Bowl Watch Part 1

<p> </p> <p>It's bowl season. It's playoff season. Yeah, it's couch time, so here's the primer as we begin stocking the ol' database of Steelers draft prospects:<o:p> </o:p> </p> <p><o:p> </o:p> </p>

FRIDAY

Independence Bowl – Nebraska vs. Mississippi

On the Ole Miss side, quarterback Eli Manning is a fourth-year junior and rumors abound that he'll leave early and enter the draft. It's not in keeping with the way his father Archie likes to go about business (see Peyton Manning) but Eli is scheduled to graduate in May. He's always been something of a rebel as far as Manning diligence is concerned, but that may be good for the 6-4, 205-pounder (sorry, all numbers right now are Kiper's). Early reports have Manning as a possible mid to late first-rounder if he does come out, but my gut tells me he'd be top 10. See for yourself this afternoon.

Nebraska has an interesting prospect in defensive end Chris Kelsay (6-3 ½, 257), younger brother of former Steelers linebacker Chad Kelsay. Chris has always been the more highly touted of the two and is expected back for this game after missing four with a hamstring injury. Possible 3-4 backer? It's probably not a Steelers first-round need and this guy's a first-rounder.

Prediction off the cuff, Nebraska 27-24.

Holiday Bowl – Kansas State vs. Arizona State

Two of the best players in the nation are playing in this one – Terence Newman and Terrell Suggs. Newman (5-11, 185) is a cover corner for Kansas State. He's a football player who happens to excel on the track. Suggs (6-4 ½, 250) is a defensive end for Arizona State and the word is he could be a 3-4 linebacker. He's a junior who's expected to leave early, but after breaking an NCAA record with 22 sacks, he'd again go too early to suit the Steelers' needs.

As for the game, one scout calls this the best Kansas State team ever. My friend at the Post-Gazette, Terry Shields, is never wrong and he gave me Kansas State. So it's unanimous, K-State, 42-14.

SATURDAY

Tire Bowl – West Virginia vs. Virginia

Who's that team running the ball out of that funky Northwestern spread? Is that Amos Zereoue?

Well, that's West Virginia, but not Famous Amos. It's Avon Cobourne, the new West Virginia rushing king, and at 5-8, 181 he's the same height but 22 pounds lighter than the current Steelers halfback.

Cobourne has obviously been productive, but he may not be as fast as Zereoue. That's the only way he has a chance.

That other WVU back by the way – Quincy Wilson – is the son of former Chicago Bears linebacker Otis Wilson.

As for Virginia, it's a team to watch. Their last two recruiting classes are drawing pro raves.

Alamo Bowl – Colorado vs. Wisconsin

Couple runners here, but Colorado's Chris Brown is the one to watch. If healthy, this 6-2 ½, 224-pounder reminds scouts of Eddie George (6-3, 240), only quicker. But there was a question about George that caused him to fall behind Lawrence Phillips and Tim Biakabatuka to 14th in the 1996 draft, that being his upright running style. Brown takes on the same concern, and if you're not as strong as George that's a problem. Brown also is rapped for catching only 11 passes in two seasons. Maybe they don't throw to him. Maybe he could use another year in college (transferred from Northwestern to follow Gary Barnett) to get stronger. Maybe he says screw it, comes out early and falls to, say, 28th. I like this guy a lot. Wanna see more.

Wisconsin has a runner, too, a 5-8, 189-pound sophomore named Anthony Davis who rushed for 301 against Minnesota.

As for a prediction, I have Wisconsin plus the touchdown and I don't know why. Maybe it's because I believe Colorado to be unhappy with its lot in bowl life.

MONDAY

Music City Bowl – Arkansas vs. Minnesota

Top senior running back for run-oriented Arky is Cedric Cobbs, but he has character issues. Minnesota has been a killer this year because of great stats and little heart, but rugged Razorpigs are giving a few too many, Arkansas, 27-21.

Seattle Bowl – Oregon vs. Wake Forest

Wake has been a tremendous running dog the last couple of years. They have to have some pro talent somewhere on that O-line. But neither that nor Oregon receiver Samie Parker interests a Steelers fan at this time.

Gotta go with Wake here. They've been lovable pups the last few years, Deacons, 31-28.

TUESDAY

Humanitarian Bowl – Iowa State at Boise State

Kimo von Oelhoffen's alma mater averages 52 points per game on the famous blue rug that will host this game. A 6-0 junior quarterback by the name of Ryan Dinwiddie runs the show for Boise State.

It's not much of a team, but Iowa State has the game's centerpiece in quarterback Seneca Wallace. He's not quite 6-0 but scouts love his athletic ability in much the way they liked Antwaan Randle El last year, but many feel Wallace can play quarterback in the NFL. He's supposed to be the next Doug Flutie or something. We'll see. Boise State, 52-45.

Sun Bowl – Washington vs. Purdue

Washington quarterback Cody Pickett (6-3, 209) is a junior who set a Pac-10 passing record with 4,186 passing yards this season. He did it without a running game, and he'll be under fire from Purdue's underrated defense. Washington has a nice quarterback lineage going with Brunell, Hobert, Tuiasosopo, and now this guy. Washington, 21-20.

Liberty Bowl – Colorado State vs. TCU

The school that gave the Steelers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans has a good running back named Cecil Sapp. If you question the validity of WAC/Mountain rushing stats, look no further than Marshall Faulk. But Sapp (5-11, 222) not only powered his way through the weak defenses of the WAC, he impressed scouts in games against UCLA, Louisville and Virginia. Steelers farm club, 20-17.

Silicon Valley Classic – Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State

Chan Gailey had two of his best players injured this season and it really hurt the Yellow Jackets, but they were good enough to make a bowl game. The former Steelers coordinator, who went to the '97 AFC title game with quarterback Kordell Stewart, is still looking for a mobile quarterback at Tech. Fresno State, 30-27.

To be continued New Year's Eve.

--Jim Wexell


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