After a few days that only featured one bowl game each, today there will be three post-season games to enjoy. While they still lack a certain prestige that most people will look for, a close eye will see NFL talent on each squad that will be worth considering come draft season.
Bahamas Bowl (1 PM on ESPN)
While many people are not paying attention to Old Dominion or Eastern Michigan during the season, it may be a good idea to tune in this afternoon to get a peak at match up between Old Dominion’s offense and some of the players on the Eastern Michigan defense.
For Old Dominion, their skill players have a lot of intrigue that start with their productive running back, Ray Lawry. The New Jersey native has a stout build, standing under 5-10, but at around 205 pounds. He runs hard and with good burst, also showing an ability to affect the passing game. However, the Monarchs offense is complemented by their duo of wide receivers. John Duhart and Zach Pascal both stand tall at over six foot two inches and 220 pounds. The physically gifted pair can make plays after the catch point and have the athletic ability to make plays in space. This trio of skill players has carried Old Dominion to nine wins this season and gives them a great shot of breaking 10, even against a strong Eastern Michigan defense.
If Eastern Michigan is to win, it will be because of two senior defenders on their team: Daquan Pace and Pat O’Connor. Pace is a very undersized (5-9, 170) cornerback, but he is a high effort cover guy with great awareness and a knack to play bigger than his size. He will have his hands full with ODU’s group of pass catchers, but it will be a chance to show he can run with much bigger players all game. In the trenches, Pat O’Connor may be the best player in the whole game. The 6-4, 270 pound senior is incredibly disruptive on defense, using his high motor, strength and size to push around offensive linemen. If EMU has a shot at an upset, it will be because O’Connor wrecks ODU in the trenches.
Armed Forces Bowl (4:30 on ESPN)
The best bowl match up of the day features two incredibly productive offenses, one of which belonging to a ranked team. Yes, Louisiana Tech against #25 Navy has the potential for a fun back and forth game between one of the most prolific rushing offenses in the country and one of the most prolific passing offenses.
For Louisiana Tech, the place to look is their receiving duo. Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson are the best duo in the country and have combined for over 3000 scrimmage yards and 29 touchdowns. This does not include the two touchdowns Carlos Henderson has scored as a kick returner.
Henderson is the better prospect of the two players. His dynamic athletic ability makes him a threat to score from wherever and is a big reason he has 21 total touchdowns this season coming in three different ways. While Henderson may lack the size in a #1 receiver, his ability with the ball in his hands makes him more than appealing as a mid round draft prospect. He will need to be more dependable with the ball in the air and will need improvement on learning routes, but he has an exciting skill set that could translate quickly in the NFL.
Henderson’s senior partner in crime actually has more catches and yards than he does, over 50 more catches, but does not have the same dynamic ability. However, where Trent Taylor lacks in physical gifts, he makes up for in dependable hands and incredibly good route running. It is a bit more difficult to see how the 5-9/175 pound receiver makes an impact in the NFL, but if he does, it will be do to his savvy at the position.
Louisiana Tech has a nice defensive prospect as well and a player who will need to be at his best to lay against Navy’s option game that also has a dangerous deep passing component. Safety Xavier Woods has nabbed 18 turnovers for the Bulldogs in the last three seasons. The hard hitting, stoutly built senior has good size, awareness and range. He can play over the top or stop the run, a necessary versatility when playing a team like Navy. Option teams will stretch the discipline of a defender and Woods has a great chance to stand out in a talented defensive back class with a big game.
Dollar General Bowl (8 PM on ESPN)
The last bowl of the day lacks a ton of star power but features an exciting Troy offense against a stingy Ohio defense. Each unit has a draft eligible star that makes the game more than worth watching.
For Troy, their fourth year running back, Jordan Chunn, has a lot to like in a back. The 6-1, 230 pounder has NFL size, power and hard running style that can help in the league. He is not the best athlete, but his ability to fight through contact and consistently create yardage in traffic is impressive. On top of that, he is also a solid third down back with plenty to offer in pass protection and catching the ball. Today, he will need to prove he can threaten the long play against such a tough defense, because he has not had a run greater than 50 yards all season.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio’s defensive end, Tarell Bashem, has the best chance of slowing down Troy’s explosive offense. The 6-3, 250 pound defensive end has excellent quickness off the edge that he combines with good snap anticipation. Bashem is a disruptive pass rusher, but also shows an ability to fight through traffic to make plays as a run defender. He is a bit undersized, but continuing his strong season could help his case for being a mid round defender.