller the ball.

No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State
Playstation Fiesta Bowl
Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPN

Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea is a first round player, but their team strength lies on the offensive side of the ball. Wide receiver Dante Pettis is a dangerous deep threat and the best return man in college football. Running back Myles Gaskin and tight end Drew Sample are both well-rounded prospects.

Most college football luminaries point to Penn State’s dominating offense, led by top-ten player Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki, but their defense features multiple pro prospects, as well. Each level of the defense features an NFL prospect, including safety Marcus Allen and cornerbacks Grant Haley and Christian Campbell, as well as linebacker Jason Cabinda and defensive tackle Parker Cothren.

No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami
Capital One Orange Bowl
Saturday, 8:00 PM

Wisconsin is a tough team, perfectly exemplified by their defensive prospects, linebacker TJ Edwards and outside linebacker Garret Dooley. Both are strong run stuffers. On offense, tight end Troy Fumagalli and center Michael Deiter are among the best at their positions in the country. Miami is more of a finesse team on offense with running back Mark Walton and tight end Chris Herndon. Another team with a strong interior defensive line, they sport cat-quick defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh.