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The Jeff Falconio Blog

The 12 days of football: Saturday four pack

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We move into the meaty part of the bowl season with a Saturday quadruple header.  It starts with Notre Dame and Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.  The inconsistent Irish have talent upfront on both sides with Zack Martin on the offensive line.  On the other side junior end Stephon Tuitt helps anchor the defensive line and will make his NFL Draft decision after Saturday.  Rutgers was equally inconsistent, starting the year 4-1 before dropping five of their next six.  A win over South Florida on December gave the Scarlet Knights bowl eligibility.

Mid-afternoon features the Belk Bowl between Cincinnati and North Carolina.  The Bearcats got stronger as the season wore on, winning six straight before losing the regular season finale to Louisville in overtime.  Despite a 6-6 record the Tar Heels are stocked with NFL talent.  It starts with junior tight end Eric Ebron who has already entered next year's draft and could be the first tight end taken off the board.  Other players to watch include defensive end Kareem Martin, who registered 11 sacks this year, and offensive tackle James Hurst.

The early evening brings one of the better non-BCS bowl matchups with Louisville vs Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.  Everyone will be watching Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has been on the radar for awhile but hasn't made his draft decision yet.  Bridgewater's favorite targets are senior wide receiver Damian Copeland and junior DeVante Parker who will likely return to school next year.  On defense the Cardinals feature end Marcus Smith who finished second in the nation with 12 1/2 sacks and inside linebacker Preston Brown.  Those two are a big part of the reason why Louisville ranked third in scoring defense.  Miami is led by senior quarterback Stephen Morris, a mid-round prospect who has been inconsistent but has loads of potential.  Along the offensive line the Hurricanes have Seantrel Henderson who carries off field baggage but has size that cannot be ignored.

Finally in prime time is the most delicious Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl between Michigan and Kansas State.  All eyes will be on Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan who has the potential to go in the top five.  Kansas State is led by safety Ty Zimmerman who returns from an ankle injury.  This is a matchup of two teams headed in the opposite direction.  Kansas State won five of their last six, with the only loss coming to Oklahoma.  Michigan is trying to put an end to a disappointing season that saw them lose five of their last seven after a 5-0 start.  However, starting quarterback Devon Gardner is out and will be replaced by Shane Morris.

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