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College Football: Players to watch in the New Year’s Day bowl games

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Games and players to watch while you recover from New Years Eve

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Oregon vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year New York Giants fans!

And welcome to what is, historically, the biggest day on the college football calendar. Today will see some of the best teams in the country playing in some of the most storied bowl games in the nation. Today we have the Outback Bowl, the Citrus Bowl, the Rose Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl, and each one of these games is going to be absolutely stacked with NFL talent.

Outback Bowl - (12) Auburn vs. (18) Minnesota

ESPN - 1 p.m.

Minnesota was one of the big surprises of the 2019 season. They went from a “solid” team to a legitimate contender with a win over Penn State back in November. Auburn will prove to be a huge test — and opportunity — for the Golden Gophers after their two losses against Iowa and Wisconsin. If they can go toe-to-toe with one of the SEC’s best, it would go a long way toward boosting their recruiting and helping to grow their program.

Keep an eye on safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who has become a reliable presence in Minnesota’s secondary and a playmaker for their defense. Winfield Jr. was one of the best safeties in the country, should be a Day 2 pick, and could break into the first round before all is said and done.

Of course, when it comes to “playmakers” the top player on the field will be Auburn DT Derrick Brown, who is a big, long, athletic freak of a defensive tackle. Brown is in the conversation for a Top 5 draft selection and has the ability to ruin Minnesota’s whole day.

Players To Watch

Minnesota

  • Antoine Winfield Jr. (S)
  • Carter Coughlin (EDGE)
  • Rodney Smith (RB)

Auburn

  • Derrick Brown (DT)
  • Prince Tego Wanogho (OT)
  • Jack Driscoll (OT)
  • Marquel Harrell (iOL)
  • Nick Coe (EDGE)
  • Marlon Davidson (EDGE)
  • Javaris Davis (CB)

Citrus Bowl - (13) Alabama vs. (14) Michigan

ABC - 1 p.m.

It is downright weird to see Alabama playing a 1pm game on New Year’s Day, made even odder by seeing them ranked 13th overall.

Alabama has played in every College Football Playoffs since the format’s inception in 2015 — up until this year’s. But while they are in the unfamiliar position of not even being in contention for a title, they are still ridiculously talented. The simple answer for the question “Who to watch” on Alabama’s roster is, well, “everybody”.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan wants to show that they not only measure up with the titans of the SEC, but that Jim Harbaugh can, in fact, win big games against top competition.

Players To Watch

Michigan

  • Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR)
  • Nico Collins (WR)
  • Ben Bredeson (OT)
  • Cesar Ruiz (iOL)
  • Josh Uche (EDGE)
  • Josh Metellus (OBLB)
  • Lavert Hill (CB)

Alabama

  • Jerry Jeudy (WR)
  • Henry Ruggs III (WR)
  • DeVonta Smith (WR)
  • Jedrick Wills (OT)
  • Alex Leatherwood (OT)
  • Najee Harris (RB)
  • Raekwon Davis (DT)
  • Terrell Lewis (EDGE)
  • Anfernee Jennings (EDGE)
  • Trevon Diggs (CB)
  • Xavier McKinney (S)
  • Jared Mayden (S)

Rose Bowl - (8) Wisconsin vs. (6) Oregon

ESPN - 5 p.m.

The “Granddaddy Of Them All” the Rose Bowl is almost always an event unto itself. Starting with the annual Rose Parade and frequently featuring some of the best teams in the country, this game always feels special. Both of these teams hoped to be playing in the College Football Playoffs, but stumbles along the way kept them out of the top four — but that also doesn’t mean that they aren’t good teams.

From a draft perspective the top prospect on the field will be Oregon QB Justin Herbert, who turned down a likely top - 10 draft selection last year to return to school and play his final season with his younger brother. Giants fans will want to watch both offensive lines as well as Oregon LB Troy Dye, who has the length, athleticism, and instincts needed in a modern off-ball linebacker.

And as an additional side note for offensive line enthusiasts: Keep an eye on Oregon’s sophomore OT Penei Sewell. While he obviously isn’t draft eligible he will be next year, but he is so good he got Heisman votes this year.

Players To Watch

Wisconsin

  • Tyler Biadasz (OC)
  • Cole Van Lanen (OT)
  • Quintez Cephus (WR)
  • Jonathan Taylor (RB)
  • Zack Braun (OLB)
  • Chris Orr (OLB)

Oregon

  • Justin Herbert (QB)
  • Jake Hanson (OC)
  • Shane Lemieux (OG)
  • Austin Faoliu (iDL)
  • Jordan Scott (iDL)
  • Troy Dye (OBLB)
  • Deommodore Lenoir (CB)
  • Thomas Graham Jr. (CB)

Sugar Bow - (7) Baylor vs. (5) Georgia

ESPN - 8:45 p.m.

Of course, we can’t separate today from the Giants’ coaching search as all eyes will be on Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule is considered the top target for both the Giants and the Carolina Panthers in their respective coaching searches. Predictably, Rhule has spent much of the last week deflecting speculation that he will be leaving Baylor for the NFL.

After all, before he makes a decision about the NFL, Rhule has a game to win and the resurrection of a program to complete.

And he has a tall task set out for him with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Georgia has been one of the best programs in the country since Kirby Smart took over, and they boast a number of future NFL players. Most notable for the Giants is left tackle Andrew Thomas, who is not only a massive human being and every bit as strong as he looks, but also a surprisingly smooth and athletic mover for a 320-pound tackle. As it stands now, the Giants might consider it a steal of Thomas falls to them at fourth overall.

Players To Watch

Baylor

  • Denzel Mims (WR)
  • James Lynch (DT)

Georgia

  • Jake Fromm (QB)
  • Andrew Thomas (OT)
  • Solomon Kindley (iOL)
  • D’Andre Swift (RB)
  • Tyler Clark (iDL)
  • Monty Rice (LB)
  • Richard LeCounte III (S)
  • Eric Stokes (CB)