Happy New Years! As most of you wake up with a headache to start the new decade, take solace in the great football that will be played later today. Eight ranked teams will face off today and with them dozens of high profile NFL draft prospects will take the field. Here is each team’s most interesting player to watch today.
Outback Bowl: 1 PM ET on ESPN
- Antoine Winfield Junior, Safety, Minnesota: After years of battling injuries, Antoine Winfield Junior had a healthy season where he took college football by storm. The ballhawking defender’s seven interceptions, two forced fumbles and three and a half tackles for a loss helped Minnesota become one of the top teams in the country this year. Winfield is a rangy playmaker who will be try to lock down the Auburn passing game today. He is still mum on declaring for the NFL, but the fourth year sophomore making the jump after a big game today would surprise no one.
- Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn: Derrick Brown is arguably the best defensive tackle in the nation. The athletic 6’5”, 318 pounder had 12.5 tackles for a loss this year and four sacks. He is an every down problem for offenses and in the last game of his college career, he will be tasked with slowing a talented and multifaceted Minnesota offense.
Citrus Bowl: 1 PM ET on ABC
- Lavert Hill, Cornerback, Michigan: Despite stumbling at the end of the season due to injuries, Alabama has as much offensive firepower as anybody. Their arsenal of talented pass catchers will take a lot to slow down and Lavert Hill be be leading the charge against them. The senior cornerback is a tough, smart defender and he will test and be tested by Alabama’s receivers.
- The Alabama Wide Receivers: Unsurprisingly, I am excited to watch the trio of DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy against Michigan. Jaylen Waddle is also technically an outstanding player I am looking forward to seeing, but he is not draft eligible for another year. Smith, Ruggs III and Jeudy all bring different kinds of playmaking ability to the field and it’s very likely all three juniors will be doing it on Sundays next year. How can they elevate their backup quarterback today against a tough Michigan defense?
Rose Bowl: 5 PM ET on ESPN
- Troy Dye, Linebacker, Oregon: Wisconsin is going to try to pound the rock against the Ducks and Troy Dye will need to be there to stop it. He is the leader of the Oregon defense and is a fast, physical defender who will come up against any running back. Dye will want to end his college career on a high note and shutting down Wisconsin’s running game to win the Rose Bowl would be a great way to do it.
- Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin: One of Wisconsin’s most disruptive players is also one of their most interesting. Zack Baun is a smaller defender who can rush the passer, defend the run and even drop back into coverage. He is a versatile and dangerous player who will be crucial to slow down the talent on the Oregon offense.
Sugar Bowl: 8:45 PM ET on ESPN
- Richard Lecounte, Safety, Georgia: The Bulldogs have a lot of their best players missing the Sugar Bowl, so it’s next man up for Georgia. Richard Lecounte has been an unsung playmaker in the Bulldogs secondary and now he will get to shine against Baylor on his own.
- Denzel Mims, Wide Receiver, Baylor: Baylor’s success this year had rode on the play of their senior wide receiver. Denzel Mims is a highly talented playmaker who will try to make a difference against a depleted Georgia team today.