Bowl Projections 2012: Stars Who Will Raise Draft Status in Postseason
For 2013 NFL Draft hopefuls, the college football bowl season is their last chance to impress scouts across the league until the combines roll around.
In the past, many high-profile talents such as Robert Griffin III, Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Cam Newton and Justin Blackmon have cemented themselves as top-10 picks thanks in part to standout performances in bowl games.
This year, with a relatively wide open draft pool, there are plenty of opportunities for blue-chip prospects to elevate their draft stocks by leaving a lasting impression in the minds of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches heading into the NFL Scouting Combine this spring.
Here's a look at some of the star-caliber upperclassmen that will establish themselves as must-draft prospects with memorable performances in the postseason.
When the Wisconsin Badgers upset Nebraska with a trip to the 2013 Rose Bowl on the line, Montee Ball earned himself a chance to move up draft boards by putting on a show against No. 8 Stanford.
In the win over the Huskers, Ball ran for an eye-popping 202 yards and three touchdowns, which was the fourth consecutive game in which the senior back surpassed the 100-yard mark.
No, Ball won't reach the 1,923-yard total he recorded last season, but with a strong performance against one of the nation's most talented teams, he's got a shot at sneaking into the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
He's had one of the most storied college careers in Wisconsin football history, and if he can help the Badgers upset the Cardinal, Ball will be doing a great deal for his future as well.
Heading into the 2012 season, Matt Barkley was considered by many to be the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2013 draft.
Unfortunately, Barkley's decision to return to USC to chase a national title didn't pay off, as the senior quarterback and the Trojans, struggled through a disappointing season, and find themselves taking on Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
For Barkley, it hasn't been offensive production that's been the problem, as he sits fourth in the nation with 36 touchdown passes and his 3,273 passing yards are among the top 25 in college football.
Instead, it's been his 15 interceptions, which is more than twice what he threw a year ago, as well as the shoulder injury that kept him out of USC's regular-season finale against Notre Dame.
If he's able to go against Georgia Tech, Barkley will get one last shot at proving to scouts that he's worthy of a first-round pick. Otherwise, he'll always wonder what would've happened had he taken the easy route and declared for the draft after his junior season.
Barkley's got all the tools to be a standout in the NFL, and against a mediocre Yellow Jackets team, he'll show scouts exactly why he was a slam-dunk top-10 pick a year ago.
As a junior a year ago, Terrance Williams hauled in 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards while catching passes from 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, and this season, he's been even better.
With more than 1,700 yards and 12 scores, Williams has been among the nation's most productive wide receivers and helped Baylor reach the Holiday Bowl with big wins over Kansas State and Texas Tech, but his numbers have taken a dip since the beginning of November, which could hurt his draft stock.
Now, with the Bears set to take on No. 17 UCLA at the Holiday Bowl, Williams has an opportunity to demonstrate to scouts that he's capable of being a game-breaker against a quality opponent.
Baylor doesn't get many chances to show what they're capable of against elite teams, and given how explosive the Bears' passing attack has been all season, Williams will open some eyes with a big day against the Bruins.
According to CBS' draft rankings, Landry Jones is pegged to go somewhere between the second and third rounds of the draft, but that will change if he manages to outgun Heisman finalist Johnny Manziel in the Cotton Bowl and lead No. 11 Oklahoma past No. 9 Texas A&M.
Heading into the Cotton Bowl, Jones is top five in passing yards and top 15 in passing touchdowns, but his stats are down from his previous two seasons, which hasn't helped his potential draft position.
However, Jones is among the most talented passing quarterbacks in college football and is perfectly capable of helping the Sooners knock off the Aggies.
The Texas A&M defense is far from stellar, so Jones will have a big day in his final collegiate game. Whether it will be enough to outperform arguably the best quarterback in the country remains to be seen, but the senior will cement himself as a second-rounder at the very least with a strong showing at the Cotton Bowl.
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