New Year's Day is perhaps the biggest and most interesting day in the college football season, with 12 top teams battling in six bowl games, two of which are the semi-final matchups in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Fortunately, Steelers fans don't need to wait until Saturday for their fill of football, as several of these matchups feature top young players who Pittsburgh might find itself selecting in the 2015 NFL Draft.
1. CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State
Waynes had only three interceptions for the Spartans this season, but that's in part because of the Richard Sherman effect, meaning opposing quarterbacks were typically unwilling to test Waynes' side of the field. Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 185 pounds, Waynes has the size and strength to match up with bigger NFL receivers. With the Steelers facing A.J. Green and Josh Gordon twice per season, Waynes' size could prove to be an excellent asset. Expert scout Todd McShay also speaks highly of Waynes' vision and his ability in run support as a sure tackler. Waynes and the 10-2 Spartans play the 11-1 Baylor Bears in the Cotton Bowl (12:30 pm, ESPN).
2. CB P.J. Williams, Florida State
Williams arguably has the higher ceiling when compared to Waynes because of his superior athleticism, but lacks Waynes' ability in run support. Williams has good size (six feet tall, 200 pounds) and great speed (4.45 second 40-yard dash), while displaying a great combination of physicality and finesse for the undefeated Seminoles this season. Despite his undeniable attributes and potential, Williams has shown he can be overly aggressive in the past, as evidenced by giving up the occasional big play. Williams is certainly a ball-hawk, but in a game against Louisville and fellow first-round draft pick WR Devante Parker, Williams played poorly, as Parker caught eight passes for over 200 yards in a Florida State victory. Look to see how Williams does against a prolific Oregon Ducks attack, orchestrated by Heisman winner and likely No. 1 draft pick Marcus Mariota (Rose Bowl, 4:30 pm, ESPN).
3. DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
Listed at 313 pounds, the mountainous Goldman likely is closer to 340 pounds, while standing 6-foot-4. The Steelers have a good defensive tackle in Steve McLendon, but the bruising Goldman could fill a Ndamukong Suh type of role with the Steelers. Goldman has been praised by scouts for his quickness and pass-rushing skills, while also displaying the ability to be an effective player at the point of attack when defending the run. In fact, Goldman's teammate Mario Edwards was projected to be the Seminoles' best lineman, but Goldman has pleasantly surprised Jimbo Fisher and company. If Goldman has a good game against a tough Oregon interior line, his draft stock will soar.
4. DE/OLB Markus Golden, Missouri
While his teammate, Shane Ray, is the one who's earned the a household name, Golden has the potential to be equally impressive. With eight sacks this season, Golden has been compared favorably to Michael Sam (who was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013) but he possesses a higher ceiling than his Missouri teammate from last season. With eight sacks for the Tigers, Golden and his 6-foot-3 frame and 260-pound body make him a hybrid pass- rusher that could instantly help the Pittsburgh defense. Golden doesn't have as high of a ceiling as his teammate Ray, who will likely be a top-10 to -15 draft pick. But it's Golden's awareness that gives him an early edge over his more raw teammate. Golden and Missouri play the 8-4 Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday (Citrus Bowl 1 p.m. ET on ABC).
5. S Landon Collins, Alabama
While it's unlikely the Steelers will be in position to select Collins, the talented All-America safety could potentially fall into the Steelers' laps if both the Bears and Texans pass on him. A five-star recruit out of high school, Collins has displayed a rare combination of size, speed, strength, and awareness that makes him one of the the most interesting picks in the draft. Collins has played both safety positions for the Crimson Tide, impressive in view of the known complexities of a Nick Saban defense. If Collins performs well at his Pro Day and draft combine, his already sky-high draft stock could rise even higher. But if the talented defensive back lapses in any way, the Steelers could wind up with the most talented collegiate safety since Sean Taylor. Alabama plays Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl for a shot at the National Championship to face the winner of the Florida State-Oregon game (8:30 pm ET on ESPN).
Check out all of BTSC's early draft coverage in our 2015 NFL Draft hub, including mock drafts and our two-part Big Board.