This will be a multi-part series looking at every bowl game and the prospect to watch on each team for their match up. Even with some players sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, there are still future pro players on the field worth keeping an eye on. All listed times are EST. Previously in this series: PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7.
Mayo Bowl, December 30th, 11:30 AM on ESPN
Sam Howell, Quarterback, UNC: In what may be a surprise to many, Sam Howell is playing in UNC’s bowl game for his last appearance as a Tar Heel. After preseason projections that had Howell as a top tier quarterback, the UNC passer has been steady but slightly underwhelming this season. The Mayo Bowl will be a great chance for Howell to go out on a high note against an SEC defense.
Josh Vann, Wide Receiver, South Carolina: With many of the top Gamecocks missing this game, Josh Vann is South Carolina’s player of interest. The senior receiver had a breakout season to lead the team in receptions and receiving yards. While his numbers are far from flashy, he was a key contributor in a run heavy defense. After Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards’ success in the NFL, Josh Vann could be the next Gamecock who shines brighter in the big league.
Music City Bowl, December 30th, 3 PM on ESPN
The Absence of George Karalaftis: Purdue is losing their two top draft prospects for this game in David Bell and George Karalaftis. With the latter out, it will be worth monitoring how the Boilermaker defense plays considering how big an impact the junior edge rusher made during the regular season.
Cade Mays, Guard, Tennessee: Cade Mays has become a key player for the Vols after a brief, high profile stint at UGA. Mays has developed into a consistent blocker who shines in the run game. Keep an eye on him in his last game as a pro.
Peach Bowl, December 30th, 7 PM on ESPN
Lucas Krull, Tight End, Pitt: Pitt had a ton of weapons thrice in their pass game this year, and Lucas Krull has flown under the radar as a steady presence in their passing game. The 6’6” ’senior will have a huge role in this game as Pitt starts Kenny Pickett’s backup and will need the veteran pass catcher to be dependable in the short game. Against MSU’s soft defense, Krull could have a brilliant game.
Jayden Reed, Wide Receiver, MSU: With Kenneth Walker III out, all eyes turn to Jayden Reed on Michigan State’s offense. The do-it-all receiver is dangerous as a pass catcher and returner, constantly threatening the big play. Still undecided about his NFL future, Reed going off in a high scoring game could push him towards the league.
Las Vegas Bowl, December 30th, 10:30 PM on ESPN
Leo Chenal, Linebacker, Wisconsin: Wisconsin has a lot of physical playmakers on their defense but Leo Chenal is certainly the leader. Chenal is a fantastic blitzer and run defender with flashes of good play against the pass. The Badgers defense will be tested in this game and Chenal’s play will be the difference maker.
Rachaad White, Running Back, ASU: Rachaad White broke out this year with a 1,000 yard, 15 touchdown season. The senior running back has a linebacker type build standing over 6’1” and 210 pounds. He is a bruising back with surprising speed and he has a chance to put on a show against one of the nation’s top defenses.