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12/29 Bowl Games: Players to Watch

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A trio of solid games begin at 11am PT today.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As we inch closer to New Year's Day and the best bowl season has to offer the matchups increasingly get better. Today's trio of games feature six historic programs hoping to atone for disappointing season.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5) - 11am PT - ESPN

The Aggies and Mountaineers both had high expectations to start the season. After struggling to equal 7-5 records both find themselves in similar positions looking to build momentum into the 2015 season.

The Mountaineer will be without starting QB Clint Trickett who retired last weekend after suffering several concussions over the course of his career. WVU will turn to sophomore Skylar Howard. Luckily for Howard he gets to throw to one of the best WRs in the country in Kevin White.

The 6-3, 210lbs senior led the Big12 with 102 receptions for 1318 yards. He also recorded nine TDs. White is earning early praise for his ability to catch the ball with his hands and knack for getting open despite elite speed.

For the Aggies, T Cedric Ogbuehi will all the pre-draft attention but keep an eye on G Jarvis Harrison. The 6-3, 325lbs lineman is surprisingly athletic for his size and promises to test well during individual workouts and he could be a late riser in the draft process.

Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma (8-4) vs. Clemson (9-3) - 2:30pm PT - ESPN

Both the Sooners and Tigers have produced numerous NFL prospects in recent years and this year isn't any different.

For Clemson, Sr. OLB Vic Beasley the decision to return for his senior year didn't seem to help or hurt his draft stock. Beasley was a terror of the edge for Clemson and holds the school record for sacks with 32. Unfortunately for Beasley he doesn't have the size 6-2, 235lbs, to be a consistent pass rush threat at the next level. He'll likely transition to a 4-3 OLB where he'll need to improve his pass coverage ability.

Oklahoma left guard Adam Shead is another big mauling guard (6-4, 339lbs) that seems to fit the 49ers mold along the offensive line. With over 40 career starts Shead is as experienced as they get.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6) - 6pm PT - ESPN

After finally recording their first conference victory in 17 games earlier in 2014, Arkansas earned its first bowl bid since 2012. For Texas, firing Mack Brown and hiring Charlie Strong away from Louisville resulted in a two-game swing to the negative. A 6-6 record doesn't fly in Austin and Strong will need to win this game to keep the naysayers off his back, even after just one season.

Jr. DT Malcom Brown has mentioned the possibility of turning pro early and after a solid junior campaign I think it's likely. Brown has the size at 6-2, 320lbs and athleticism to operate at any spot along the defensive line, particularly in a 3-4. The consensus first-team All-American recorded 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2014.

Arkansas will be supply the NFL with some really good talent in the coming years but this year their best prospect is probably DE Trey Flowers. Flowers is 6-3, 270lbs but doesn't possess the speed or athleticism to be a consistent edge player in the NFL. He would seem to benefit from added bulk and a possible move to 5-tech end in a 3-4. Given his ability to set the edge, Flowers could also be used as a strong side OLB in a 3-4 but will likely need to come off the field in passing situations. He's one to watch as NFL coaches will get an early look at him in next month's Senior Bowl.

Enjoy the games!