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2024 NFL Draft watch: Players to watch in the Birmingham Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl

Your open thread to discuss today’s bowl games

NCAA Football: Louisville at Duke Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning New York Giants fans!

The 2023-2024 College Football Bowl season rolls on and we have a full slate of games today, with seven games being played between noon and 10:30 p.m.

As always, I want to offer my congratulations to all the teams and players on the field today. They played hard all season to get where they are, and that’s to be respected. That said, we’re just going to zoom in on the two games with bigger schools today, if only for brevity’s sake. So we’ll be focusing on the 76 Birmingham Bowl between Duke and Troy, and the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl between Utah and Northwestern.

Use this as your open thread for all of today’s games.

76 Birmingham Bowl - Duke vs. Troy

ABC - noon

Graham Barton, OL, Duke

Barton will be the player to watch in this game, at least from a draft perspective. The Blue Devils’ left tackle was voted first team All ACC and has been a consistent presence along the Duke offensive line since his true freshman campaign in 2020. Barton is an athletic, versatile, and experienced offensive lineman with 40 starts under his belt over the last four years.

He’s already accepted his invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, and in an interesting turn of events, will be playing center. This isn’t the first time Barton has played along the offensive interior, as he started five games at center in 2020. Barton has the feet to stay on the edge, but size might be an issue for some teams. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, but could measure smaller than that at the Senior Bowl. Barton could be considered a “five tool” lineman who could start or back up every offensive line position, though center might actually be his best position. He doesn’t have stand-out power, but he’s a smart technician with plenty of competitive toughness. Of course, teams could also look at him as a guard, particularly in a zone blocking scheme.

That, combined with his smooth feet, could be a recipe for success as somewhere on the offensive line in the NFL.

SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl: Northwestern vs. Utah

ABC - 7:30 p.m.

Sataoa Laumea, OL, Utah

We seem to have a theme today, as this game features another offensive tackle who could project best inside at the next level.

Laumea has played both right guard and right tackle for the Utes since becoming a starter back in 2020. And while he’s spent the last two seasons at right tackle — and given up just 4 sacks and 6 QB hits on almost 900 pass sets per PFF — he’ll likely return to guard in the NFL. Laumea is listed at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds which is fine for a guard but he might fall beneath some teams’ length thresholds at offensive tackle. For his part, Laumea certainly seems to play with a mauler’s mentality and is capable of generating movement along the line of scrimmage when he’s playing with good leverage. That should serve him well in a move (back) to guard at the NFL level.

And while he doesn’t have elite feet for a tackle and can struggle with speed off the edge, he certainly doesn’t give up many hits or sacks in pass protection. A move back inside should help allow him to play faster while minimizing his vulnerability to speed rushers. Players who are good-but-not-great athletes at tackle tend to be very athletic guards, and that could increase his appeal to teams. Laumea could have upside as for teams that use a high percentage of zone runs, or who like to use guards as pullers on counter runs — or even in space on screen plays.

Full slate of games

  • 76 Birmingham Bowl: Duke vs. Troy (ABC - noon)
  • Camilia Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State (ESPN - noon)
  • Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. James Madison (ABC - 3:30 p.m.)
  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Utah State vs. Georgia State (ESPN - 3:30 p.m.)
  • 68 Ventures Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. South Alabama (ESPN - 7 p.m.)
  • SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl: Northwestern vs. Utah (ABC - 7:30 p.m.)
  • EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl: San Jose State vs. Coastal Carolina (ESPN - 10:30 p.m.)