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Johnny Manziel and 25 Players We Can't Wait to See Shine During Bowl Season

Brandon BurnettContributor IIISeptember 13, 2016

Johnny Manziel and 25 Players We Can't Wait to See Shine During Bowl Season

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    College football's bowl season has arrived, which means freshman-phenom Johnny Manziel and many of the game's brightest stars are preparing to cap a spectacular season with a performance for the ages. 

    With 35 games in 24 days, an unnecessary blink of the eyes will cost you dearly. 

    Championship weekend left us with many great memories, and the upcoming bowl schedule is far too tantalizing to fall short of expectations. Follow along as we highlight Johnny Football and 25 more exciting playmakers you won't want to miss throughout the bowl season. 

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

2 of 21

    Bowl: AT&T Cotton Bowl

    Site: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

    Matchup: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas A&M Aggies

    Date: Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET

    Watch: FOX

     

    There's no denying this is the man we all want to see. Some will say the "Johnny Football" phenomenon has gotten old, but the truth is that it's only beginning. 

    Most notably, Manziel tortured Alabama with his elusiveness and talented arm to slay the mighty Crimson Tide in the Aggies' first season as a member of the SEC. 

    Now, the Heisman hopeful is looking to feast on one of the best in the Big 12. 

    The Oklahoma Sooners are allowing 35.3 points per game over their last four, while Texas A&M is third in the nation in scoring at 44.8 PPG. QB Landry Jones and the Sooners can put up points in a hurry, too, so expect the Cotton Bowl to be a high-scoring affair. 

Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois

3 of 21

    Bowl: Discover Orange Bowl

    Site: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

    Matchup: Florida State Seminoles vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

    Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    Jordan Lynch is one of college football's best-kept secrets. 

    The Huskies' junior signal-caller has shredded his competition in the MAC this season, piling up 4,733 total yards (2,962 passing) and 43 total touchdowns (24 passing). The dual-threat's miraculous season-long effort has thrust Northern Illinois into a BCS bowl against Florida State. 

    The ACC champions will solve the mystery of whether or not Lynch can put up Heisman-worthy numbers against a stout opponent. The Seminoles have one of the country's top defenses, allowing just 15.1 points per game. 

Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

4 of 21

    Bowl: BCS National Championship Game

    Site: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

    Matchup: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

    Date: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is the nation's best defensive player. It's only fitting that his last collegiate game will be on the game's brightest stage. 

    Te'o and the undefeated Irish will fight defense with defense when they take on Alabama in this year's national-championship game. The defending champs are allowing just 10.7 PPG in 2012, only a hair behind ND, which surrenders 10.3 PPG. 

    The Heisman Trophy finalist has seven interceptions this season, a total you typically only see from defensive backs. The Irish will need their beloved captain to go out with a bang, as 'Bama's potent offense is scoring 38.5 PPG on the year. 

Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

5 of 21

    Bowl: Capital One Bowl

    Site: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

    Matchup: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

    Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at 1 p.m. ET

    Watch: ABC

     

    Look no further than Taylor Martinez's unbelievable 76-yard-TD run against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game to understand how dangerous he can be. 

    The junior QB has the potential to make something out of nothing at any time, and I don't know any football fan that can't appreciate a unique player like that. Led by Martinez, the Cornhuskers field one of the Big Ten's top offenses. 

    Unfortunately for them, their opponent in the Capital One Bowl—the Georgia Bulldogs—fields one of the top defensive units in all the country. After getting blown out by Wisconsin, 70-31, in the Big Ten Championship Game last weekend, it's clear that Nebraska does not. 

    In other words, Martinez is likely going to have to play out of his mind. 

Marqise Lee, USC

6 of 21

    Bowl: Hyundai Sun Bowl

    Site: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas

    Matchup: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. USC Trojans

    Date: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 at 2 p.m. ET

    Watch: CBS

     

    The hype surrounding the Trojans prior to the season proved unworthy, as USC finished 7-5 and missed the Pac-12 Championship Game. That didn't stop WR Marqise Lee, one of the most electrifying wideouts you'll ever see, from having a monstrous campaign. 

    The 6'1", 195-pound sophomore has hauled in 112 passes for 1,680 yards and 14 TD. Lee more than doubled fellow WR Robert Woods yardage output, and Woods led the Trojans in receiving yards in 2011. 

    Senior QB Matt Barkley should be healthy in time for the Sun Bowl after sustaining a shoulder injury against UCLA, and Lee will be glad to have him back. Georgia Tech, USC's opponent, is allowing 29.9 PPG in 2012 and will be no match for a dynamic offense such as this. 

Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada

7 of 21

    Bowl: Gildan New Mexico Bowl 

    Site: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.

    Matchup: Arizona Wildcats vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

    Date: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at 1 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    The Gildan New Mexico Bowl will feature two premier running backs, one of them being Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson. The junior ball-carrier has 1,703 rushing yards and 22 TD on 341 carries in 2012. 

    In a single game against Hawaii in September, Jefferson scored seven total touchdowns and the Wolfpack won, 69-24. The very next game, he carried the ball 40 times. 

    Nevada's offense revolves around its workhorse running back, something Arizona will fully expect when the two meet in mid-December. The Wildcats have faced some powerful offenses in 2012, but they're allowing 34.3 PPG. Nevada isn't far behind in defensive ineptitude at 32.5 PPG.

    It's gonna be a busy day for the scoreboard operator. 

Terrance Williams, Baylor

8 of 21

    Bowl: Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

    Site: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Cali. 

    Matchup: UCLA Bruins vs. Baylor Bears

    Date: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 at 9:45 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    Say hello to the 2012 FBS leader in receiving yards. 

    Terrance Williams has become an unstoppable force in Baylor's offense, racking up 1,764 yards and 12 scores in 12 games. The senior WR went for 100 yards or more in eight of them, including a 17-catch, 314-yard performance against West Virginia. 

    The Bears are fifth in the country in scoring at 44.1 PPG, though they own one of the worst defenses in college football. They'll face a middle-of-the-pack defense in the Holiday Bowl against UCLA. 

    Williams is averaging 18.6 yards per catch, the highest total of any FBS receiver with 50 receptions or more. When he gets the ball, he knows exactly what to do with it. 

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

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    Bowl: Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

    Site: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Cali. 

    Matchup: UCLA Bruins vs. Baylor Bears

    Date: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 at 9:45 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    The dynamic ball-carrier in this year's Holiday Bowl belongs to the Bruins, and his name is Johnathan Franklin. 

    The senior has 1,700 yards and 13 TD on the ground this year, good for an eye-opening 6.3 yards per carry. With 32 receptions and 319 receiving yards, he's a dangerous threat as a pass-catcher, too. 

    As previously noted, Baylor's defense is one of the worst you'll see in any game during bowl season. Franklin can shred a defense regardless of its ability to stop the run, but the Bears will only make it easier for him to light up the stat sheet on Dec. 27. 

Montee Ball, Wisconsin

10 of 21

    Bowl: Rose Bowl Game

    Site: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Cali.

    Matchup: Stanford Cardinal vs. Wisconsin Badgers

    Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at 5 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    No running back in college football has found the end zone as much as Wisconsin's Montee Ball, and that's a fact. 

    The senior ball-carrier set the FBS record for career rushing touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship Game with 76. He had three in the win over the Cornhuskers alone, but Nebraska made it look easy all game, allowing 539 rushing yards and eight TD on the ground. 

    Stanford won't go down so easy, but expect Ball to bring his best. The Cardinal are allowing just 17.5 PPG, though they did surrender 194 yards to Johnathan Franklin in the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

    At 8-5, the Badgers do not appear worthy of a Rose Bowl appearance based on record alone. I won't disagree, but you can never count out a team with a running game as potent as the one they possess. 

Todd Gurley and Jarvis Jones, Georgia

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    Bowl: Capital One Bowl

    Site: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

    Matchup: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

    Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at 1 p.m. ET

    Watch: ABC

     

    Georgia's got a pretty good running back in Todd Gurley, and he's coming off a 122-yard, two-TD performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Obviously, that's not easy to do. 

    Gurley is one of the more exciting freshmen in college football. He's no Johnny Football, but the 6'1", 218-pound RB is piling up yards at 6.3 yards a pop and has 16 TD on the season. 

    Another Bulldog to keep an eye on is Jarvis Jones. The junior linebacker is an absolute sack machine, picking up two against the Tide and sporting 12.5 for the year. If any collegiate linebacker is capable of spying Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, it may be Jones. 

Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

12 of 21

    Bowl: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

    Site: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

    Matchup: Kansas State Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks

    Date: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    Oregon loves speed, and its running backs have plenty of it. 

    Senior RB Kenjon Barner has 21 TD on 1,624 rushing yards in 2012, and sophomore De'Anthony Thomas is averaging a ridiculous 7.6 yards per carry when he totes the rock. Together, they combine to form one giant nightmare for defenses to track down. 

    If they get past you, they're gone. 

    Look for QB Marcus Mariota and his backfield to light up the scoreboard early and often against Kansas State, who can put up plenty of points, but hasn't done much to prevent them as of late. 

Collin Klein, Kansas State

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    Bowl: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

    Site: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

    Matchup: Kansas State Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks

    Date: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    QB Collin Klein is the man behind the Wildcats' offense that is putting up 40.7 PPG. The dual-threat senior was a Heisman front-runner before Johnny Football dashed 'Bama's hopes of an undefeated season. 

    At 6'5, 225 pounds, Klein is surprisingly fleet on his feet and has 49 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons. He also threw for 2,490 yards in 2012 and completed 66.2 percent of his passes. 

    The Wildcats have their work cut out for them in trying to keep up with Oregon, but we shouldn't doubt that Klein will be up for the challenge. 

Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

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    Bowl: New Era Pinstripe Bowl

    Site: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.

    Matchup: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Syracuse Orange

    Date: Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at 3:15 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    We can't say the same for its defense, but West Virginia is absolutely loaded on the offensive side of the ball. 

    Junior Stedman Bailey leads the Mountaineers in receiving with a ridiculous line of 106 catches, 1,501 yards and 23 TD. The electric Tavon Austin is close behind with 110 catches for 1,259 yards and 12 scores. 

    Who is feeding them the ball? That'd be senior QB Geno Smith, who's got 4,004 yards through the air with 40 TD passes through 12 games. I shouldn't need to persuade you to tune in as West Virginia meets Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The numbers speak for themselves. 

Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson, Michigan

15 of 21

    Bowl: Outback Bowl

    Site: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

    Matchup: Michigan Wolverines vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

    Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at 1 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson in the backfield at once are a dangerous combo for defenses to plan for. Unfortunately, the Wolverines' coaching staff doesn't use it a little more. 

    There's no telling where these two will line up for the Outback Bowl against South Carolina, but you can bet they'll be somewhere on the field. Robinson, arguably the most explosive running QB in the country, has been getting some reps at running back after a nerve injury to his elbow weakened his arm and made passing rather difficult. 

    But Gardner, who had been playing receiver all season, stepped in under center and ran with it. The junior piled up 15 total TD over the last four games of the season and will likely spend some time at QB on New Year's Day regardless of whether Robinson's arm returns to full strength. 

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

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    Bowl: Outback Bowl

    Site: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

    Matchup: Michigan Wolverines vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

    Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at 1 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    One man tabbed with the responsibility of containing Michigan's dynamic duo of QBs is Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. 

    With 13 sacks in 2012, it's clear he's capable of handling the job. 

    Clowney racked up 4.5 sacks against Clemson alone. The 6'6", 256-pound sophomore is an absolute menace, and he'll be more than ready to lead South Carolina's dominant defense into Raymond James Stadium to try to silence the Wolverines in the Outback Bowl. 

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

17 of 21

    Bowl: Chick-fil-A Bowl

    Site: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga. 

    Matchup: Clemson Tigers vs. LSU Tigers

    Date: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. ET Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

    Watch: ESPN

     

    The man Jadeveon Clowney brought down 4.5 times two weeks ago? Clemson QB Tajh Boyd. 

    It was by far Boyd's most forgettable performance of the year, and the junior signal-caller has another tall task ahead of him in this season's Chick-fil-A Bowl when the Tigers face the Tigers. 

    I mean, when Clemson faces LSU. 

    Clemson is sixth in the country in scoring (42.3), and LSU is 11th in points allowed (16.9). Boyd has 3,550 yards passing and 34 TD in 2012, and also has two very talented receivers at his disposal in DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.

Venric Mark, Northwestern

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    Bowl: TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

    Site: Everbank Field, Jacksonville, Fla. 

    Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

    Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 at Noon ET

    Watch: ESPN2

     

    RB Venric Mark is a must-see playmaker out of the backfield and in the return game. 

    The Big Ten's leader in all-purpose yards, Mark has 1,310 rushing yards on 6.2 YPC and two punt returns for scores as well. Northwestern has another dynamic threat in QB Kain Colter, but Mark is the one whom defenses cannot afford to leave unaccounted for.

    Mississippi State will need to keep a close eye on the junior in this year's Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs were just throttled by Ole Miss, 41-24, and have allowed at least 37 points in their last four out of five games. 

Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon

19 of 21

    Bowl: BCS National Championship Game

    Site: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

    Matchup: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

    Date: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    Alabama has not one, but two running backs Manti Te'o and the Irish must account for at all times. 

    Eddie Lacy gives the Tide a powerful ball-carrier with surprising athleticism. The junior has 1,182 yards and 16 TD on 6.4 YPC. T.J. Yeldon, a true freshman, has exactly 1,000 rushing yards and 11 TD on 6.5 YPC. 

    The two combined for 334 yards and three TD on the ground against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and you can expect a heavy dose of them both in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame. 

Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona

20 of 21

    Bowl: Gildan New Mexico Bowl 

    Site: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.

    Matchup: Arizona Wildcats vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

    Date: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at 1 p.m. ET

    Watch: ESPN

     

    Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey enters the bowl season a man on a mission. 

    The sophomore ran for 366 yards and five TD against Colorado in early November and hasn't slowed much since. Over the Wildcats' past three games, Carey has 742 yards rushing and seven scores. 

    That's 247 yards per game, by the way. 

    It'll be Carey vs. Stefphon Jefferson in the New Mexico Bowl when Arizona battles Nevada. Both are extremely impressive and owners of 20-plus TD runs in 2012, but my money is on Carey stealing the show. 

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

21 of 21

    Bowl: AT&T Cotton Bowl

    Site: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

    Matchup: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas A&M Aggies

    Date: Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET

    Watch: FOX

     

    With two 500-yard passing games over the Sooners' past three outings, it'd be ludicrous to leave Landry Jones off the list. 

    Oklahoma's senior QB is 11 yards shy of a third consecutive season with at least 4,000 yards passing and has already matched last year's total of 29 TD. The Sooners have four different receivers with over 500 receiving yards, so it's evident he's not afraid to go anywhere and everywhere with the football. 

    Johnny Manziel may be the most exciting player on the field in this season's Cotton Bowl, but flipping the channel when the Aggies' defense takes the field would be a big mistake. 

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