Bowl season is here! The college football postseason is upon us meaning the NFL regular season is nearing the end, which means the giddiness of the draft part of the NFL offseason is expeditiously approaching, oh thank you football gods! I must admit, my Niners rose colored glasses took a hard beating when the cold hard slap of reality did its damage on me early on in the season with a bludgeoning outcome (are we still selling those). Nevertheless, thankfully a full season of college football has healed some wounds and the expected 2016 draft class gives some reason for a promising outlook, don't do it Trent, don't you dare do it! Put down those scouting reports on day one safeties.
We kick things off with a run down of the five college football bowl games occurring today. Many of the schools in action are not household names, and one school in particular (ahem New Mexico) baffles some people questioning if the Land of Enchantment, you know, the humongous space between Texas and Arizona, is even part of the United States. I know, it's a sad state of affairs; nevertheless, there are several noticeable draft-eligible prospects taking the field worthy of your attention, especially since the 49ers have a roster filled with players coming from little known schools, I'll take little known schools for $500 Trent, err I mean Alex. Enjoy the bowl games today and check out the gifts the players get in the "Bowl gift swag" section.
* = indicates junior status
+ = injury status
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Arizona Wildcats vs. New Mexico Lobos
Location: Albuquerque, NM | University Stadium
Game time: 11:00 AM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Gift suite; Oakley Holbrook sunglasses, Blade Wet/Dry 30 backpack and fine knit beanie; cap; Sound Pop portable speaker; Ogio toiletry kit; Gildan stadium blanket.
The Arizona Wildcats (6-6) are making their fourth-consecutive bowl appearance for the first time in school history, and after having 27 days of rest, look for the Wildcats to enter the game relatively healthy. Stud linebacker Scooby Wright will be back from an injury plagued season hopefully putting on a performance for scouts reminding them of his tenacious style of play. Moreover, quarterback sensation and passing threat Anu Solomon is also healthy, so look for the Lobos to try their best in stopping a potent Wildcat's up-tempo air attack offense, which has been averaging 36.8 points per game.
Arizona's Draft Prospects:
*WR Cayleb Jones, No. 1, 6'3 - 215 lbs., 4.62 40 - (4th-5th)
OT Lene Maiava, No. 77, 6'5 - 301 lbs., 5.16 40 - (6th)
*ILB Scooby Wright III, No. 33, 6'0 - 246 lbs., 4.86 40 - (2nd)
DE Reggie Gilbert, No. 8, 6'3 - 262 lbs., 4.97 40 - (7th)
Homer alert! I am a huge New Mexico Lobos fan, and after enduring some horrific Lobos seasons (those three consecutive one win seasons were brutal), I am just thankful the Lobos are playing in a bowl game. The Lobos (7-5) are making their first postseason appearance since 2007, and too bad former Lobos center, Dillon Farrell, is no longer with the 49ers (still unhappy with that move), because it's not everyday one is able to enjoy a player playing for both of his favorite teams, especially since the Lobos rarely produces NFL talent, way to go Trent, but I digress. Arizona will need the extra time (27 days off) to game plan for the Lobos fierce triple-option attack offense, which has been averaging 246.6 rushing yards, ranking ninth nationally in rushing offense. Leading the rushing attack for the Lobos is the home run threat running back, Jhurell Pressley, with an impressive 35 career touchdowns. The Wildcats lead the series 43-20-3, but look for the Lobos to make the game interesting. Go Lobos!
New Mexico's Draft Prospects:
RB Jhurell Pressley, No. 6, 5'10 - 200 lbs., 4.57 40 - (UFA)
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
BYU Cougars vs. No. 22 Utah Utes
Location: Las Vegas, NV | Sam Boyd Stadium
Game time: 12:30 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Gift suite; Oakley backpack; trucker mesh snapback cap; beanie.
49ers players representing their schools: WR Dres Anderson - Utah
The battle of Utah (dubbed The Holy War) will be played on a neutral field for the first time, and although there is conflicting data on when the series started, according to Utah, the Utes lead the series 57-34-4 (BYU's data: 54-31-4). BYU's (9-3) strong passing offense is lead by freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum, a very strong-armed athlete with a knack for the deep pass. Mangum (I want to say Magnum) has thrown for 3,062 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. BYU also has a stout defense lead by senior defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi with a team high 11.5 sacks. Look for BYU players to rally around coach Bronco Mendenhall coaching in his final game with the Cougars, since he recently announced he will be taking the head coaching job at Virginia.
BYU's Draft Prospects:
+QB Taysom Hill, No. 4, 6'2 - 221 lbs., 4.54 40 - (7th-UFA)
OT Ryker Matthews, No. 72, 6'5 - 320 lbs., 5.26 40 - (6th)
DE Bronson Kaufusi, No. 90, 6'7 - 265 lbs., 4.89 40 - (4th)
Utah (9-3) also has a very stout defense and it is a program known for its athletes possessing serious athleticism, length, and speed, which is likely the reason Trent Baalke makes frequent visits to the program. The length and speed on the defense side of the ball creates many turnovers collecting 19 interceptions, which is tied for seventh-most in the nation. The Utes offense has been struggling the last half of the season, especially now with their phenomenal running back, Devontae Booker, sidelined with a knee injury (out for the game). The game will be a defensive battle; nevertheless, look for the Utes to have their first 10-win season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
Utah's Draft Prospects:
+RB Devontae Booker, No. 23, 5'11 - 212 lbs., 4.56 40 - (2nd)
WR Kenneth Scott, No. 2, 6'2 - 208 lbs., 4.54 40 - Utah (7th)
C Sioasi Aiono, No. 60, 6'2 - 305 lbs., 5.28 40 - (7th-UFA)
*DE Kylie Fitts, No. 11, 6'4 - 268 lbs., 4.84 40 - (4th)
DE Jason Fanaika, No. 51, 6'2 - 270 lbs., 4.78 40 - (5th)
ILB Jason Whittingham, No. 53, 6'2 - 245 lbs., 4.86 40 - (7th)
ILB Jared Norris, No. 41, 6'1 - 234 lbs., 4.74 40 - (4th-5th)
SS Tevin Carter, No. 9, 6'1 - 216 lbs., 4.48 40 - (7th-UFA)
P Tom Hackett, No. 33, 5'11 - 198 lbs., 5.12 40 - (5th)
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Ohio Bobcats vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers
Location: Montgomery, AL | Cramton Bowl
Game time: 2:30 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Gift suite; Fossil watch; commemorative game coin and case; cap and beanie; Ogio duffle bag; Big Game autograph football.
49ers players representing their schools: C Daniel Kilgore - Appalachian State; RB Travaris Cadet - Appalachian State
The Ohio Bobcats (8-4) are making their sixth postseason visit in seven seasons and ninth overall, where seven of those bowl games were coached by former Nebraska Cornhuskers' head coach, Frank Solich (I married into an extensive and devoted Husker family, so I feel your pain Nebraska, I really do). The Bobcats possess a strong, and finally, healthy defense ranking in the top third in the nation in turnover margin, as well as being very stout on third downs, sitting at 17th in the nation stopping opponents on the money down. The offense side of the ball is also healthier, although it is expected for backup quarterback J.D. Sprague to start in his third straight game stepping in for the injured Derrius Vick, Vick's ankle looks good and the opportunity for Solich to take advantage of Vick's efficiency and legs will likely occur during the game.
Ohio's Draft Prospects:
OT Mike McQueen, No. 75, 6'6 - 287 lbs., 5.16 40 - (UFA)
TE Keith Heitzman, No. 92, 6'4 - 271 lbs., 4.99 40 - (UFA)
CB Ian Wells, No. 41, 5'10 - 202 lbs., 4.58 40 - (7th)
Appalachian State (10-2) will be meeting Ohio for the first time. The Mountaineers are now part of the FBS (second season in the Sun Belt conference), and the three-time FCS champion (and shocking upset of Michigan back in the day) is looking to make some noise making their first FBS bowl appearance. App State has a ground and pound rushing attack ranking sixth in the nation averaging 268.8 rushing yards per game. The rushing attack is lead by junior running back Marcus Cox rushing for 1,261 yards on nearly six yards a carry with eight touchdowns. Rushing behind Cox is redshirt-freshman Jalin Moore utilizing an excellent mixture of power, speed, and agility rushing for 432 yards the past three games. Look for a match-up of strength vs. strength, the Mountaineer's rushing attack versus the Bobcats' stout defense allowing only 157 rushing yards per game.
Appalachian State's Draft Prospects:
WR Malachi Jones, No. 7, 6'1 - 215 lbs., 4.54 40 - (UFA)
DE Ronald Blair, No. 49, 6'3 - 272 lbs., 4.83 40 - (6th)
FS Doug Middleton, No. 21, 6'0 - 210 lbs., 4.52 40 - (6th-7th)
K Zach Matics, No. 59, 6'2 - 186 lbs., - (UFA)
Autonation Cure Bowl
San Jose State Spartans vs. Georgia State Panthers
Location: Orlando, FL | Orlando Citrus Bowl
Game time: 4:00 PM PT
Channel: CBS Sports Network
Live Stream: No Video Stream
Bowl gift swag: Nike pullover; flexfit, flat bill cap; watch; Tervis tumbler; commemorative metal ticket; chill towel; keychain.
The Cure Bowl will host the first meeting between San Jose State vs. Georgia State. Limping into the postseason losing three of their last four games, San Jose State (5-7) boasts a strong pass defense ranking 2nd nationally containing opponents to just 1,842 passing yards (153.6 passing yards per game). The Spartans' respected defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson (coached in two Super Bowls and four Rose Bowls), is coaching his final college football game; therefore, look for the members of the Spartans' defense to galvanize around their departing coach. On the offensive side of the ball, look for the impressive senior running back Tyler Ervin (draft prospect), who is a very smart decisive football player hitting holes with a burst exploding to daylight. With all the fame and accolades going to fellow Bay Area collegiate player, Christian McCaffrey (king of the All Purpose yards--3,496), the underrated Ervin sits only second nationally behind McCaffrey in All Purpose yards at 2,410 total yards, with one less game and 73 fewer plays than McCaffrey. Georgia State will see plenty of Tyler Ervin.
San Jose State's Draft Prospects:
RB Tyler Ervin, No. 7, 5'10 - 178 lbs., 4.53 40 - (5th-6th)
OT Wes Schweitzer, No. 72, 6'5 302 lbs., 5.26 40 - (UFA)
CB Jimmy Pruitt, No. 8, 5'11 - 203 lbs., 4.57 40 - (UFA)
Georgia State (6-6) is not only a newbie in the FBS division (entered in 2013), but it is also a program in only its sixth year of existence (started in 2010). The Panthers will be facing San Jose State for the first time and it will also be their very first bowl appearance, which is not too shabby for a program still wet behind the ears. The Panthers are led by the reliable arm of senior quarterback Nick Arbuckle. Arbuckle's passing prowess has ranked the Panthers ninth nationally in passing yards, with an impressive stat line of 4,160 yards with 26 touchdowns giving up 11 interceptions. Look for another game where the strength of the Georgia State's passing offense (averaging 346.6 passing yards per game) battles the strength of the Spartans passing defense (allowing an average of 153.6 passing yards per game).
Georgia State's Draft Prospects:
WR Donovan Harden, No. 9, 5'10 - 175 lbs., 4.48 40 - (UFA)
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Location: New Orleans, LA | Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Game time: 6:00 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Gift suite; Fossil watch.
49ers players representing their schools: WR Quinton Patton - Louisiana Tech
Arkansas State (9-3) is making their fifth straight postseason bowl appearance and lit up their conference (Sun Belt) with an eight-game winning streak going 8-0 in conference play. After a revolving door of one-year head coaches, with the likes of Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, and Bryan Harsin, bolting the program for greener pastures, it appears the "One-and-Done Era" has finally come to and end with the Red Wolves having a head coach (Blake Anderson) in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Arkansas State comes into this match-up with a varied and potent running attack averaging 236.7 yards per game. Moreover, senior quarterback Fredi Knighten has led the Red Wolves with 1,698 passing yards, 19 touchdowns giving up 7 interceptions, along with 358 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Although the Red Wolves' defense gives up a good amount of yards (roughly 400 yards per game), they are a very opportunistic defense leading the FBS with 34 turnovers.
Arkansas State's Draft Prospects:
RB Michael Gordon, No. 34, 5'9 - 187 lbs., 4.57 40 - (UFA)
WR Tres Houston, No. 15, 6'2 - 188 lbs., 4.54 40 - (UFA)
WR J.D. McKissic, No. 23, 5'10 - 193 lbs., 4.53 40 - (UFA)
TE Darion Griswold, No. 19, 6'5 - 264 lbs., 4.83 40 - (6th-7th)
Every time I see Louisiana Tech play I have visions of a dancing Quinton Patton, although Patton sitting on a Brown is quickly moving up the charts as a visual innuendo of bathroom humor (it's been a long season). Our beloved wide receiver, The General, was an excellent player for the Bulldogs and his personality is always fun to watch (you must YouTube Patton's wired for Senior Bowl practice). Nevertheless, it's safe to say I always have a smile when I see the Bulldogs play, sans the gold grill.
Louisiana Tech (8-4) is looking for their second bowl win, and it is their first time they have went to back-to-back bowl games since 1977-78. On the defensive side of the ball for the Bulldogs, one noticeable player to keep an eye on is defensive leader and outstanding defender Vernon Butler, who anchors a stout defense allowing only 114.8 yards rushing per game. On the offensive side of the ball, the extremely talented running back Kenneth Dixon is an exceptional productive back. Dixon does not have elite speed or a second gear, but as a complete running back, he does everything well: running inside with solid power and agility, outside with good burst and enough speed, breaks tackles, causes defenders to miss with change of direction, and one of the better pass catchers out of the backfield, plus he's decent in pass protection. From career scrimmage stats Dixon has 5,237 yards and 83 touchdowns. Louisiana Tech leads the series against Arkansas state 25-12 and have won their last two meetings. Look for the Bulldogs to make it three straight.
Louisiana Tech's Draft Prospects:
QB Jeff Driskel, No. 6, 6'4 - 234 lbs., 4.78 40 - (6th)
RB Kenneth Dixon, No. 28, 5'10 - 212 lbs., 4.54 40 - (3rd-4th)
DT Vernon Butler, No. 9, 6'3 - 309 lbs., 5.06 40 - (3rd)
CB Adairius Barnes, No. 21, 5'10 - 186 lbs., 4.4's 40 - (6th)