‘Tis The (Bowl) Season

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December 17, 2002
‘Tis The (Bowl) Season
by Warren DeLuca

It’s that time of year again: ESPN at every break hyping the next game, and the next, and the next…sponsor CEOs prattling on to sideline reporters about how proud they are to be connected with this or that game…big-name programs discovering too late that they can’t sleepwalk through a lower-tier bowl against a directional school…halftime extravaganzas featuring one-hit wonder "recording artists" and sideline-to-sideline pee wee football drill teams…hearing the praises of places like Mobile, Shreveport, and Detroit as travel destinations. That’s right, the college bowl season is upon us!

If you’re the Texans, which players might you want to keep an especially close eye on with regard to your first couple picks in the 2003 draft? Here’s a viewers guide for the games between now and the end of the year. Even though the Texans are set at quarterback, a few passers have been included as they may have an impact on who is available to the Texans.

Wednesday, December 18 GMAC Bowl: Louisville vs. Marshall (7:00 p.m., ESPN2). Louisville QB Dave Ragone‘s stock has dropped this season, but he will still be a factor early in the draft. Junior DE Dewayne White has indicated that he will turn pro if he gets word that he’ll be an early-round pick, but he doesn’t appear to fit a 3-4 scheme. Marshall QB Byron Leftwich is the odds-on favorite to be the first player selected. OT Steve Sciullo is huge but may not have the feet of an NFL left tackle.

Wednesday, December 25 Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Tulane (7:00 p.m., ESPN). Hawaii’s Vince Manuwai is widely considered the best guard in the draft despite his lack of prototypical size. He has great quickness and footwork, but scouts would like to see how he run blocks in a conventional offense rather than in June Jones’ pass-happy scheme.

Thursday, December 26 Insight Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State (7:30 p.m., ESPN). Pitt’s relentless MLB Gerald Hayes makes plays at and behind the line of scrimmage but struggles in coverage. Oregon State CB Dennis Weathersby has ideal size and excels in bump-and-run coverage, but don’t expect much help from him against the run.

Friday, December 27 Houston Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Southern Mississippi (Noon, ESPN). Oklahoma State junior WR Rashaun Woods has put up huge numbers this year, including 226 yards and three touchdowns against the star-studded Oklahoma secondary. Southern Miss OG Torrin Tucker plays with a mean streak and excels as a run blocker.

Independence Bowl: Nebraska vs. Mississippi (3:30 p.m., ESPN). Rumor has it that Ole Miss junior QB Eli Manning is frustrated with his team’s inability to compete with the big boys and is considering turning pro. That’s blasphemy in a family so steeped in SEC lore. While Eli may not be the prospect that Peyton was, if he comes out, he won’t stay on the board very long.

Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Kansas State (7:00 p.m., ESPN). Arizona State junior DE Terrell Suggs has posted unreal sack numbers this season and has the makeup to be a tremendous 3-4 OLB. Kansas State junior MLB Terry Pierce has the athletic ability to handle the wide range of responsibilities that could be assigned to a 3-4 inside ‘backer. CB Terence Newman is one of the fastest players in the draft and has made big plays on defense, special teams (both as a return man and a gunner) and offense (as a receiver) this season.

Saturday, December 28 Continental Tire Bowl: West Virginia vs. Virginia (11:00 a.m., ESPN2). Virginia WR Billy McMullen is a big, physical possession receiver. Angelo Crowell (the younger brother of Lion WR Germane Crowell) has excelled as an inside linebacker in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense.

Alamo Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Colorado (7:00 p.m., ESPN). Massive Wisconsin OT Ben Johnson may have to move from the left side to the right at the NFL level because he struggles against speedy edge rushers. Colorado junior RB Chris Brown lacks great speed but is a physical, productive runner.

Monday, December 30 Seattle Bowl: Oregon vs. Wake Forest (4:30 p.m., ESPN). Elusive junior scatback Onterrio Smith of Oregon is threat to go the distance at any time.

Tuesday, December 31 Sun Bowl: Purdue vs. Washington (1:00 p.m., CBS). Purdue junior FS Stuart Schweigert is a ballhawk who owns the school’s career interception record.

Peach Bowl: Maryland vs. Tennessee (6:30 p.m., ESPN). Maryland MLB E.J. Henderson is a playmaker who, if his surgically-repaired back passes muster, could be a superstar in a defense that frees him up to penetrate and run to the football. Tennessee junior TE Jason Witten is an impressive combination of size and speed, but he hasn’t consistently shown the athleticism that he flashed as a sophomore. SS Julian Battle but has the whole physical package but lacks great instincts and is susceptible to making big mistakes.

San Francisco Bowl: Air Force vs. Virginia Tech (9:30 p.m., ESPN2). Virginia Tech RB Lee Suggs is a tough runner with great vision and a nose for the endzone. He fumbles about once a decade (or at least it seems that way).

Next week: The January 2003 bowls.

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