Top 25 College Football Players In A BCS Bowl
25 Best College Football Players In BCS Bowl
The NCAA Football bowl season is finally upon us. We have weathered through upsets, heartbreak, underdogs, legal battles, NCAA investigations, and much more to get this point, but we’re finally here. It’s okay to take a deep breath, crack open a beverage, and relax now in college football’s version of the postseason.
This year’s bowl season is a bit different, though. This is the final year that the BCS in its current form, where it solely decides the two teams that will play for the National Championship, will be in effect. Next year will be the first season that we see the College Football Playoff, where the top-four teams in the BCS standings will compete in a playoff-style format to decide the national champion.
The playoff-type system is something that has been called for incessantly in recent years and that many are going to be happy to see ushered in. However, that doesn’t change the fact that we are currently experiencing the end of an era in college football. Sure, there were plenty of snubs along the way, but there was also some great football that came from the current BCS system.
In light of this being the last year of this format, though, it’s going to be interesting to see if this year’s BCS bowl games take this system out with a bang. We’ve got Michigan State and Stanford in the Rose Bowl, Baylor and Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Clemson and Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, and obviously Florida State and Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game.
With these big stages in the last year of this format, these young men that are a part of these teams will have a chance to go out and leave their mark. Who are the most likely players to do so? That’s an interesting question.
When I decided to see rank the 25 best players in these games, I thought the task would be relatively easy. Then I started to see all of the talent spread throughout these 10 programs and realized that wasn’t the case. As a result, I made some tough decisions. If you think I left someone off, let me know in the comments. If you agree, boost my ego in the comments. Either way, here’s who I decided were the 25 best players in the BCS bowl games.
25. Brennan Clay - Oklahoma RB
I don’t really think the Sooners stand much of a chance against the Crimson Tide, but if they do it’s largely going to be because their running game is successful behind senior running back Brennan Clay. Clay started the year in somewhat of a time-share, but ultimately ended up with solid numbers with 913 yards and six touchdowns on 158 carries for the year. The senior is a strong effective runner and, if Oklahoma wants to have a chance, is going to need to be just that against Alabama.
24. Kevin Hogan - Stanford QB
Taking over for Andrew Luck is no small task, but Kevin Hogan has done a nice job with the Cardinal. The junior threw for 2,487 yards, 20 touchdowns and only nine interceptions this season while completing a solid 61.4 percent of his passes. He also added 314 yards and two scores on the ground to his production. Though this Stanford team wants to run it down their opponents’ throat, they wouldn’t be half as effective if Hogan wasn’t as good as he has been this year.
23. Devonta Freeman - Florida State
He may be small in stature, but Devonta Freeman is key for this FSU offense running smoothly. For the year, he’s accrued 13 rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown, 943 yards rushing on 162 carries, and 257 receiving yards on 19 catches. This kid as only a junior helps open up a lot of room for the Seminoles’ offense and will have the chance to show off his ability while playing for a national title.
22. Ryan Shazier - Ohio State LB
While a lot of the focus for Ohio State is on their potent offense, junior linebacker Ryan Shazier has been the anchor for their defense. He’s only clocked less than five tackles in a game once all year including seven games with double-digit tackles. Moreover, he’s been a constant presence in terms of getting into the backfield and disrupting plays. This kid has NFL written all over him and, if you haven’t seen him, he’ll have his name called his fair share in the Orange Bowl.
21. A.J. McCarron - Alabama
Prefacing this by saying I’m not the biggest believer in A.J. McCarron, the senior quarterback for the Crimson Tide knows how to get the job done. Though he amassed just 2,676 yards passing, 26 touchdowns to only five interceptions on the season is nothing to scoff at. McCarron isn’t going to make mistakes and he’s going to put his team in good position. For an Alabama squad that has such an unreal amount of talent, McCarron is a valuable commodity to their offense.
20. Ty Montgomery - Stanford WR/KR
19. Jeremy Langford – Michigan State RB
After a mediocre start to his junior year, Jeremy Langford came on strong in the second half of the season and showed why he had some buzz coming into the season. He finished the year with eight consecutive 100-yard games and scored in all but one of those games. With 1,338 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, there’s no denying Langford his place on this list.
18. Braxton Miller - Ohio State QB
1,860 yards passing, 1,033 yards rushing, and 32 touchdowns will get you a lot of praise, which is exactly what Braxton Miller put up and gets for his 2013 season with the Buckeyes. Though you can pick apart his ability as a passer at times, Miller is a big play waiting to happen with both his arms and legs. With him being such a huge threat in such a variety of ways, it’s hard not to consider him one of the best of the BCS bowls.
17. Blake Bortles - UCF QB
Though the competition he faced may not have been at the highest level all season, Blake Bortles knows how to find the end-zone and win games. The junior threw for 3,280 yards this season while throwing 22 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. When you add in his five rushing touchdowns, it’s pretty obvious that Bortles is a big-time performer. Don’t let the school or conference fool you, Bortles has the ability to shine on a big stage.
16. David Yankey – Stanford OL
Though offensive linemen play an “unsexy” position, the Cardinal wouldn’t be the hard-nosed team that they are without David Yankey on their line. The mammoth 311-pounder has the ability and strength to hang with almost any defensive line in the country and wear down opponents. For a smash-mouth team like Stanford, Yankey’s presence is one that shouldn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
15. Vic Beasley – Clemson DE
There’s definitely a reason why Vic Beasley is relatively high on most NFL draft boards. Though he’s a tad light, Beasley is strong on the Clemson defensive line and lightning quick for his position. He can get to the quarterback seemingly at will and can cause major problems in the flow of an opposing offense. There’s no doubt that the Tigers are glad that Beasley is on their side for the Orange Bowl.
14. Trent Murphy – Stanford LB
Tackles don’t tell the whole story for a defensive player and Trent Murphy is proof of that. The linebacker only has 58 tackles on the year, but has 14 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and six pat downs to his name. Murphy leads arguably the best linebacker core in the country for Stanford and is going to be a nightmare for the Spartans in the Rose Bowl.
13. Lache Seastrunk – Baylor RB
As a part of the most productive offense in the country, Baylor junior running back Lache Seastrunk rushed for 1,060 yards on 141 carries this season and found the end-zone 11 times. Oh yeah—he also put up those numbers while missing two games this season. Seastrunk has big-time big play ability while also having the ability to move the chains for the Bears. Baylor is more than likely going to put up points and I’d expect Seastrunk will get his share.
12. Tyler Gaffney – Stanford RB
Tyler Gaffney is the definition of a work-horse. The Stanford senior carried the ball 306 times this season, but still hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. On the year he has 1,618 yards on the ground and an impressive 20 touchdowns to his name, but you have to like his ability to just consistently chip away and wear down defenses with his bruising running style. This kid, if his body holds up, is a tough runner with an NFL future.
11. T.J. Yeldon – Alabama RB
McCarron may get a lot of the headlines and the SI Swimsuit model girlfriend, but T.J. Yeldon carries the Crimson Tide offense. With 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground this season, you know Yeldon is able to run the ball effectively between the tackles and getting to the edge. Going up against a Sooners’ defense that we’ve seen get worn down before, Yeldon could be in for a big day when the two teams face off.
10. LaMarcus Joyner – Florida State DB
The defense of the Seminoles is arguably their most underrated asset and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner is vital to that unit. Joyner flies all over the field to make plays on what seems like every play. He’s solid in coverage, makes savvy plays, and is also lethal coming in blitz packages. We’ll see him on Sundays soon enough, but Joyner will be a big factor in FSU’s title hopes.
9. Darqueze Dennard – Michigan State CB
There may not be a better defensive back in college football than Darqueze Dennard. With 86 tackles and four picks this season, he can make plays when the ball is thrown his way. What’s most impressive, though, is the fact that there aren’t too many balls thrown his way because he’s so suffocating in coverage. The Spartans’ defense is key to their trip to a BCS bowl and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if Dennard wasn’t the special player that he is.
8. Bryce Petty – Baylor QB
To put it simply, junior Bryce Petty was a monster for Baylor this season. When you’re talking 3,844 yards passing, 192 yards, rushing, 42 total touchdowns and only two interceptions, it’s pretty apparent that you’re talking about a special talent, even in a system set up to score like the Bears’. Petty has made play after play this season and, system or not, it’s not been an accident.
7. Carlos Hyde – Ohio State RB
Braxton Miller may have a few more highlights, but Carlos Hyde keeps the Buckeyes’ offense rolling. The senior running back finished this season with 1,408 yards on 183 carries while scoring 14 times on the ground and another two times through the air. The big load out of the background wears defenses down, which allows OSU’s speed to kill. Essentially, Ohio State probably isn’t a BCS team without Hyde in the mix.
6. C.J. Mosley – Alabama LB
Winner of the Butkus Award for the best linebacker in college football, C.J. Mosley anchors the Crimson Tide on the defensive side of the ball. He had 102 tackles on the year, but no sacks or interceptions to show for his work. However, that doesn’t take away the threat that Mosley opposes to offenses and his ability to lead. This kid is for real, even if all the stats aren’t there this year.
5. Cyril Richardson – Baylor OL
Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk surely are big factors in Baylor’s high-octane offense, but I’m not sure they matter quite as much as Cyril Richardson on the offensive line. The big 340-pound lineman is fantastic as both a run and pass blocker and has the toughness and size to just demoralize opposing defensive lines.
4. Sammy Watkins – Clemson WR
If you’re a defender and you let Sammy Watkins get loose in the open field, you might as well go ahead and give Clemson six points, Watkins, who has rebounded from a disappointing sophomore year, is always just seconds and strides away from a monster play. With the Tigers coming in trying to prove they belong in the BCS picture, Watkins presence surely makes it seem like they indeed do.
3. Tajh Boyd - Clemson QB
Of course, Sammy Watkins might not be as big of a weapon for the Tigers if it weren’t for Tajh Boyd throwing the ball for them. With 3,473 yards passing and 38 total touchdowns on the year, Boyd hasn’t let up a bit for the Tigers this season and is clearly on his way to bigger things. As for now, though, he’s still a dominant presence for Clemson at the quarterback position.
2. Tre Mason - Auburn RB
While it may be a bit of an overreaction to his 304 yards and four touchdowns of 46 carries in the SEC Championship, I’m all-in on Tre Mason. The Auburn back can flat out run through anyone and then has the ability to break plays open as well with his speed. This kid is going to be a productive back on Sundays, which just sets him up for even more success while he’s still in the college ranks.
1. Jameis Winston - Florida State QB
There are so many things you can praise about Jameis Winston. His arm strength, ability to keep plays alive, elite athleticism and many other things are all part of what makes him a leading Heisman candidate. However, what’s been most impressive has been his in-game maturity. Save for a few slip-ups in the ACC Championship, Winston has played like a savvy veteran in college football as just a redshirt freshman. He’s not perfect, but for all he is, he’s the best in the sport and it the BCS bowls this season.