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Blog Entry

Six New Year's Day* matchups to watch

Posted on: January 2, 2012 8:24 am
 
Due to New Year's Day falling on a Sunday this year all of the traditional bowl games played on this day were moved to Monday. For football enthusiasts it just means an extension of an already dramatic college football season.

Whether you are a hardcore fan preparing yourself to watch every second you can of the six games on tap today or just want to have a handy Who-To-Watch guide for the few minutes you get to sneak away from your job to check the game, I've got you covered with one head to head matchup NFL scouts will be watching.

Here they are:

TicketCity Bowl

Penn State DT Devon Still vs. Houston C Chris Thompson: The 6-4, 310 pound Still currently ranks No. 8 on NFLDraftScout.com's 2012 board for all prospects. Opposing him is Houston's Thompson, a 6-2, 285 pound technician who we rank as a likely free agent (rated No. 38 amongst centers). Don't think that the Cougars won't have a plan for Still and the rest of a talented Penn State defensive line. The beauty of Houston's spread offense is that it gets the ball out of Case Keenum's hands so quickly that often bigger, more athletic pass rushers are limited in what role they can have. Couple that with the fact that Thompson is a wily veteran who earned his second consecutive All-Conference USA honors this season (last year he won it playing guard) and we have an interesting matchup to start off the day.

Capital One Bowl

Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard vs. South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery: Scouts circled this one in red ink, and Jeffery should do the same. He's against the clock to prove he's not overhyped in an offense that caters to his natural skills. Jeffery, a junior, has a 6-inch and nearly 25-pound advantage on the Nebraska senior cornerback. Dennard's late-season push to work back into first-round conversation would get an exclamation point if he muzzles the gifted but undisciplined Jeffery.

Outback Bowl

Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy vs. Georgia C Ben Jones: There may not be a defensive tackle in the country blessed with a more impressive combination of burst off the snap and strength than Michigan State's junior defensive tackle. Playing in the SEC, however, has prepared Jones for just this type of matchup. While the All-SEC center may lack Worthy's power and athleticism, the senior is tough-minded, technically sound and a legitimate top 75 pro prospect, in his own right. If nothing makes you happier during the holidays than a good old fashioned battle in the trenches, this is the showdown to watch.

Gator Bowl

Florida DT Jaye Howard vs. Ohio State C Mike Brewster: Just like in the Outback Bowl, I expect the television analysts to focus on matchups between the skill position players in the Gator Bowl but winner of the Gator Bowl will likely be the team that gets more from their senior in the middle. Howard is quietly among the better, all-around senior defensive tackles and is being viewed by some 3-4 clubs as a possible conversion to defensive end. Brewster isn't flashy but is a tough guy who always competes and is starting his 49th consecutive game. Each is listed by NFLDraftScout.com as potential mid round picks.

Rose Bowl

Wisconsin FS Aaron Henry vs. Oregon RB LaMichael James: The key to stopping the "Quack Attack" is the same as it is with most offenses: take away the running game. Without a dominant front line, the Badgers will have to demonstrate extraordinary discipline in the back half of their defense. Fortunately, they boast a terrific all-around defender in Henry, a former cornerback who has earned all-conference honors after each of his two seasons at free safety. Scouts, of course are even more familiar with James as he's led the country in rushing yards the past two years. If James is to leave Oregon after this season as those close to the program expect, notching yet another 20-plus carry game (he has seven this year) against a traditionally stout defense could help convince scouts the 5-9, 195-pound back has the toughness to be successful in the NFL.

Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma State FS Markelle Martin vs. Stanford TE Coby Fleener: If there is a safety in the country with as many responsibilities looming as Wisconsin's Henry, it is Martin. At 6-1, 198 pounds Martin doesn't have the bulk scouts generally prefer, but his coverage skills and penchant for the big play have made him NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior at the position. It will be those coverage skills that are put to the test against Andrew Luck and his favorite target, the 6-6, 245-pound Fleener. With little speed on the flanks, Stanford's passing game attacks the field down the middle. As such, the winner of this one on one battle could very well determine the Fiesta Bowl champion.



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