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What we learned from the New Year's Eve bowl games

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Connor Cook joined Paxton Lynch as NFL draft-bound quarterbacks who closed their college careers on a sour note, as the Michigan State veteran was completely ineffective in a 38-0 loss to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal.


» Jeremiah: Scouting notes from Cotton Bowl


But NFL scouts might be wise not to lend too much weight to the dismal performance Cook put on tape against the Crimson Tide.

Why? Because the senior got zero help from his running game (26 carries, 29 yards), and his pass protection (four sacks) wasn't much better. Cook completed 19 of 39 passes for 210 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The closest he came to flashing effectiveness came near the end of the first half, when he led MSU to the Alabama 12 before throwing an interception on the Alabama goal line. But given the pressure Alabama was able to put on Cook without having to blitz, and the MSU running game's inability to keep Cook out of third-and-long situations, Cook's draft stock shouldn't be adversely affected by the performance.

Check out the best images from the 2015-16 college football bowl season.

A more mobile quarterback might have given Alabama some problems as a scrambler, but under the same difficult circumstances, there isn't a quarterback in the country who would have thrown the ball effectively against Alabama on Thursday.

Here are seven other things we learned in college football Thursday.

2. Playmaking Sooners. For the most part, Clemson had its way with the Oklahoma defense on Thursday. But don't blame that on Eric Striker. The Sooners' undersized pass rusher made three tackles for loss to close his senior season with 19. Another of OU's draft hopefuls, junior cornerback Zack Sanchez, intercepted Deshaun Watson for his team-high seventh pick of the year.

3. Game tape keeper. For any NFL scouts that doubt the skills of Houston CB William Jackson III, film of the Peach Bowl could be in order. The Cougars senior closed his career with two interceptions and two pass breakups in UH's 38-24 upset of Florida State. That gave him 23 breakups and five picks on the year for an FBS-leading 28 passes defensed. Jackson has length (6-2), speed and instincts -- now all he needs is a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine to cement himself among the top cornerbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft.

4. Down and out. Oklahoma lost both of its top rushers -- sophomore Samaje Perine and freshman Joe Mixon -- to second-half injuries against Clemson. That left offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley with little choice but to put the offense squarely on quarterback Baker Mayfield's shoulders, particularly with the Sooners training. The more one-dimensional OU offense couldn't keep pace, however. The severity of the injuries to Perine and Mixon remain unclear.

5. Stuffed. FSU running back Dalvin Cook hasn't been shut down all season quite like Houston's defense did it Thursday. The star sophomore rushed 18 times for only 33 yards and was a non-factor in the Cougars' 38-24 upset.

6. The Watson Watch. It will be another year or two before Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson has a chance to be drafted, but he's already showing some pro traits. NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein attended the Orange Bowl and had some concerns about Watson's game, but liked his arm strength, size and athleticism.

7. Ramsey's ready. Although the Peach Bowl was a forgettable game for Florida State, versatile defensive back Jalen Ramsey wasn't one of the Seminoles who forgot to show up. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks attended the game and loved what he saw of Ramsey, calling him a Day 1 starter in the NFL at cornerback and likened his skills to those of the Oakland Raiders' Charles Woodson.

8. Stock on the rise. Alabama has two pass rushers with double-digit sacks for the first time in the Nick Saban era. Jonathan Allen, a junior considering early draft entry, notched two more against the Spartans for 12 on the season. Allen has had a breakout season that has NFL scouts nearly as excited as they are about the Tide's more established defensive stars. Junior Tim Williams had one to give him 10.5 on the year. Williams has said he will return to UA next season.

Prospects to watch in Friday's bowl games:


College Football 24/7's panel of scouts are checking out top prospects during the 2015 bowl season.

Outback Bowl

Northwestern vs. Tennessee (Noon ET, ESPN2)

Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee: The Vols' top cover man and special teams ace broke up six passes on the season but came up with just one interception.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee: Reeves-Maybin is an athletic outside linebacker prospect who led the Volunteers in tackles with 99 and TFLs with 13. ... Explosive tackler who can chase from sideline to sideline, but will need to make point-of-attack improvement at the next level.

Citrus Bowl

Michigan vs. Florida (1 p.m. ET, ABC)

Jourdan Lewis, DB, Michigan: The Wolverines' cornerback is smallish (5-10, 176) but has made play after play this season for Michigan, breaking up 19 passes. He's a junior yet to announce his 2016 draft intentions.

Jon Bullard, DL, Florida: With pass rusher Alex McCalister no longer with the team, the senior Bullard will have the biggest impact, for better or worse, on the Gators' ability to pressure Michigan QB Jake Rudock. Bullock shows scheme versatility for the next level and has a quick first step.

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: One of the nation's elite cover men has already indicated he intends to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. He picked off four passes as a junior, and knew what to do when he got them (152 interception return yards). Hargreaves is small, but plays a physical style with good leverage.

Antonio Morrison, LB, Florida: The senior made the most of an impressive return from a serious knee injury this year, leading the Gators in tackles (97) and TFLs (12). Morrison has a strong work ethic and is a big presence in the UF locker room.

Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: The Buckeyes junior, who intends to enter the draft early, has been OSU's biggest playmaker up front for three years. He's long, tough to block and quick enough to be highly disruptive in the backfield. Bosa uses good technique with his hands, but can give up ground when being blocked at an angle.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Elliott averaged more than 100 yards per game for the Buckeyes and was OSU's most consistent offensive threat, even in games in which the rest of the offense struggled. He has excellent vision and has announced that he intends to enter the 2016 draft as a junior. Elliott is also a fantastic blocker, offering an every-down skill set.

Ronnie Stanley, OL, Notre Dame: One of the elite offensive tackles in the country, along with Ole Miss' Laremy Tunsil. Stanley is a fourth-year junior who will apply for early draft entry. Stanley was a consensus All-American in 2015. His matchup with Bosa will be heavily anticipated by NFL scouts. Stanley has improved significantly as a run blocker.

Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish's leading tackler is arguably the top linebacker in all of college football, but the junior hasn't yet declared whether he intends to enter the 2016 draft. He can play inside or outside with equal effectiveness.

Rose Bowl

Stanford vs. Iowa (5 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Kyle Murphy, OL, Stanford: The Cardinal tackle plays with good technique and earned second-team All Pac-12 honors. While Murphy lacks core strength, he plays with good technique and footwork.

Joshua Garnett, OL, Stanford: The Cardinal guard won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman, and excelled in Stanford's power-rushing approach. Garnett plays similar to Oakland Raiders guard Gabe Jackson, a 2014 third-round pick from Mississippi State.

Desmond King, CB, Iowa: The Hawkeyes' junior cover man won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, intercepting eight passers for the Big Ten West champs. He also had 12 pass breakups on the year. King has yet to indicate draft intentions.

Sugar Bowl

Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Laremy Tunsil, OL, Ole Miss: The Rebels' star junior, arguably the most talented pass protector in the country, missed the first half of the season on an NCAA suspension. His foot quickness and technique are assets, and compares well to Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith.

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: The Rebels' best offensive threat plays a physical brand at 6-2, 210 pounds. He has soft hands and caught 76 passes as a junior for 1,082 yards. Treadwell is also one of the most dominating blockers in the college game at his position. He has yet to indicate his 2016 draft intentions.

Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' top pass rusher has made 13 sacks on the year and 28 for his career, putting him among the most productive defensive ends in the country. Ogbah (6-4, 275) was named the 2015 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. The junior remains mum on his draft intentions.

NFL Media analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter contributed to this report. Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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