Commentary

Slaton, Dorsey highlight most intriguing bowl matchups

In a bowl season full of intriguing matchups that have the scouts taking notice, here are the best of the best, writes Steve Muench.

Originally Published: December 20, 2007
By Steve Muench | Scouts Inc.
Scouts pour over endless hours of film and leave no stone unturned when evaluating a player's skills set. It's a grueling process that can be monotonous, but there are certain games that cause scouts to sit up in their chairs 12 hours into a session. This jolt of excitement comes when they see a prospect line up against one of the best units or players in the nation and/or plays in game with substantial implications for his team. Of course, there are no games of greater importance or on greater stages than bowl games. That's why this is an important time for prospects to show what NFL scouts and front office personnel what they can do.

Here is a detailed breakdown of five matchups scouts will have their eyes along with a list of six other intriguing matchups

Rashard Mendenhall
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesRashard Mendenhall has the strength to gain tough yards inside and speed to break outside.
Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall
vs. Southern California's run defense

Mendenhall's numbers -- 245 rushed for 1,526 yards and 16 touchdowns -- are impressive and the junior showed the ability to pick up tough yards in short-yardage situations and break the long run when allowed to hit the second level going full speed. However, it will be tough sledding against a USC run defense loaded with NFL prospects that gives up an average of just 2.4 yards per carry. It all starts in the middle for USC with DT Sedrick Ellis, who has the explosive first step needed to make plays in the backfield and force Mendenhall to bounce runs outside. Behind Ellis, WLB Keith Rivers headlines a talented and experienced linebacker corps that tackles well and shouldn't make many mistakes, which is crucial when defending Illinois' option package. In addition, safeties Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison are both big enough to line up close to the line of scrimmage and should creep up considering Illinois has run the ball twice as much as it's thrown it this year.

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Steve Muench played four years of Division I-AA football before joining Scouts Inc. in 2002. He has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc., but his current focus is on the NFL draft.