The biggest reason to watch the 2014 Rose Bowl is that it promises to be an excellent game. Michigan State and Stanford are similar teams. They both have are tough, physical teams that want to run the ball, and they both have formidable defenses.
While some other games look to be track meets, slinging the rock all over the yard, when Michigan St. and Stanford throw down, it looks like it is going to be an absolute slug fest.
The next best reason to watch the Rose Bowl is there will be a bunch of players who could interest Jerry Reese and the Giants' scouting department.
Darqueze Dennard (CB, Sr)
When talking about the Michigan State Spartans, you have to start with Dennard. Not only is he the best player on their team, he is in the conversation for best cornerback in the nation.
Dennard possess adequate size at 5-foot-11 and right around 200 pounds. While that isn't as impressive as some other prospects this year or in previous years, Dennard makes up for that by being an excellent cover corner. He is very fluid in his coverage, able to stick in receivers' hip pockets. He is very good in press coverage, using his hands to disrupt routes and timing without being flagged for pass interference. Dennard is also capable in zone coverage, showing an understanding of the concepts and using his fluid hips and quick feet to close quickly on receivers. Finally he is willing in run support.
The primary concern with Dennard going forward is likely his speed. If he runs well at the combine he could be the first defensive back taken in the 2014 draft.
Denicos Allen (OLB, Sr)
Allen probably isn't the best linebacker playing for Michigan St, but he is an underrated prospect. At 5-11, 218 pounds, Allen will likely have to transition to safety at the next level, but he is still a very productive defender for the Spartans. Allen's lack of size gets him into trouble in traffic, but he is a decisive defender with good closing speed and an explosive hitter.
Isaiah Lewis (S, Sr)
Lewis is a stout strong safety at 5-10, 208 pounds. With more than 200 tackles and 25 passes defensed over his career as a Spartan, Lewis bears watching. He doesn't have the outstanding production or measurables that make NOT talent evaluators drool, but Lewis could be a pleasant mid-late round surprise.
Finally, Michigan State's second.d best prospect, inside linebacker Max Bullough, won't be playing. Bullough was suspended due to a violation of team rules. That's too bad as Bullough is a good middle linebacker prospect. He is definitely a player to watch as the draft process goes forward.
David Shaw's Stanford squad is one of the more talented teams in college football. In the past few years Stanford has had a number of players selected in the first round of the NFL draft, and 2014 looks to be no different.
Trent Murphy (DE/OLB, Sr)
Trent Murphy will likely be the first of the Stanford players selected. Murphy will likely find a home as a 5-technique in a 1-gap system (like JJ Watt) going forward, though he was used all along the Stanford front. He is an accomplished sack artist, notching a nation-leading 14 sacks. Murphy is solid against the run as well. While he has the frame to add mass and be a full-time lineman in the NFL, look for him to play at end and as a stand-up rusher.
David Yankey (G, rJr)
Yankey is in the conversation for best interior lineman in the country along with Cyril Richardson of Baylor, and Gabe Jackson of Mississippi St. While the other two are massive linemen, Yankey is more athletically built. Yankey is a powerful blocker, but he still has the ability to effectively pull and get up in the second level. Stanford runs a pro-style offense, built on pounding the ball in the running game. Yankey will be key to establishing that identity. And considering the Giants' woes in the middle of their offensive line, Giants fans should be watching Yankey against this tough Michigan State defense.
Shayne Skov (ILB, rSr)
If you'll allow me to editorialize a bit, I have to say that Shayne Skov is probably my favorite prospect playing in the Rose Bowl. Skov plays the linebacker position the way it should be played. He is an intelligent, instinctive linebacker who is rarely fooled or out of position. While he isn't an elite athlete, his instincts and ability to diagnose plays combine with more than adequate athleticism to make sure he in position to make a play. Skov is capable in coverage to be a three-down linebacker, but he is a terror going downhill. Skov is good at shedding blocks, an explosive closer, and a hard hitter.
If you like defense, Shayne Skov is a must-watch.
Ed Reynolds (S, rJr)
While the Giants have something of a logjam at safety Reynolds bears watching, anyway. He possess a prototypical build for the position at 6-2, 205 pounds. Reynolds is a physical, instinctive, and rangy safety who has held players such as Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in check. He is flying under these radar a bit this year due to a slight drop in production. In fairness, it's tough to follow up a season that saw three interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Those with good memories (or the Google, like me) might remember Ed Reynolds' father who played for the Patriots in the 80s, and spent a season with the Giants in 1992.
Josh Mauro (DE, rSr)
Mauro is a big defensive end at 6-6, 282 pounds. He is well suited to playing 5-technique, or defensive end in a 3 man front. Mauro's long arms and impressive strength make him a good candidate for playing along the line in the NFL. He is a tough run defender, but still a capable pass rusher with 10 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2013. Mauro might not have a place on the Giants, but he could find a home in a 1-gap 3-4 front (such as Wade Phillips runs).
Tyler Gaffney (RB, rSr)
Gaffney is a running back that could prove to be a mid-late round sleeper. He has a stout build at 6-0, 225 pounds, and is a punishing runner. He isn't a dynamic playmaker, able to routinely break long runs or catch out of the backfield. However, he has several 100+ yard and multi-touchdown games, most recently a 133-yard, three-touchdown game in the Pac-12 championship. He will likely be one of the focuses of the Stanford offense, and should have a good game if the offensive line (Yankey) is able to establish itself.
Teams: Stanford vs. Michigan State
Time: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET