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

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Associated Press
N.C. State QB Jacoby Brissett will be challenged by UCF safety Clayton Geathers in the St. Petersburg Bowl.


» Predictions for all 38 college bowl games


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

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Site: Dallas
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5)
Top players to watch: Illinois (CB V'Angelo Bentley, WR Mike Dudek, QB Wes Lunt, LB Mason Monheim, DE Jihad Ward); Louisiana Tech (DE Houston Bates, OT Mitchell Bell, DT Vernon Butler, RB Kenneth Dixon, WR Trent Taylor, S Xavier Woods).
Why NFL fans should tune in: If you're tired of family obligations, this might be worth watching. Might. Bates (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) is an interesting story: He is a former starter at Illinois who transferred to Louisiana Tech for his final season to be closer to home (he is from the New Orleans area); he has 5.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries. Bell (6-3, 344) is a mauler who could get some looks as a guard at the next level. Butler and Dixon are juniors and Taylor and Woods sophomores that could become prospects down the line. Butler has the ability to be a disruptive force from the middle of the line. Illinois doesn't have any standout seniors. There are three juniors to watch: Bentley is a fast cover corner, Monheim a tackle machine (291 in three seasons, including 108 this season) and Ward an intriguing physical specimen (he's 6-6 and 290 pounds). Lunt is a sophomore with prototypical dropback passer size (6-5, 225) and a strong arm. Dudek is the second-most productive freshman receiver in the nation (69 receptions) and a burgeoning star.
Game predictions:
Brandt: Louisiana Tech, 28-27
Brooks: Louisiana Tech, 43-37
Jeremiah: Louisiana Tech, 24-21
Fischer: Illinois, 28-24
Goodbread: Louisiana Tech, 21-16
Huguenin: Louisiana Tech, 34-27

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QUICK LANE BOWL

Site: Detroit
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: North Carolina (6-6) vs. Rutgers (7-5)
NFL teams attending: None.
Top players to watch: North Carolina (OLB Norkeithus Otis, FS Tim Scott, WR Ryan Switzer, G Landon Turner, QB Marquise Williams); Rutgers (WR Leonte Carroo, DT Darius Hamilton, G Kaleb Johnson, TE Tyler Kroft, LB Steve Longa).
Why NFL fans should tune in: If watching a middle-tier ACC team playing a middle-tier Big Ten team is your cup of tea, by all means tune in. UNC underachieved this season, while Rutgers overachieved. Otis (6-1, 235) and Scott (6-0, 195) are seniors with athleticism and some needed measurables, but each was inconsistent this season, though Scott does lead the Tar Heels in tackles. Williams and Turner are juniors who can impress scouts next season, while Switzer is a sophomore with speed and big-play ability. He also is a dangerous return man. Johnson (6-4, 300) is a senior who also has started at tackle in his career; he is a road-grader in the running game and fits best inside at the next level. Carroo is a junior with good size (6-1, 205) and good speed; he is toying with the idea of turning pro after averaging 19.7 yards on his 53 receptions. Kroft should be one of the nation's top senior tight ends next season; he and Carroo were underutilized this season because of inconsistent quarterback play. Hamilton is another junior who will be closely watched next season. Longa is an ultra-productive sophomore (216 tackles in two seasons) with good instincts and speed.
Game predictions:
Brandt: North Carolina, 34-28
Brooks: North Carolina, 21-16
Jeremiah: North Carolina, 38-28
Fischer: North Carolina, 45-42
Goodbread: North Carolina, 38-35
Huguenin: North Carolina, 28-24

College Football 24/7 Hot Topics:

ST. PETERSBURG BOWL

Site: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Matchup: North Carolina State (7-5) vs. UCF (9-3)
NFL teams attending: Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins.
Top players to watch: North Carolina State (P Will Baumann, QB Jacoby Brissett, OT Tyson Chandler, OT Rob Crisp, DE Mike Rose, DT Thomas Teal); UCF (SS Clayton Geathers, CB Jacoby Glenn, WR Rannell Hall, WR Breshad Perriman, LB Terrance Plummer, OT Torrian Wilson).
Why NFL fans should tune in: You want to watch football on a Friday night? Here is your outlet. UCF won the Fiesta Bowl last season and is going for its third 10-win season in a row. Baumann, a senior, is one of the better punters in the nation and almost certainly will get an undrafted free-agent look from someone. Chandler (6-7, 345) and Crisp (6-7, 285) are a nice-sized tackle duo. Crisp was a national recruit, but his career has been dogged by injuries. When he is healthy, which hasn't been all that often, he is a good tackle. Chandler's sheer size will appeal to some teams; the guy obviously is massive but needs seasoning. Teal (6-1, 296) generally is stout at the point of attack, but he had an inconsistent senior season. Rose is a junior who should be one of the best defensive linemen in the ACC next season. Brissett has intriguing size (6-4, 231) and a nice arm, but after lighting up FSU in a loss in late September, he really struggled the rest of the way. In the final seven regular-season games, he completed more than 57 percent of his passes twice and less than 50 percent three times. While UCF's offense is predicated on its rushing attack, it has one of the better receiving corps in the nation. Hall (6-1, 200), a senior, is both physical and athletic, while Perriman, a junior, has excellent size (6-3, 214) and speed, and also excellent bloodlines (his dad, Brett, starred in college at Miami and played for a decade in the NFL). Wilson (6-3, 305), who blocked for Teddy Bridgewater in high school, has NFL potential as a guard. Plummer (6-1, 236) is an active middle 'backer who runs well laterally and almost always is around the football. Geathers (6-2, 208) -- who already has accepted a Senior Bowl invitation -- has good size, hits a ton and is excellent in run support; he also comes from a football-playing family (a number of his cousins and uncles have played in the NFL). But the most talented player on UCF's roster is Glenn, a third-team Associated Press All-American as a third-year sophomore this season. Glenn (6-0, 186) has good size, excellent instincts and can run; he has seven interceptions and 11 pass breakups this season.
Game predictions:
Brandt: North Carolina State, 24-21
Brooks: UCF, 28-26
Jeremiah: North Carolina State, 28-27
Fischer: UCF, 31-20
Goodbread: UCF, 21-20
Huguenin: UCF, 20-17

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