Happy New Year everyone! We're back winding down on the final postseason college football Bowl match-ups. There are four slates of games today capping the Bowl season with just one more final collegiate game left, the National Championship game on Monday, January 11th. We also have the 49ers final game tomorrow, and the notorious "Black Monday" thereafter, so these next few days should be rather interesting. Enjoy today's Bowl action and best of luck to all in 2016.
* = indicates junior status
+= injury status
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Location: Jacksonville, FL | EverBank Field
Game time: 9:00 AM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Panasonic gift suite; Fossil watch.
49er players representing their schools: LB NaVorro Bowman - Penn State; LB Gerald Hodges - Penn State; NT Garrison Smith - Georgia.
Penn State (7-5) limps into the postseason losing four of their last six games; however, all four losses were against ranked teams. The Nittany Lions are in a state of flux, a program still trying to turn things around and the question is, will Penn State's gifted junior quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, jettison for the NFL or stick around to help rebuild the program. Hackenberg, along with the rest of the offense, have had their struggling woes, but the defense is where the strength and foundation of the team resides. Anchoring the 14th ranked defense are three very talented draft-eligible prospects in Austin Johnson, Anthony Zettel, and Carl Nassib. Nassib, a former walk-on and basketball star, led the nation in sacks (15.5) and has grown into an ideal frame showcasing an excellent combination of size (6'7" - 272 lbs.), speed, and athleticism, displaying tremendous explosion off the line of scrimmage, active hands, excellent closing speed, an intense high-motor, and outstanding length (long arms).
Penn State's Draft Prospects:
QB *Christian Hackenberg, No. 14, 6'4 - 234 lbs., 4.78 40 - (3rd)
TE Kyle Carter, No. 87, 6'3 - 242 lbs., 4.72 40 - (7th)
DT *Austin Johnson, No. 99, 6'4 - 325 lbs., 5.27 40 - (2nd)
DT Anthony Zettel, No. 98, 6'4 - 284 lbs., 4.87 40 - (3rd-4th)
DE Carl Nassib, No. 95, 6'7 - 272 lbs., 4.71 40 - (2nd)
+SS Jordan Lucas, No. 9, 6'0 - 202 lbs., 4.54 40 - (6th)
Speaking of another team in a state of flux, Georgia (9-3) lost its head coach and both coordinators at the end of the season leaving former receivers' coach, Bryon McClendon, as the interim head coach going into the Bowl game. The Bulldogs do have a home welcoming of sorts, bringing back former Georgia DB and current Alabama defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart, as the Bulldogs' new head coach. Although Smarts' new journey as a first-time head coach is on hold until Alabama's National Championship aspirations have ceased for the season, the defensive minded coach will continue a strength the current Georgia team is built upon, the defense.
The Bulldogs are ranked eighth in total defense and ninth in scoring defense. One key player of note is the Bulldogs' outstanding outside linebacker, Leonard Floyd. Floyd possesses superb athleticism, excellent burst and closing speed, great balance and body control, a quick first step off the line, and coming out of the arc from his bend he is able to adjust with ease and take advantage of his length. He shows sound awareness, good coverage skills, and an excellent tackler in space.
Georgia's Draft Prospects:
FB Quayvon Hicks, No. 48, 6'1 - 251 lbs., 4.82 40 - Georgia (7th)
WR Malcolm Mitchell, No. 26, 6'0 - 195 lbs., 4.52 40 - (6th-7th)
OT John Theus, No. 71, 6'6 - 305 lbs., 5.21 40 - (3rd)
OT Kolton Houston, No. 75, 6'4 - 290 lbs., 5.12 40 - (7th-UFA)
DE Josh Dawson, No. 91, 6'3 - 273 lbs., 4.86 40 - (7th)
OLB *Leonard Floyd, No. 84, 6'3 - 232 lbs., 4.73 40 - (1st)
OLB Jordan Jenkins, No. 59, 6'2 - 253 lbs., 4.64 40 - (2nd)
K Marshall Morgan, No. 13, 6'2 - 194 - 4.87 40 - (7th)
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Kansas State Wildcats vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Location: Memphis, TN | Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Game time: 12:20 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Bass Pro Shops gift card and shopping trip; custom-made Oculus Pro Team HD binoculars; Bulova watch; Nike athletic shoes, sport sandals, sunglasses and custom-made backpack; commemorative game ball.
After starting strong out of the gate winning three straight games, Kansas State (6-6) suffered six consecutive losses, but ended up winning their last three games entering the postseason. The key for the Wildcats is utilizing their physical rushing attack with junior Charles Jones as their workhorse running behind a well coached offensive line led by senior tackle, Cody Whitehair.
Whitehair is a strong thick-built offensive lineman with tremendous power, agility, and toughness. Whitehair shows excellent awareness and instincts for the position, the versatility to play all over the offensive line, and the sound technique to be a force in the run and pass game. He does not possess ideal size (6'3") for the tackle position, which will likely make him an interior offensive lineman at the next level, and one of the top guards in this years' draft. Whitehair shows good bend and maintains solid leverage, quickness and heavy hands at the point of attack, a nice wide base, and a nasty mauler mentality finishing his blocks. Kansas State has lost six of their last seven Bowl games, so look for the Wildcats to improve upon that record and avoid having their first losing season since 2009.
Kansas State's Draft Picks:
OT/OG Cody Whitehair, No. 55, 6'4 - 309 lbs., 5.08 40 - (2nd)
CB Morgan Burns, No. 33, 5'11 - 195 lbs., 4.39 40 - (7th)
Arkansas (7-5) closed out the regular season winning five of their last six games gaining a birth into the Bowl season. The Razorbacks are looking to win their third straight Bowl victory, which would be the longest streak in school history. The key for Arkansas is to also utilize their physical rushing attack behind the talented junior running back, Alex Collins. Moreover, the Razorbacks are equipped with a balanced offense under the helm of senior quarterback Brandon Allen and impressive junior tight end, Hunter Henry. Furthermore, the Razorbacks' offensive line is anchored by stud offensive tackle, Denver Kirkland, a humongous offensive tackle at 6'5" - 343 pounds and a true human road grader.
A very powerful and strong mauler, Kirkland plays with the nastiness of an offensive guard excelling in run-blocking, quickly engaging and mauling his way riding defenders with explosion and power. He shows a good anchor with nice lateral movement and solid footwork in pass protection, and he has a heavy and powerful punch that jolts defenders, showing good technique (another very well coached player). Kirkland has the versatility to play tackle and guard, but is a likely candidate to excel as a guard at the next level. Look for the Razorbacks to try and even up the series, which Kansas State leads 3-2.
Arkansas' Draft Picks:
QB Brandon Allen, No. 10, 6'2 - 210 lbs., 4.87 40 - (6th)
RB Alex Collins, No. 3, 5'11 - 218 lbs., 4.52 40 - (3rd)
+RB Jonathan Williams, No. 32, 5'11 - 224 lbs., 4.56 40 - (4th)
TE *Hunter Henry, No. 84, 6'5 - 253 lbs., 4.79 40 - (2nd)
OT/OG *Denver Kirkland, No. 55, 6'5 - 343 lbs., 5.47 40 - (2nd)
OG Sebastian Tretola, No. 73, 6'5 - 334 lbs., 5.37 40 - (3rd-4th)
Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 15 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 11 TCU Horned Frogs
Location: San Antonio, TX | Alamodome
Game time: 3:45 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Beats Studio Wireless headphones; Fossil watch; $125 Best Buy gift card; team panoramic photo; commemorative mini-helmet.
49er players representing their schools: DL Arik Armstead - Oregon.
Oregon (9-3) flies into the postseason on a seven game winning streak. Last years' runner up to the National Champions Ohio State Buckeyes, Oregon is looking to extend their 10-win season streak for the eight season in a row. There are several draft-eligible prospects for the Ducks, but the mightiest Duck is sensational standout defensive end, DeForest Buckner. Buckner showcases a superb combination of size (6'7" - 290 lbs.), length, power, awareness, quickness, and athleticism. The former high school basketball player is explosive off the line of scrimmage providing a tremendous jolt at the point of attack, utilizing his length and long arms to keep blockers away and easily stacks and sheds blockers to pursue the ball carrier. He shows commitment to gap integrity and dominates with leverage, powering through offensive linemen with an impressive bull rush. Buckner is a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end as a dominant 4/4i-technique, and if the 49ers are looking to bookend their defensive ends for the future, Deforest Buckner would make an excellent compliment to Arik Armstead.
Oregon's Draft Prospects:
QB Vernon Adams, No. 16, 5'11 - 205 lbs., 4.59 40 - (7th)
WR *Bralon Addison, No. 2, 5'10 - 190 lbs., 4.47 40 - (4th)
+WR Bryon Marshall, No. 9, 5'9 - 202 lbs., 4.42 40 - (6th)
OT Tyler Johnstone, No. 64, 6'6 - 295 lbs., 5.14 40 - (5th)
C/OG Matt Hegarty, No. 77, 6'5 - 300 lbs., 5.16 40 - (7th)
DT Alex Balducci, No. 56, 6'4 - 310 lbs., 5.10 40 - (7th)
DE DeForest Buckner, No. 44, 6'7 - 290 lbs., 4.87 40 - (1st)
+OLB Christian French, No. 96, 6'5 - 250 lbs., 4.78 40 - (7th)
OLB Tyson Coleman, No. 33, 6'0 - 235 lbs., 4.76 40 - (7th)
ILB Joe Walker, No. 35, 6'2 - 240 lbs., 4.84 40 - (7th)
TCU (10-2) leaped through the early part of the regular season with eight consecutive wins, but ended up going 2-2 down the stretch. The Horned Frogs are looking for their ninth 11-win season in 13 season and eighth Bowl win; however, late unfortunate news will put a damper on the team's opportunity for a successful win. The Horned Frogs were already prepared to go into the Bowl game without their sensational and gifted wide receiver Josh Doctson (wrist), but a couple of days ago, breaking news thrusted a dagger into the hearts of the Horned Frog Faithful. The explosive senior quarterback, Trevone Boykin, was arrested early Thursday morning in San Antonio for allegedly hitting a patrol officer following a fight at a night club in the Alamo Plaza area. Boykin, along with wide receiver Preston Miller, subsequently have been suspended from the Alamo Bowl.
Look for TCU to rely upon their impressive running back Aaron Green, who is a tremendous athlete with amazing change of direction skills, impressive balance, flexibility, and solid instincts. The scatback does not have the power and ideal pad level to finish runs, and occasionally he bounces the ball outside where the inside run will garnish him more success; however, his agility and instincts helps him gain yardage where others fail.
TCU's Draft Prospects:
QB Trevone Boykin, No. 2, 6'1 - 208 lbs., 4.57 40 - (6th-7th)
RB Aaron Green, No. 22, 5'11 - 205 lbs., 4.53 40 - (4th)
WR Josh Doctson, No. 9, 6'3 - 195 lbs., 4.49 40 - (1st)
WR Kolby Listenbee, No. 7, 6'1 - 183 lbs. 4.36 40 - (5th)
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, No. 74, 6'6 - 308 lbs., 5.23 40 - (4th)
C Joey Hunt, No. 55, 6'2- 295 lbs., 5.27 40 - (7th)
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Location: Phoenix, AZ | Chase Field
Game time: 7:15 PM PT
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Bowl gift swag: Gift suite; Fossil watch; Ogio Excelsior backpack.
West Virginia (7-5) climbed out of a four game losing streak in the middle of the regular season to reach the postseason mountaintop winning four of their last five games. The Mountaineers look to climb on the shoulders of junior running back Wendell Smallwood, who is 15th in the nation with 1,447 yards, as well as scoring nine touchdowns for the season. Smallwood leads the rushing attack where the Mountaineers are ranked 14th nationally with 253.3 rushing yards per game. West Virginia is 2-11 all-time against Pac-12 opponents, and Arizona State leads the series 1-0; therefore, look for the Mountaineers to even the series.
West Virginia's Draft Prospects:
OT Marquis Lucas, No. 78, 6'4 - 318 lbs., 5.28 40 - (UFA)
ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, No. 35, 6'2 - 236 lbs., - 4.78 40 - (7th)
SS +Karl Joseph, No. 8, 5'11 - 197 lbs., 4.57 40 - (3rd-4th)
SS KJ Dillon, No. 9, 6'0 - 203 lbs., 4.59 40 - (6th)
P Nick O'Toole, No. 91, 6'4 - 228 lbs., 5.05 40 - (7th-UFA)
Arizona State (6-6) enters the postseason unable to fulfill the lofty expectations they had entering the season. After a solid start winning four of their first six games, they ended the season losing four of their last six games, but are competing in their fifth straight Bowl game, a school record. The Sun Devils have an attacking defense and is very strong against the run, finishing the season tied 20th nationally allowing 124.4 rushing yards per game. It will be strength vs. strength match-up with the rushing strength of the Mountaineers (253.3 rushing per game) against the stout run defense of the Sun Devils (124.4 rushing yards allowed), so something is bound to give. A draft-eligible prospect to keep an eye on is left guard Christian Westerman. Westerman is an extremely strong and powerful athletic freak of an offensive lineman with impressive foot quickness, solid hand technique, sound awareness, and plays with a competitive fire.
Arizona State's Draft Prospects:
QB Mike Bercovici, No. 2, 6'0 - 205 lbs., 4.86 40 - (7th-UFA)
WR D.J. Foster, No. 8, 5'10 - 195 lbs., 4.52 40 - (4th-5th)
WR Devin Lucien, No. 15, 6'1 - 200 lbs., 4.52 40 - (7th)
OG Christian Westerman, No. 55, 6'3 - 302 lbs., 5.14 40 - (3rd)
OG Vi Teofilo, No. 73, 6'3 - 304 lbs., 5.17 40 - (6th)
C Nick Kelly, No. 50, 6'2 - 294 lbs., 5.22 40 - (7th)
ILB Antonio Longino, No. 32, 6'2 - 230 lbs., 4.73 40 - (7th)
CB Lloyd Carrington, No. 8, 5'11 - 194 lbs., 4.53 40 - (5th)
CB Kweishi Brown, No. 10, 5'11 - 206 lbs., 4.58 40 - (7th)
+SS Jordan Simone, No. 38, 5'11 - 195 lbs., 4.58 40 - (7th)