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 | PART 8.
Gator Bowl, December 31st, 11 AM on ESPN
Sam Hartman, Quarterback, Wake Forest: Sam Hartman has played excellent football this season, accounting for 47 total touchdowns for the Demon Deacons and leading Wake Forest to one of the best seasons in the program’s history. The four year quarterback hasn’t indicated if he will go pro with eligibility still left. However, a strong game against Rutgers’ tough defense could change his mind. Hartman will be without his top receiver in this game, so how he adjusts will be notable.
Bo Melton, Wide Receiver, Rutgers: Bo Melton has been a fixture on the Rutgers offense for the last two years, leading the Scarlet Knights in receiving each year. Melton is a savvy route runner with soft hands and can show out in his final game before going pro.
Sun Bowl, December 31st, 12 PM
Calvin Jackson, Wide Receiver, Washington State: Calvin Jackson had a breakout senior season for the Cougars. After never breaking 300 receiving yards in his previous three seasons, Jackson caught 63 passes for over 950 yards and scored seven times in his final year. Jackson is a well rounded receiver with good speed who will be relied on against CMU in this bowl game.
Lee Nichols III, Running Back, CMU: Lee Nichols is the best offensive player you haven’t heard of. The third year running back totaled 2,000 yards of offense this season and 17 touchdowns. Nichols is built like a power back and functions well in the run and passing game. Expect CMU to rely on him in this game.
Cotton Bowl (CFP Semifinal), December 31st, 3:30 PM on ESPN
Desmond Ridder, Quarterback, Cincinnati: Desmond Ridder has been playing fantastic football this year and has been a big part of Cincinnati’s playoff berth. Ridder is a full package with arm strength, poise, accuracy and mobility. Alabama’s defense will obviously be a huge test for Ridder, but a great chance for him to show NFL scouts that facing down a more athletic defense is no problem.
Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati: Ahmad Gardner might be the best cover cornerback in college football. He has been a lockdown presence in the Bearcat secondary the last two seasons and now will be tasked with slowing down Jameson Williams and Heisman winner Bryce Young. Gardner is a slam dunk first round pick, but showing out against Alabama’s offense could boost his stock.
Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama: Alabama’s success on offense starts up front with Evan Neal. The massive offensive tackle is a road-grader and security guard all in one. Cincinnati has a strong defensive front that will pressure the Crimson Tide and test Neal’s game.
Christian Harris, Linebacker, Alabama: Alabama always has a great linebacker in the middle of their defense. This time around, it is Christian Harris who will hold down for the Crimson Tide. Cincinnati not only has a very good offense, but a very balanced one. They can throw and run the ball in a variety of ways, and solid play from Harris will keep the Bearcats at bay.
Orange Bowl (CFP Semifinal), December 31st, 7:30 PM on ESPN
Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan: Aidan Hutchinson is on a tear, putting together one of the best defensive seasons in college football history. Hutchinson finished second in Heisman voting due to how dominant he has been rushing the passer and stopping the run. Hutchinson has come up big under the bright lights all season and now he will play the biggest game of his career against Georgia.
Daxton Hill, Safety, Michigan: Aidan Hutchinson might be the headline stealer, but Daxton Hill’s dependability and versatility in the Michigan secondary has been crucial for their success. Hill will need to be on his A-Game against a Georgia offense that has a ton of speed.
Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georgia: Michigan is going to want to run the ball and Jordan Davis is the man to stop that from happening. Davis has been incredible this season, especially as a run stopper. Michigan could be the next team to have a hard time moving the ball with Jordan Davis in the middle.
Zamir White, Running Back, Georgia: The UGA offense runs through Zamir White. The strong, bruising back will see a lot of carries against a tough Michigan defense game planning to stop the run.