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2022 College Football Bowl season - Duke’s Mayo Bowl and Sun Bowl

Your open thread for the early bowl games

UCLA v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Good afternoon New York Giants fans! The 2022 College Football Bowl Season rolls on with five more games today. We’ll be breaking our selection of games up into a pair of open threads to better concentrate on the individual games.

While everyone is understandably concentrating on the big New Year’s games on Saturday, we have a selection of (potentially) great games today — and a bunch of future NFL players will be on the field.

We start today with the Duke’s Mayo Bowl and the Sun Bowl.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Maryland at (23) North Carolina State

ESPN - noon

This is one of those games that could easily be overlooked, but very well could wind up being a fantastic game that scouts keep revisiting.

Despite being the unranked team, Maryland might have more 2023 prospects on their roster.

We pretty much have to start with Maryland OT Jaelyn Duncan. Duncan is a big-bodied tackle at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, but his size belies surprisingly smooth athleticism. He still has some areas of improvement going forward, but he has all the tools to be a starting offensive tackle at the NFL level. He could be one of the first five OTs off the board in April.

Duncan will be protecting QB Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa. Taulia hasn’t committed to returning to Maryland for his senior season or declaring for the NFL draft and will announce his decision some time after the bowl game. The younger Tagovailoa is undersized for an NFL passer, listed at 5-foot-11, 205 pound, but he’s become an effective and efficient passer for the Terps.

Complicating matters this game is the fact that wide receivers Rakim Jarrett, Dontay Demus Jr, and Jacob Copeland have all opted out of the game in favor of preparing for the NFL draft.

Between Maryland’s top receivers opting out of the game and NC State quarterback Devin Leary entering the transfer portal, this game will likely be a defensive struggle. That could play into NC State’s hands as they have one of the nation’s best defenses. Giants fans might want to keep an eye on NC State slot corner Tyler Baker-Williams. Baker-Williams is a surprisingly big slot at 6-foot, 203 pounds and is a smart and capable coverage player as well as blitzer. He could be a good value for a multiple and aggressive defense on the third day of the draft.

Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl

Pittsburgh at (18) UCLA

CBS - 2 p.m.

The player to watch this game is undoubtedly UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Thompson-Robinson, commonly called “DTR” has emerged as one of the most exciting and fun players in college football.

Thompson-Robinson is on the smaller side for an NFL quarterback at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, but he plays much bigger than he measures. That’s thanks, in part, to an over-the-top release with a compact throwing motion that allows him to easily generate torque to drive the ball. He is also a sound decision maker and very competitive player who is the unquestioned leader of the Bruins both on and off the field.

DTR is also a twitchy athlete who is able to both extend plays behind the line of scrimmage and gash defenses with his legs.

Joining DTR in the UCLA backfield is RB Zach Charbonnet. Charbonnet is one of the premier power runners in college football with plenty of size at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and surprising contact balance for a taller runner. His power complements DTR’s quickness and throwing ability nicely.

UCLA also has a defense worth watching with edge defenders Laiatu Latu and Grayson Murphy (a red-shirt sophomore), ILB Darius Muasau, and safety Stephen Blaylock all being draftable talents.

Unfortunately for people scouting the bowl game, Pitt’s top prospects, RB Israel Abanikanda and DT Calijah Kanda have both opted out of the game.

That could lead linebaker SirVocea Dennis as the top prospect on the field for Pitt. Dennis is a compact off-ball linebacker with great football IQ and processing ability, as well as enough athleticism to act on it. He isn’t big enough to routinely stack and shed offensive linemen at the NFL level. That said, his processing and athleticism should allow him to flow to the ball if he’s protected by a good defensive line — as well as cover in shallow zones or blitz.

He could be a solid value in the middle of the draft with the ability to develop into an important role player or even starter.