For all the NFL scouts reading this, if you’re looking for some big time matchups at some critical positions, the Sugar Bowl might be right down your alley.
Even without a potential top ten draft pick in Robert Nkemdiche, there will be plenty of talent on the field. According to numerous mock drafts, Laremy Tunsil, a 6-5/305 offensive tackle, could be the first selection of the board. Dan Kadar, the NFL Draft Editor for SB Nation, has Tunsil going number one to Tennessee. Tunsil missed the first seven games this year due to an NCAA suspension, and boy did they miss him. In the first seven games, the Rebels averaged just over 100 yards on the ground and allowed three sacks per game. Since returning to the offensive line, Ole Miss has doubled their rushing attack, and cut the sacks per game to one.
But Tunsil hasn’t been tested all year like he will be on New Year's night. Going up against the All-SEC first team tackle will be Co-Defensive Big 12 Player of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah. Ogbah has been consistently good all year, regardless of how the rest of the defense has played. Despite garnering double and sometimes triple teams, Ogbah has recorded a sack in 11 of the 12 games this year. The junior had 13 sacks in 2015 and probably would have had 13 more if some holding calls went his way. Kadar has Ogbah going 12th overall to Tampa Bay, but both Ogbah and Tunsil are only juniors, so they’ll have decisions to make after the game.
Obviously Tunsil and Ogbah will get most of the hype, but a key matchup that could decide the game goes to Laqon Treadwell and Kevin Peterson. Treadwell established himself as the best receiver in the SEC and a top three receiver in the country in 2015. Treadwell finished third in the Biletnikoff race behind a pair of Big 12 receivers, both of whom Peterson covered this season. Treadwell has faired well against the best pass defenses the SEC has to offer. He had a very comparable year to Oklahoma State’s James Washington. Treadwell brought in 76 catches for 1082 yards and eight touchdowns. Similarly, Washington had 1077 yards and 10 touchdowns. But there won’t be a more experienced corner in the country when it comes to going up against big play wide outs. Peterson, a three year starter, has gone up against the best college football has to offer.
Last season, Peterson was asked to shut down first round draft pick Kevin White of West Virginia, and he did just that. This year, Peterson up against Biletnikoff winner Corey Coleman and Biletnikoff runner up Josh Doctson. Neither receiver had more than 77 yards or a touchdown. Peterson finished the year matching up against another elite wideout, Sterling Shepard. Shepard caught 10 passes for 87 yards and a score. Kadar has Treadwell as the number one receiver on his big board, falling to St. Louis at 18. Peterson isn’t receiving the national attention he might deserve, but with a matchup against Treadwell and the senior bowl still looming, Peterson has a couple more chances to get the attention of NFL scouts.