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Debate: Which NFL prospect has most at stake in bowl season?

NFL scouts will tell you that they want to see how big-time players play in big-time games. With that in mind, which NFL prospect has the most at stake this bowl season?

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  • Gil Brandt
  • Carr gets good litmus test vs. USC

Derek Carr was my 57th-ranked senior before the start of the college season. I raised him to No. 33 at the midway point of the season and now have him in my top 10. Fresno State and Carr will play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, and you can be sure all 32 NFL teams will be there. His stats are off the charts: 48 TD passes, seven INTs, 77 percent completion rate this fall. Over two years, he has 85 TDs and 14 INTs. He can make all the throws and has better athletic ability than his brother David, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans in 2002. USC is the best opponent Fresno State will have faced since Week 2 of the 2012 season, when the Bulldogs played at Oregon. In the spring, Carr measured 6-foot-2 3/4 and 209 pounds, and he had a very good shuttle time, which is an indication of athletic ability. He also ran under 4.7. This is the guy that I'm most interested in seeing, to see if I've got him too high or not high enough.

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  • Daniel Jeremiah
  • Let's see if Carr can light up USC

I'm very interested to see how Fresno State QB Derek Carr plays against USC. He's put up huge numbers this season but he hasn't played a tough schedule. If he torches USC, it will be a big boost to his draft stock.

Jadeveon Clowney, assuming he turns pro early, is as surefire a first-round pick as there is in the draft. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a lot to lose, since the difference between a few picks at the front of the draft is millions of dollars. Clowney's disappointing season could use a good last impression after scouts spent the fall questioning the junior star on multiple fronts. None of those questions are about his ability to rush the passer, so Wisconsin's downhill rushing attack is probably, to NFL personnel execs, a more intriguing matchup for Clowney. In his final college game, will he give maximum effort for things like gap control when his big-play opportunities will be limited?

USC and Washington are the two most high-profile teams headed to bowl games with interim coaches -- the Trojans are down to their interim interim head coach in offensive coordinator Clay Helton -- so how will USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and Huskies running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins fare? Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins face the biggest challenge, since departed head coach Steve Sarkisian called the plays on offense; Lee has Helton and wide receivers coach Tee Martin around for stability against a shaky Fresno State secondary. All three top prospects have plenty of outstanding game tape to fall back on, but whether they show the necessary focus to handle this upheaval will be more important to NFL scouts than another stick route or blitz pickup.

I'm especially interested in seeing how a lot of the quarterbacks perform -- UCF's Blake Bortles vs. Baylor's surprisingly tough defense, UCLA's Brett Hundley vs. Virginia Tech defensive mastermind Bud Foster, Clemson's Tajh Boyd vs. Ohio State's sieve-like secondary, Alabama's A.J. McCarron against Oklahoma's Bob and Mike Stoops' game-planning, Fresno State's Derek Carr vs. USC's tough defense. Most of all, though, I'm interested in seeing what Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami native who knows a lot of players on the opposing team, can do against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Miami's secondary got carved up by Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, Florida State's Jameis Winston and North Carolina's Bryn Renner, and even Pitt's Tom Savage and Florida's Jeff Driskel put up big numbers. That means Bridgewater should do the same. As shaky as Miami's defense has been, it will be the most athletic unit Louisville has gone against. How does Bridgewater fare?

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