Happy New Year Niners Nation! What better way to ring in 2014 than with a day FULL of college football. Six games are on the slate today. This afternoon's quintuple feature is as follows: the Tax Slayer.com Gator Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Capital One Bowl, and the Outback Bowl.
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Nebraska (8-4) vs. Georgia (8-4)
9am on ESPN2 from Jacksonville, Florida.
These two programs had BCS hopes at the start of the season only to see their dreams crash abruptly early on. Georgia lost the season opener to Clemson and over the next few weeks proceeded to accumulate major injuries on both sides of the ball before losing back to back games mid-season.
Nebraska was embarrassed by UCLA in week three at home. To make matters worse, starting QB Taylor Martinez was injured in that game and ultimately forced to miss the rest of the season.
As far as NFL prospects, both are a little light in pro talent this year. Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste is what you call a ‘super corner'. As in super-sized. At 6-2, 220lbs, the former wide receiver is an imposing force on the defensive side of the ball. Jean-Baptiste led Nebraska in pass break-ups this year and last year with 11 and nine respectively.
For Georgia, QB Aaron Murray's draft stock may be in trouble...and it wasn't all that high to begin with. Murray tore the ACL in his left knee on November 23rd but says he's on track to work out at Georgia's pro day (typically after the NFL Scouting Combine).
Heart of Dallas Bowl: North Texas (8-4) vs. UNLV (7-5)
9am on ESPNU from Dallas, Texas.
While there may be a shortage of NFL talent on the field in this one, there will be no shortage of excitement among players in both locker rooms. That's because players for North Texas and UNLV will be experiencing something they haven't experienced in some time...a bowl game.
North Texas is bowling for the first time since 2004 and UNLV for the first time since 2000!
Enjoy the swag bags gents!
Capital One Bowl: #9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. #19 Wisconsin (9-3)
10am on ABC from Orlando, Florida.
This might be the best non-BCS game of the season. Both teams have a lot of post-season pride on the line as the Badgers look for their fifth straight 10-win season while the Gamecocks look for their third straight 11-win season.
Entering 2013, All-Universe DE Jadeveon Clowney was a shoe-in for the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. After an anything-but-stellar junior campaign, Clowney's draft stock has slid and I'm not buying it. Look, the guy faced double and triple teams ALL season. Sure he may have taken a play or two (or three) off...after watching his former teammate Marcus Latimore lose millions last year, maybe that's understandable. Clowney is still the most physically gifted player in the draft. His ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage is worth more than the stat sheet.
Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis' story reminds me of Jordy Nelson. Both former walk-ons who made significant impacts at the college level late in their careers. While Abbrederis doesn't exactly have all of Nelson's traits, he hopes to have the same kind of success. Abbrederis is an incredibly smart route runner and has great hands. Two components that will likely get him drafted on day two of the NFL Draft.
Outback Bowl: #14 LSU (9-3) vs. Iowa (8-4)
10am on ESPN from Tampa, Florida.
The only thing that you really need to know here is that no matter who wins...America wins. That's because, like it does every season, Outback will give away free appetizers on January 2nd depending on who wins the game. Should Iowa emerge victorious, America gets free coconut shrimp. If LSU wins, American gets a free Bloomin' Onion. Let your allegiances be known!
Alright I guess, I have to give you some guys to watch for now...although I'm fairly certain it doesn't matter now. You'll probably just be picturing LSU's Jeremy Hill as a giant fried onion as he totes the rock.
The Tigers have a pair of wide receivers that could find their way into round one come draft day. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are juniors expected to declare early for the NFL. With similar size and build (Beckham: 5-11, 193lbs; Landry: 6-0, 195lbs) it's Beckham's versatility that have many thinking he's a shoe-in first rounder. Beckham broke LSU's single season record for all-purpose yards with 2,222 including over 1,100 receiving.
Keep an eye on safety Craig Loston. Loston could be an intriguing option on day two of the draft and could reunite him with former LSU teammate and 2013 first round pick Eric Reid.
Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz only had 26 catches this season but six of them went for a touchdown. He's more of a traditional tight end than the more popular ‘joker' or ‘move' tight ends but his size and blocking ability should translate well.
But seriously, shrimp or onions?