NCAA Football

15 Players Who Need to Step Up in the Bowl Season

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15 College Football Players Who Must Step Up During Bowl Season

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bowl season provides players the opportunity to showcase talents that sometimes go unrecognized in the regular season. For many players, this is one of the only times they get to shine in the national spotlight. For others, this is their last chance to prove themselves at the college level and their last chance to impress before the NFL Combine.

Some teams just go through the motions in bowl games, but players who want to make an impact at the next level cannot be complacent. A Bowl game provides the platform for the unknown or less-known athlete the opportunity to get recognized, but who needs to step up this bowl season? While many players are just there for a free vacation and the swag bag, the true contenders are at the game to win and prove their worth at the next level.

This marks the last season of the dreaded BCS system, so which players will forever be remembered as the last to light it up in BCS games? Every bowl game seems to have a star and sometimes it is an under-the-radar player, so who will show up this year? Who will be the breakout stars of this bowl season?

While some players and teams will end up going through the motions, these 15 players need to have a big impact on the bowl season.

Greg Douglas is a college football writer for Follow him on twitter @thegpd93

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15. Derek Carr

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Derek Carr is one of the most underrated players in the country, but he will have to step up his game up even more to defeat the USC Trojans. The senior quarterback for Fresno State has 4,866 passing yards and 48 touchdowns this season, but a matchup against a recharged USC defense presents a tough matchup. Carr is not only playing to win the Las Vegas Bowl, but he is also playing for his NFL future. Carr is the brother of NFL journeyman David Carr, and Derek is looking to impress NFL scouts around the country. If the Bulldogs of Fresno State are going to beat USC, Carr will have to have a field day against a good Trojans defense.

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14. Blake Bortles

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Blake Bortles was unknown to most at the beginning of the season, but a stellar season has the junior quarterback flying up draft boards. Bortles is believed to be the top quarterback prospect in the draft by many, but will he prove them right in the Fiesta Bowl? The Central Florida Knights look to knock off the Baylor Bears' high-powered attack. This game is going to be a shootout, but can Bortles keep the Knights within striking distance? If Bortles performs well on this big stage, he will likely be the first quarterback taken in the 2014 NFL Draft.

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13. Jeremy Hill

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Jeremy Hill posted solid numbers even though he was in a loaded backfield. The LSU running back will have to shoulder the load with starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger out. Hill ran for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, but he will need another dominant performance to win the Outback Bowl. LSU will be looking lean heavily on the run game, but will Hill be the back that breaks out in this game?

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12. Jordan Matthews

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Jordan Matthews is one of the best receivers in the country, but no one outside of the south seems to have heard about him. Matthews has over 1300 yards receiving and five touchdowns this season, and he will look to add to his solid campaign in the bowl game. The Vanderbilt Commodores face a tough test in the Compass Bowl in a game that is sure to produce points. The senior wide receiver looks to end his college career on a high note with a win, but just how many receiving yards will Matthews put up in this game?

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11. Carlos Hyde

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The Ohio State Buckeyes go as Carlos Hyde goes. Hyde is a load to bring down, and his opponent has not faced a running back like him this season, so how will they stack up? Ohio State has to be disappointed to only be in the Orange Bowl, so expect Hyde to be angry in the BCS Bowl battle. Hyde has rushed for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and he is the key to the Buckeyes' success in this game. Hyde looks to land himself a spot in the NFL with a solid performance in this game, but a trip down south could pose a problem for this Big 10 team.

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10. Clint Chelf

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Since Clint Chelf has taken over the quarterback spot, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have been on a roll. The Cowboys renew an old Big 12 rivalry in the Cotton Bowl, but will the Cowboys get the best of their former brethren? Chelf has passed for 15 touchdowns this season and beat three top-25 teams as the starter, but will the veteran quarterback bounce back after losing in Bedlam? Chelf faces a defense that has flummoxed opposing quarterbacks, but can he exploit the opponent's secondary?

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9. Jordan Lynch

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Jordan Lynch is coming off the most heartbreaking loss of his career. A loss in the MAC Championship cost Northern Illinois a return trip to a BCS Bowl. The Heisman candidate will have to put that loss behind him when the Huskies play in the Poinsettia Bowl. The dual-threat quarterback looks to atone for the mistakes he made in the MAC Championship and lead his team to a bowl win. The Huskies will be in trouble if Lynch does not have an equal balance of run and pass in the game.

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8. Tre Mason

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Tre Mason is the lifeblood of the Auburn offense. The running back ran for over 300 yards in the SEC Championship against a good defensive front, but can he continue to assert his dominance against an equally menacing Seminoles defense? The Seminoles comes into the game as the top-ranked defense in terms of points against, but Mason should be able to find a crease or two in the lethal rushing attack of the Tigers. Auburn will be in the game if Mason goes over 200 yards, but if Mason has a hard time, the Seminoles will likely be hoisting the crystal ball in the BCS National Championship.

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7. Marcus Mariota

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Marcus Mariota will be the front-runner for the Heisman trophy next year, but this will be a good setup game for him. Many people were shocked when Mariota decided to return to Oregon for another season, but he wants another shot at the national championship and the Heisman trophy. Mariota runs the high-octane offense the Ducks have become known for, but will he get the win in the Alamo Bowl? This is the perfect transition game for Mariota, and a big game will only raise expectations for next season, but will he have a letdown game in the opponent's backyard?

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6. Tyler Gaffney

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Tyler Gaffney leads the Stanford offense into the Rose Bowl where he will play a vaunted defense. His opponent has fared well against opposing running backs, but did give up several large chunks of yards to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship. Can Gaffney find similar success against the Spartans' defense? The human wrecking ball looks to lead Stanford to a victory and continue the Pac 12's dominance in the Rose Bowl.

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5. Jadeveon Clowney

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Many people believe Jadeveon Clowney is the best player in college football and that he will be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, but he has been missing in action at times this season. The South Carolina standout will always be remembered for his hit in last year's bowl game, but will he perform well this season in the Capital One Bowl? People have questioned Clowney's motor and drive, and he needs to have a good game against a run-oriented offense.

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4. Tyler Tettleton

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Tyler Tettleton is one of those players that seems like they have been in college forever. Tettleton is under-appreciated because he plays in the MAC, but he always shines in the bowl game. He has thrown for over 2600 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, but can he finish out his career with a win in St. Petersburg Bowl? If Tettleton plays well and is consistent, the Ohio Bobcats will have a great chance of defeating the East Carolina Pirates.

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3. Auburn Secondary

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Auburn Secondary has gotten surgically picked apart all season, but this is now the only game that matters. Auburn's offense has carried the defense all season, and now it is time for the defense to pull their own weight. If Auburn does not fix the glaring weaknesses that plague the secondary, Auburn could be just another spectator for the Jameis Winston show. This will not be an easy test against one of the best set of receivers in the country, but if the secondary of the Tigers can manage a turnover and a few stops, the Tigers will reign supreme in the BCS National Championship.

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2. Todd Gurley

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Todd Gurley has had a tough season with injuries and the loss of starting quarterback Aaron Murray, but Gurley need to produce in this bowl game. The Gator Bowl is not whether the Georgia Bulldogs wanted to be this season, but the team needs to make the best of it. Gurley has become the lone offensive weapon left on a depleted Georgia offense, so he will see a ton of carries. Georgia is capable of winning this game, but the Bulldogs' success is predicated on how much Gurley wants to be there.

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1. Johnny Manziel

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Heisman trophy winner, a legend forever in college football, and countless plays that made you say "how did he do that?" Johnny Manziel looks to end his college career with a win in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl. It is a foregone conclusion that the talented quarterback will enter the NFL Draft, and you better believe he is gonna go out with style. In his swansong, Manziel just might have the best game of his career. Expect Manziel to play with reckless abandonment and create a few more highlight-reel plays in a Texas A&M win. This is Johnny football's sendoff game, so what does he have up his sleeve for his final act?