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Dec. 29 college bowl game live thread

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Time to turn up the heat on draft scouting.

USC QB Sam Darnold
USC QB Sam Darnold
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Wake Forest v. Texas A&M

Belk Bowl
1:00pm ET, ESPN

Let’s Belk.

Wake DE Duke Ejiofor has a lot of fans. A&M WR Christian Kirk has more.

This is another clash of timelines. Wake is on the come up as a program with a shot for their first 8-win season since 2008, an outcome that Wake alum and TST author Elijah Kim certainly will be hoping for. For A&M, they’ve got a new head coach in Jimbo Fisher coming in to load up in 2018. If they can close out the recruiting period strong, they’ll be set up for success quickly even in a loaded SEC West.

#24 N.C. State Wolfpack v. Arizona State Sun Devils

Hyundai Sun Bowl
3:00pm ET, CBS

Have you seen NC State DE Bradley Chubb? If the answer’s no, what have you been doing? Chubb started out a darling among draft enthusiasts. Among the TST staff, a couple of us were eyeing Chubb as a potential option for our first-round pick. But the Los Angeles Rams played their way to the back of the draft order and Chubb played his way toward the top of draft boards to the point that he might be a top-five pick now. Sadly, if you haven’t seen him yet, he’s likely to sit today.

Kentucky v. #21 Northwestern

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
4:30pm ET, ESPN

Wildcats!

New Mexico St. v. Utah St.

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
1:00pm ET, ESPN

Aggies!

(NMSU WR Jaleel Scott is kind of a monster though. And shout out to NMSU for ending the country’s longest bowl drought after 57 years of postseason-less football.)

#8 USC at #5 Ohio St.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
1:00pm ET, ESPN

Yeah, this one’s kind of big from the NFL’s perspective.

Obviously, you have to start with USC QB Sam Darnold. We’ve got a monster QB class coming out that’s about seven deep that will be both polarizing for other teams while being comfortable for Rams fans. Still, Darnold’s in play for the #1 overall spot should he declare. That makes today’s performance very important as tOSU has a very talented defense that never really its stride performance-wise (but look out in 2018...). Aside from Darnold, USC has plenty of other NFL talents. CB Iman Marshall and OLB Porter Gustin are Day 2 guys and RB Ronald Jones is going be all over the place on people’s boards. WR Deontay Burnett never developed into the wideout many were hoping, but he can be a complementary piece a la Josh Reynolds. OLB Uchenna Nwosu has upside, but those kinds of picks are always hard to pin down. He’s certainly closed the season well with six sacks in his last five games. DL Rasheem Green’s a bit of the opposite. He’s talented, but much like Burnett I think he’s at his ceiling already.

OSU on the other hand went into a re-stock year and did just that. Perhaps they deserve more credit for the season that they had surviving on a ridiculously talented DL with a very green secondary and QB J.T. Barrett in his 14th season...Big wins against Michigan St., Michigan Wolverines and Penn St. were overshadowed by the early home loss to the Oklahoma Sooners and obviously the 31-point loss to Iowa that kept them out of the college playoffs. They might well be the #1 team heading into 2018 for those who accept the unknown at QB coming out of this year.

That being said, they’ve got some NFL talent coming out this year, though not their usual banner crop. All four of their starting defensive linemen in Sam Hubbard, Dre’Mont Jones, Tracy Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis will hit the NFL led by Hubbard who could enter first-round discussions. C Billy Price might be the best center in the draft, so Rams fans should obviously be entertained by taking the successor to C John Sullivan. ILB Chris Worley is a Day 3 guy. And WR Parris Campbell has enough straight-line speed that if he runs well at the NFL Scouting Combine, he’ll land a job.

This game, though, is going to take on a familiar air of outsiders looking in on the college playoff. Yes, it could well be Darnold’s farewell game. It certainly is for Barrett and all the other seniors from both sides. But these are two programs that expect to be in the mix for the playoffs that missed out in 2017 by narrow margins. Those players returning for 2018 won’t want to be in this position a year from now. And much like USC’s Rose Bowl last year, that could be the ultimate output in the long-term.

A game to launch toward something bigger and better next season...hopefully.