Happy New Year year everyone!
And welcome to a great slate of games for New Year’s Day. This is always one of the best days of football on the whole calendar, college or professional, as we have the some of the best teams in the nation squaring off.
Penn State vs. (21) Arkansas
ESPN2 - noon
This game will be without some of its biggest prospects as Penn State prospects LB Brandon Smith, S Jaquan Brisker, and WR Jahan Dotson and Arkansas WR Treylon Burks have all opted out of the game to concentrate on the 2022 NFL Draft. Arkansas EDGE Tre Williams opted out of the game as well after being arrested for DWI two weeks ago.
While their absence is disappointing from a scouting perspective, it does clear the way for young players to begin establishing themselves for bigger roles in 2022.
Penn State will also be without their defensive coordinator as Brent Pry was hired to be Virginia Tech’s new head coach. Former University of Miami head coach Manny Diaz will take over as Penn State’s DC next season, but he won’t be coaching this game and the defense will be called by Safeties coach Anthony Poindexter.
Playstation Fiesta Bowl
I’m going to start with the most important note: If you look closely, you might just spot our own Joe DeLeone in the crowd.
Unfortunately, S Kyle Hamilton and RB Kyren Williams won’t be on the field as they concentrate on their prep for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Notre Dame EDGE Isaiah Foskey is going to be a player to watch in this game. Foskey has an explosive first step and the ability to handle a wide range of duties as a modern EDGE defender. He hasn’t yet revealed whether he is declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft, but Foskey’s athleticism and versatility could make him an appealing target for Patrick Graham’s defense. Giants’ fans should also keep an eye on Notre Dame center Jarrett Patterson. Patterson isn’t as highly regarded as Tyler Linderbaum, but he is a solid and dependable player on the Irish line. He’s best at his natural position of center, but his experience at left tackle (and the versatility that suggests) could improve his draft stock in the eyes of evaluators.
Vrbo Citrus Bowl
(15) Iowa vs. (22) Kentucky
ABC - 1pm
Speaking of Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, he will be playing in this game, so this is another chance for Giants fans to watch him.
Linderbaum is a common target for the Giants in early mock drafts and he projects to be the top center in the upcoming draft. There’s a lot to like about Linderbaum’s game as he shows great athleticism and power for the position. He also has sky-high upside considering he only transitioned from defensive tackle three years ago.
Kentucky also boasts their own offensive lineman worth watching in Darian Kinnard. The massive 6-foot-5, 350 pound lineman has been the Wildcats’ right tackle but might just project better inside at guard. Kinnard doesn’t have a whole lot of experience dropping into pass sets despite playing tackle — a side effect of Kentucky’s offense. He is surprisingly athletic for a player his size, and that could give him some appealing versatility in the eyes of the NFL.
Kentucky also has a pair of likely mid-round prospects in receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and DL Josh Paschal. Robinson is likely a slot receiver at the next level, thanks to his size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) and twitchy athleticism. Paschal is a stoutly built lineman at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, and should be able to find a home in a variety of fronts at the NFL level. He has the ability to play in both 1 and 2-gapping schemes and could be an End (or nickel 3-technique) in a 4-3 front or a 5 or 4i-technique in a 3-man front.
Rose Bowl Game
(11) Utah vs. (6) Ohio State
ESPN - 5pm
This is another game in which many of the top draft prospects will be sitting out, at least on the Ohio State side of things. OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, WR Garrett Wilson, and DT Haskell Garrett have all opted out of this game to concentrate on the upcoming draft.
Interestingly, Ohio State WR Chris Olave opted out of the game as well, but has remained with the team and practiced in the lead-up to the Rose Bowl. While OSU Head Coach Ryan Day doesn’t expect Olave to play in the game, his presence in practice has at least fueled intrigue.
As with Penn State, the Ohio State opt outs are disappointing from a scouting perspective, but it’s an opportunity for the younger players to step up heading into the 2022 season.
The player to watch this game is definitely going to be Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd. Lloyd was linked to the Giants by Todd McShay in his early mock drafts, and Giants fans might want to keep an eye on him in case McShay was operating on some inside information.
Lloyd has solid size to go with a high football IQ and athletic traits. He has been incredibly productive for the Utes, racking up 246 tackles, 43.0 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks, 5 interceptions (3 returned for touchdowns), 8 passes defensed, and 2 forced fumbles in his last 32 games.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
(7) Baylor vs. (8) Ole Miss
ESPN - 8:45 pm
This should be a good game between two highly ranked teams, but the big question with regards to the 2022 NFL Draft revolves around Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. Corral confirmed that he would be playing in the game, and a strong performance could go a long way toward making him the first quarterback off the board.
Corral has seen his stock rise steadily throughout the year as he has continually improved since a poor red-shirt freshman campaign in 2019. While Corral has drawn some comparisons to former LSU (and current Cincinnati Bengals) quarterback Joe Burrow, he [Corral] doesn’t quite have that same ability to make the game look easy. However, he does have a quick, compact release, good accuracy and arm strength to challenge tight windows, and enough athleticism to make defenses pay for ignoring him.
Ole Miss EDGE Sam Williams is another player to watch in this game. He is likely more of a pure 4-3 defensive end, but the strength and depth of this year’s EDGE class could make Williams a sleeper worth knowing.
This should be a fun game.