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College football games and players to watch around New Years

Who and what to watch as we start 2021

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oregon vs Wisconsin Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year, New York Giants fans!

2020 is finally (finally) coming to a close. It’s been a long, trying, and painful year for almost everyone, and this New Year will mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

But for us, right now, it means that we get some of the biggest college football games on the calendar. The “New Year’s Six” games, plus the Outback and Gator Bowls, are the biggest bowl games on the calendar.

Two of these games, the Rose Bowl Game and the Sugar Bowl, also serve as the first round of the College Football Playoffs and will determine who plays for the National Championship.

The Cotton Bowl has already been played, with Oklahoma routing the Florida Gators 55-20. Florida was missing star TE Kyle Pitts and WR Kadarius Toney, who announced that they would be sitting out the Bowl Game and concentrating on preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft.

New Year’s Day games

Peach Bowl

Georgia (9) at Cincinnati (8)

ESPN - Noon

On paper, this would be an excellent opportunity to scout the Bulldogs’ many draft prospects. However, Georgia has an extensive list of players who have opted out of the game, many of whom were playing through injury at the end of the season.

Georgia’s opt-outs include G Ben Cleveland, OC Trey Hill, CBs Eric Stokes and D.J. Daneil, TE Tre McKitty, and LB Monty Rice. EDGE Jermaine Johnson has opted out as well after transferring to Florida State.

Players to watch

Georgia

  • Jordan Davis (iDL)
  • Azeez Ojulari (EDGE) - Redshirt sophomore
  • Tyson Campbell (CB)
  • Richard LeCounte III (S)

Cincinnati

  • Desmond Ridder (QB)
  • Myjai Sanders (EDGE)
  • James Wiggins (S)

Citrus Bowl

Auburn at Northwestern (14)

ABC - 1 p.m.

As with Georgia, Auburn has had several players opt out of their bowl game. WR Anthony Schwartz, S Jamien Sherwood, and DB Christian Tutt are all expected to opt out of the game — though, again, injury seems to be playing a role.

It’s also worth noting that Auburn is in the midst of a head coaching search after firing Gus Malzahn earlier in the year.

Northwestern CB Greg Newsome is also headed to the NFL as well, but wouldn’t have played in the game thanks to an injury suffered in the Big 10 Championship. Potential first round OT Rashawn Slater has also already opted out.

After all the injuries and opt-outs, the player to watch this game is Auburn WR Seth Williams, who is a big, physical “X” receiver who consistently wins in contested catch situations. He could be an intriguing value outside of the first round.

Rose Bowl

Notre Dame (4) at Alabama (1)

ESPN - 4 p.m.

So far, at least as of this writing, there haven’t been any opt-outs announced by either team. Other than known injuries, such as to Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle, both of these teams’ NFL prospects are expected to play.

Players to watch

Notre Dame

  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB)
  • Daelin Hayes (EDGE)
  • Liam Eichenberg (OT)
  • Tommy Kraemer (OG)
  • Jarrett Patterson (iOL) - Redshirt sophomore

Alabama

  • Devonta Smith (WR)
  • Alex Leatherwood (OT)
  • Landon Dickerson (iOL)
  • Deonte Brown (iOL)
  • Najee Harris (RB)
  • Patrick Sutain II (CB)
  • Dylan Moses (LB)

Sugar Bowl

Ohio State (3) at Clemson (2)

ESPN - 8 p.m.

As of this writing, we don’t really know who will (or will be able to) take the field for Ohio State as the Buckeyes have struggled through a COVID-19 outbreak at the end of the month. The NCAA recently reduced the minimum amount of time a player must sit out following a positive diagnosis from 21 to 17 days but we don’t yet know which players will be taking the field.

Really, the story of this game is the two quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence has been the de facto QB 1 since his first snap at Clemson as a true freshman and will be the first overall pick in whichever draft class he decides to enter. Ohio State QB, Justin Fields, however, is fighting to be the second quarterback off the board. He’s also fighting the less-than-sterling reputation of Ohio State quarterbacks at the NFL level. The fight against Zach Wilson for QB2 and the specter of Dwayne Haskins is made all the more difficult by a sprained thumb, which could impact his ability to throw the ball well.

Jan. 2

Fiesta Bowl

Oregon (25) at Iowa State (10)

ESPN - 4 p.m.

Neither of these teams have any opt outs reported for this game.

However, some of Oregon’s best prospects, such as OT Penei Sewell, safeties Javon Holland and Brady Breeze, and CB Thomas Graham Jr. opted out at the beginning of the season. Oregon also has some injuries which might keep players out of the game, such as RB CJ Verdell.

That leaves senior DB Deommodore Lenoir as the player to watch for the Ducks in this game.

On the Iowa State side of things, TE Charlie Kolar is probably the player to watch.

Orange Bowl

Texas A&M (5) at North Carolina (13)

ESPN - 8 p.m.

Unfortunately for us, North Carolina QB-turned-linebacker Chazz Suratt opted out of the game. Suratt is an intriguing ‘backer who leads the team in tackles and possesses excellent athleticism for the position. UNC Will also be without leading receiver Dyami Brown and runners Michael Carter and Javonte Williams.

Players to watch

Texas A&M

  • Leon O’Neal Jr. (S)
  • Bobby Brown III (iDL)
  • Michael Clemons (EDGE)
  • Kellen Mond (QB)

North Carolina

  • Dazz Newsome (WR)