More “mid-major” type schools competing in bowls over the weekend leading up to Christmas Day, but the prospects in action include a supposed first round QB prospect, a big play receiver from the Big 12, and the top senior running back in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Here’s a look at Saturday and Sunday’s Bowl Games.
Birmingham Bowl - Saturday Noon ET
Texas Tech vs South Florida
#16 Nic Shimonek QB Texas Tech 6’3” 225
Season Stats: 296/434 (68.2%) 3547 YDS 8.2 YPA 30 TD 8 INT 1 rush TD
Shimonek began his college experience at Iowa in 2013, but transferred after that season. After sitting out 2014 per NCAA rules, Shimonek played sparingly for two years before becoming the Red Raiders starter this past season. Kilff Kingsberry opted to start sophomore McLane Carter over Shimonek in the regular season finale against Texas, but the Tech coach has reinstalled his fifth-year senior as the starter for this game. Shimonek has accepted an invite to play in next month’s East-West Shrine Game.
#2 Keke Coutee WR Texas Tech 5’11” 180
Season Stats: 82 REC 1242 YDS 15.1 AVG 9 TD 31.6 KR AVG 1 KR TD
Tech’s junior playmaker has racked up over 130 catches and 2000+ yards over his last two years, and was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist this season. Coutee has estimated 4.4 speed, and is also a dangerous kick return man. He hasn’t declared for the draft as of Thursday, but another big game on a national stage could guide his decision.
#3 Deatrick Nichols CB USF 5’10” 189
Season Stats: 51 TKL (39 solo) 3 TFL 1 FF 3 INT 11 PBU
Nichols is a three-year starter for the Bulls, with 11 interceptions and 23 pass breakups over his last 37 games. He’s an undersized but aggressive defender, with experience at corner and nickel, and he’ll also be in attendance at next month’s Shrine Game.
#9 Quinton Flowers QB USF 6’ 210
Season Stats: 171/320 (53.4%) 2600 YDS 8.1 YPA 21 TD 6 INT passing, 972 YDS 5.3 AVG 10 TD rushing
Flowers is another Shrine Game invitee, and it looks like he’ll get a shot to play quarterback in practices and the game that week. While his completion percentage dipped to a career-low this season, Flowers has topped 20 passing touchdowns, 900 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns for the third straight season. He also closed the season with a record-breaking 503-yard, four-touchdown passing performance against Central Florida. The Shrine Game will give him a chance to catch fire among draftniks, but despite the gaudy passing stats, I think the NFL will ultimately push Flowers to running back or receiver. In fact, NFLDraftScout.com already has Flowers listed at running back in their rankings.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - Saturday 3:30 PM ET
San Diego State vs Army
#20 Rashaad Penny RB SDSU 5’11” 220
Season Stats: 2027 YDS 7.4 AVG 19 TD rushing, 18 REC 142 YDS 7.9 AVG 2 TD receiving, 30.6 KR AVG 2 KR TD, 1 PR TD
Penny flashed his ability while backing up Donnel Pumphrey for a couple of seasons, but the versatile senior finally got his chance to shoulder the load in 2017. Penny’s career production as a runner, receiver and return man is especially impressive for a 220-pound running back, and if a deep group of underclassmen declare for the draft, he may become this year’s version of Kareem Hunt: the senior who slips into the mid rounds, and becomes a starter sooner than later. Penny will represent the Aztec’s at the Senior Bowl in January.
#15 Nick Bawden FB SDSU 6’3” 245
Season Stats: 14 REC 101 YDS 7.2 AVG 1 TD
For fans of the traditional fullback position, Bawden is probably the best in class, and he’ll be joining Penny at the Senior Bowl in Mobile next month.
Dollar General Bowl - Saturday 7:00 PM ET
Appalachian State vs Toledo
#11 Logan Woodside QB Toledo 6’2” 210
Season Stats: 248/382 (64.9%) 3758 YDS 9.8 AVG 28 TD 5 INT 1 rush TD
Woodside won’t match last season’s 45 TD passes, but despite losing Hunt to graduation and leading receiver Cody Thompson to injury, the senior passer has still victimized MAC defenses with chunk plays, while continuing to limit his turnovers.
Hawaii Bowl - Sunday 8:30 PM ET
Fresno State vs Houston
#15 Linell Bonner WR Houston 6’ 200
Season Stats: 73 REC 850 YDS 11.6 AVG 4 TD
Bonner left Houston’s regular season finale with an arm injury, so I’m not sure if he’s playing or not. If he does, he’s notable for being the Cougars’ leading receiver each of the last two seasons, and should get a look as a priority free agent next spring.