The deeper we get into college bowl season, the better the teams get and the more NFL prospects they have. Michigan State and Georgia are playing each other in the Outback Bowl and both teams have a lot of different prospects that you will want to be looking for. Here are some of my favorites:
Michigan State features an offensive attack that is really on the rise, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins and company were very, very close to coming back and winning the Big Ten title this season, and he was a big reason for it. He threw for over 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions completing 65 percent of his passes. I have not been overly impressed with Cousins this year, but there are people who believe he is a second round talent. I think you could see him benefit from Matt Barkley staying in school and possibly get drafted earlier than he might otherwise have.
Cousins has a couple of really good seniors to sling the ball to in B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin, two guys who have been making plays for the MSU offense all year long. The two have combined for 19 total touchdowns, 12 for Cunningham and 7 for Martin.
Martin can hurt you as a receiver, out of the backfield, or as a punt returner, and Cunningham has great size and has clearly been the favorite target of Cousins this season.
The Spartans also have a good running game led by Le’Veon Bell, the talented sophomore who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. He is spelled by Edwin Baker, who has 655 yards and five touchdowns himself. He is having a down year, but is a candidate to break out. He was dominant last season for MSU.
Defensively, the Spartans have a few guys to look out for, mainly defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and defensive back Trenton Robinson. Robinson is tied for the team lead with four interceptions and makes plays all over the field.
One guy who is going to get his name called early and often is linebacker Denicos Allen, a sophomore who is having an absolutely monster year. He is only 5’10″ 220 pounds, but he has 78 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks in 2011. He is a guy to watch out for to see how he takes on blockers and how he plays in coverage as well.
Georgia is led by quarterback Aaron Murray, a redshirt sophomore who has had his ups and downs this year, but when he is on, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He’s slightly undersized, but he can really move the ball around.
His favorite target in the passing game is tight end Orson Charles, who led the team in receptions and had five touchdown catches as a junior. He is contemplating leaving early for the NFL Draft, and would probably be a second round talent if he chooses to leave. He isn’t polished as a blocker yet, but he could be a very good tight end at the next level.
Up front, the Bulldogs boast some of the best talent in the conference. Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones are excellent anchors for the line, and both look like starters at the NFL level.
They also have some very talented freshman offensively with Isaiah Crowell leading the team in rushing as a rookie and Malcolm Mitchell leading in receiving yards. It’s been a learning experience for those guys, but they have certainly made their share of plays.
Defensively is where the Bulldogs are really, really strong right now, and they are led by pass rusher Jarvis Jones and safety Bacarri Rambo. Rambo has seven interceptions, one for a touchdown, as well as 52 tackles.
Jones leads the team with 69 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks. He is going to give Cousins fits all day long, but he has already said he is going to return to Georgia for a senior season after transferring. We’ll see if he keeps that vow after this game.
Jones is allowed to be so effective because of how dominant the front of Georgia’s defense can be, led by nose tackle John Jenkins, who also flirted with the NFL Draft advisory committee.
Defensive back Brandon Boykin has three interceptions and nine tackles for loss this season, and he can also make an impact in the return game. He adds another dimension to the game entirely, and has rushed for a touchdown, caught a touchdown, batted down nine passes, forced two fumbles, and basically been the most versatile player on Georgia’s roster.
Kicker Blair Walsh is struggling this season, making only 19 of his 31 field goal attempts but he has an NFL leg. As does punter Drew Butler who is averaging over 44 yards per boot this season.