What we learned from Wednesday's bowl games


Paxton Lynch isn't Superman, after all.

The Memphis quarterback, who some consider the top draft prospect in the country at his position, endured what could be a humble ending to his college football career Wednesday in a 31-10 loss to Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl. Lynch completed just 16 of 37 passes for 108 yards, no touchdowns and one interception in what could only be described as a hapless performance.

The junior will apply for early eligibility into the 2016 NFL Draft, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks assessed Lynch's performance in great detail, describing him as a developmental prospect and likening him to Miami Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill. Lynch had eight consecutive starts with 300-plus passing yards this year, but another concern is that it came against lesser competition than what other top quarterbacks such as Cal's Jared Goff and Michigan State's Connor Cook faced. Lynch's most impressive performance came against Ole Miss, one of two Power Five teams he faced in the regular season, when he completed 39 of 53 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns in an upset home win over the Rebels. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, Lynch has all the size and arm strength NFL scouts like. But physical traits will only be a part how he is viewed as a prospect.

NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock noted that NFL scouts will find both Lynch's assets and drawbacks on film, depending upon which of his games they evaluate.

Here are six other things we learned in college football on Wednesday:

2. Prescott finishes strong. Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, the most prolific quarterback the school has ever had, put some impressive punctuation on his college career in a 51-28 Belk Bowl win over N.C. State. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns. What was remarkable about his final college season, however, was the absence of a supporting running game. No Bulldogs rusher even reached 500 yards this season, and Prescott himself led the team in rushing with 588. NFL scouts can go ahead and check the toughness box on Prescott right now.

3. Serial ball thief. Memphis defensive back Reggis Ball not only snatched two interceptions in the Birmingham Bowl, but he snatched a third football after the game. And it cost him whatever standing a fifth-year senior whose eligibility has expired has with a football program.

4. Fields day. Louisville junior DE Devonte Fields, a transfer who was dismissed from Texas Christian, posted three sacks against Texas A&M in a Music City Bowl win, giving him 10.5 on the season. Fields hasn't yet announced whether he intends to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, but if he does, he closed his college career on the highest of notes.

5. McKinzy goes down. Auburn draft prospect Cassanova McKinzy, a senior linebacker who gave some consideration to entering the 2015 NFL Draft as an underclassman, was injured in the Birmingham Bowl and returned to the sideline on crutches. The severity of the injury is unclear, but his availability for pre-draft events such as the NFL Scouting Combine, or (if invited) the Reese's Senior Bowl, could be in jeopardy.

6. Action Jackson. Louisville freshman QB Lamar Jackson became the first FBS player to rush and pass for 200 yards each in a single game since Johnny Manziel did it for Texas A&M. In a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl, Jackson passes for 227 yards and rushed for 226. If the slight-built Jackson stays healthy, he'll be one of the most dangerous offensive threats in college football for years to come.

7. Brown out. Clemson isn't the only team in the College Football Playoff with suspended players. Alabama announced Wednesday that sophomore CB Tony Brown, the team's leading special-teams tackler, has been sent home for a violation of team rules.

Prospects to watch in Thursday's bowl games

Peach Bowl

*Houston vs. Florida State (Noon ET, ESPN) *

*Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State: *One of the elite defensive backs in the country, Ramsey has the versatility to play cornerback, nickelback or safety. The junior broke up a team-high 10 passes this season.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: A true sophomore who won't be draft-eligible until 2017 or 2018, Cook is as explosive as any running back in the country. In fact, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this year that he would take Cook over LSU star Leonard Fournette. Cook averaged a whopping 7.9 yards per carry for the Seminoles (211 for 1,658) with 18 touchdowns.

William Jackson III, CB, Houston:The Cougars' top draft prospect had a remarkable senior season, breaking up 21 passes and intercepting three others for an FBS-high 24 passes defended. At 6-2, he has uncommon length for a cornerback as well.

Orange Bowl

Clemson vs. Oklahoma (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma: As a true sophomore, Perine won't be eligible to be drafted until 2017 or 2018. Still, he's one of the Sooners' most promising prospects, having rushed for more than 3,000 career yards in just two seasons. OU's offense turned to Perine more heavily (71 carries) in three key conference wins to close the season against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma:The Sooners' top receiving threat averages better than 15 yards per catch and is quarterback Baker Mayfield's favorite target. He's not especially big (5-10, 190), but he possesses the speed to stretch the field vertically and keep defenses honest.

Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma: The Sooners' defensive playmaker is a speedy pass rusher (nine sacks) with a relentless motor. But at 6-0, 220 pounds, he's very undersized for the NFL, which will make it difficult for NFL scouts to project a position for him at the next level.

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: Clemson's top pass rusher had a breakout season and the junior has already announced he intends to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. He took up residence in opposing backfields this year, leading all FBS defenders in tackles for loss with 22.5.

Jayron Kearse, DB, Clemson:The Tigers' huge safety (6-5, 220) is the nephew of former NFL star pass rusher Jevon Kearse, and has been solid this season both against the run and pass. The junior is leaning toward applying for early draft eligibility.

Cotton Bowl

Michigan State vs. Alabama (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama:Though Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson might be the better athlete of the two, Reed has been the more consistent performer this season. The senior received a second-round draft grade last year but opted to come back to college, and has played even better in his final year. Reed's ability to stuff the run is as good as any defensive lineman in the nation.

Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama:The senior led the Crimson Tide in tackles with 90, and will be in his true element as a run stopper against the Spartans. Like Reed, Ragland received a second-round grade last year but returned to school to improve his stock and show more ability to play the pass and play in space. He's done both.

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama:Henry leads the nation in rushing with 1,986 yards, bringing a bullish style and a Heisman Trophy into this national semifinal. The powerful junior has yet to announce whether he intends to enter the 2016 NFL Draft.

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State:Arguably the nation's top senior quarterback, Cook has thrown just five interceptions all season in leading the Spartans to a 12-1 record. He's also well-protected and has good pocket awareness, having been sacked just 14 times. Cook said this week that he has fully recovered from a shoulder injury that hampered him late in the season.

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State:The Spartans' top pass rusher is an All-Big Ten nightmare for offensive tackles with 10.5 sacks on the year. A good left tackle alone can't stop him, because he bounces between both end spots over the course of a game.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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