Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans coach Mark Dantonio (left) and quarterback Connor Cook (18) hoist the Leishman Trophy after the 100th Rose Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. Michigan State defeated Stanford 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA Football Bowl Season Takeaways: Beware the Spartans

Drama and excitement continue to be the reality of the NCAA football bowl season.  What are some key takeaways from the games so far?

NFL scouts may want to keep close tabs on Trevor Knight

There were times when Alabama relished a chance to feast on freshman quarterbacks.  Suddenly it seems those particular types have the most success against them.  After Johnny Manziel opened the door in 2012, Oklahoma Sooners starter Trevor Knight followed in his footsteps.  Indeed nobody expected the freshman who had just recently returned from a shoulder injury to be very effective against the Crimson Tide defense.  Instead he flashed his potential as a runner and thrower, compiling 347 passing yards and four touchdowns.  His touch on deep throws was a big part of the success and certainly gave pro scouts a lot to think about in the years to come.

Nick Saban must rediscover a pass rush for Alabama

Speaking of Alabama, it’s become clear that teams have lost their fear of the once dominant defense installed by head coach Nick Saban.  One thing that was noticeably absent in their Sugar Bowl defeat was a pass rush.  The only times they were able to put effective pressure on Knight was with blitzes.  That and a general lack of speed bedeviled them in their two losses to end the year.  Adding faster rushers must take priority next season if Saban has any designs on staying in the hunt for his fifth national title.

Losing has masked how good safety Anthony Harris is

I challenge anybody not named Mel Kiper Jr. to reference who Anthony Harris is.  Give up?  It’s understandable why most are drawing a blank.  Anybody that plays for a team that goes 2-10 during their season can easily be overlooked, which is a mistake.  Harris is a safety out of Virginia and has very quietly put together one of the best seasons by any defensive back in the country.  Not only did he post 80 tackles on the year, he demonstrated a serious knack for locating the football with eight interceptions, making him #1 in the nation.  Originally a wide receiver, he has good speed and the hands of a ball hawk and a 6’1″ frame that makes him ideal for safety in the pros.

Mike Evans and Allen Robinson declarations continue to deepen WR class

As the NCAA football bowl season marches on and piece by piece players declare for the NFL draft, it becomes easier to pinpoint where the strengths of the college class will lay.  Last year it was offensive and defensive line.  The 2014 version may feature a cornucopia of wide receivers.  With talented Texas A&M sophomore Mike Evans and PennState breakout star Allen Robinson both recently announcing for the draft, it adds yet more first round caliber talent to the fold.  Not included in that mention is college receiving leader Brandin Cooks from OregonState, who is also making the jump.  Any team in need of more weapons on offense should have more than a few options.

Michigan State may contend for a national title with Connor Cook

Winning a Rose Bowl is a big deal for a sophomore quarterback.  While MichiganState accomplished their epic run on the strength of the #1 defense in college football, it was the heady, aggressive play of quarterback Connor Cook that took advantage.  He is developing a reputation as a clutch passer, saving his two best games of 2013 for the Spartans’ victories over OhioState and Stanford.  Providing he gets additional weaponry and the defense doesn’t lose its edge next year, MSU has an excellent chance to contend for a national title.

Tags: Connor Cook Mike Evans NCAA Football Nick Saban Trevor Knight

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