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Bowl viewer's guide: Previewing Tuesday's slate of CFB action

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Steve Coleman / Associated Press
Marshall QB Rakeem Cato ranks fifth all-time in career touchdown passes.

College Football 24/7 is providing a daily glimpse at the best players in each game and predictions from writers Gil Brandt, Bucky Brooks, Daniel Jeremiah, Bryan Fischer, Chase Goodbread and Mike Huguenin.


» Top 10 individual matchups in CFB bowl season


In a weekly series, draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah polls five NFL personnel executives about college football's top prospects.

BOCA RATON BOWL

Site: Boca Raton, Fla.
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)
NFL team attending: Miami Dolphins
Top players to watch: Marshall (QB Rakeem Cato, LB Jermaine Holmes, C Chris Jasperse, RB Devon Johnson, DT James Rouse, WR Tommy Shuler); Northern Illinois (WR Da'Ron Brown, FS Dechane Durante, CB Paris Logan, OT Tyler Loos, C Andrew Ness, DE Jason Meehan)
Why NFL fans should tune in: Just think of this as a mid-major Super Bowl of sorts -- Marshall won Conference USA, Northern Illinois won the MAC. It should be one of the best of the non-New Year's Day bowls. Cato (6-1, 176) is fifth all-time in career TD passes, but his lack of size and arm strength make you wonder about his draftability. Shuler (5-7, 188) is water-bug quick but also extremely small. Jasperse (6-5, 294) is one of the best non-Power Five centers nationally. Holmes (5-11, 232) is a physical run-stuffer who has made 261 tackles in the past three seasons. Rouse (6-5, 271) needs to add weight and bulk but is a potential third-day pick despite a history of injuries; he has good quickness and is disruptive in the middle of the line. Johnson (6-1, 243) is a junior who converted from tight end in August and ranks sixth nationally with 1,636 yards; nicknamed "Rockhead," he also has played linebacker and is a physical downhill runner. NIU is all about the ground game: The Huskies run the ball 64 percent of the time. Loos (6-5, 302) is a senior and could get a late-round look. Brown (6-0, 196) is a step slow, but is a physical receiver who has caught almost twice as many passes as anyone else on the roster. Meehan (6-1, 255) has some pass-rush skills, and he needs to get consistent pressure on Cato. Durante (6-2, 193) has good range and size and runs well and has come up with seven interceptions and nine pass breakups in the past two seasons. Logan and Ness are juniors who could play their way into draft consideration next season.
Game predictions:
Brandt: Marshall, 35-27
Brooks: Marshall, 54-51
Jeremiah: NIU, 35-34
Fischer: NIU, 37-28
Goodbread: Marshall, 38-31
Huguenin: Marshall, 28-23

College Football 24/7 Hot Topics:

POINSETTIA BOWL

Site: San Diego
Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Navy vs. San Diego State
NFL team attending: None
Top players to watch: Navy (QB Keenan Reynolds, RB Noah Copeland); SDSU (RB Donnel Pumphrey, OL Terry Poole, WR Ezell Ruffin)
Why NFL fans should tune in: Pro football fans don't get much of a chance to see the triple option, and Navy's appearance in San Diego offers the first of three opportunities this postseason to see a beautiful offense executed to perfection. The Midshipmen are led by Reynolds, who is on pace to shatter just about every FBS record for running the ball as a quarterback. He teams with Copeland, who usually finds the ball in his hands if Reynolds is handing it off or pitching it. The Aztecs will play at their home stadium, which they share with the San Diego Chargers, but are capable of competing with any team on the field. Keep an eye out for Pumphrey, who is a dependable threat for the team offensively.
Game predictions:
Brandt: SDSU, 42-35
Brooks: Navy, 30-28
Jeremiah: SDSU, 28-21
Fischer: SDSU, 28-21
Goodbread: Navy, 27-14
Huguenin: SDSU, 26-21

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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