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2012 NFL Draft Rumors: Temple's Bernard Pierce Could Make Jump After 2011 New Mexico Bowl

The Temple Owls might see running back Bernard Pierce for the last time in a team uniform on Saturday during the 2011 New Mexico Bowl against the Wyoming Cowboys. Pierce is a strong candidate to leave early for the 2012 NFL Draft, and ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. believes (Insider subscription required) a great game against the Cowboys will seal Pierce's decision to leave early.

Pierce rebounded from a sophomore slump to post his second 1,300-plus rushing yard season, going for 1,381 so far this season and 1,361 as a freshman in 2009. He's rushed for 25 touchdowns so far this season and has 51 in his career. The Cowboys allow 230 yards on the ground, which could provide a great matchup for Pierce and Matt Brown to run wild.

Running backs usually slide down in the draft, but Pierce appears likely to be a middle-rounds selection. He isn't quite at the level of Trent Richardson or LaMichael James, but he has the size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) to be considered a decent prospect coming out of a MAC school.

For more on this game, visit MAC blog The Hustle Belt, Mountain West blog Mountain West Connection and Wyoming blog Cowboy Altitude. Head over to SB Nation NCAA Football for more on the bowl season.