The BCS bowl games have no shortage of star power. From Collin Klein to Manti Te'o to Eddie Lacy, teams hoping to end their seasons with a major victory are being led by a terrific group of big-name players at various different positions.
There's also a group of players flying below the radar that are going to make an impact on the season's biggest games. They haven't received as much attention as their superstar counterparts, but are just as important to BCS success.
Let's examine three players that fall into that category. College football fans might not know a lot about them yet, but chances are good they will by the end of bowl season.
Zach Ertz (Stanford TE)
Andrew Luck wasn't the only key player who left the Cardinal after last season. Tight end Coby Fleener followed him out the door and joined him with the Indianapolis Colts. It forced Ertz to take on a much bigger role in his junior season.
He's handled it perfectly. Ertz leads Stanford in catches (66), receiving yards (837) and receiving touchdowns (six). The numbers are even more impressive when you consider the inconsistent play the Cardinal quarterbacks have provided.
Stanford will lean heavily on running back Stepfan Taylor, but Wisconsin will be geared up to stop him. That means the Cardinal passing game must make plays in order to force the defense to respect their aerial attack. It starts with Ertz getting open over the middle.
Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois QB)
Given all the talented quarterbacks around the country, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, it's no surprise Lynch gets overlooked. After all, he plays in the MAC, a conference that only gets the national spotlight on weeknights.
But his numbers speak for themselves. The dual-threat junior accounted for over 4,700 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. It's that efficiency that earned the Huskies a BCS bowl bid.
They face an uphill battle against Florida State, owners of the nation's sixth-ranked scoring defense. It's going to take a tremendous individual effort from Lynch to keep his team in the game, but he has enough talent to pull it off.
Prince Shembo (Notre Dame LB)
Even though Shembo was overshadowed by the aforementioned Te'o, he was a crucial piece of Notre Dame's dominant defense. His versatility gave Te'o more freedom to fill the playmaker role, and that shouldn't be ignored.
Shembo finished the regular season with 48 tackles, 10.5 of which were for a loss, and 7.5 sacks. He paired with Stephon Tuitt to give Notre Dame a formidable pass-rushing duo. That will be key against A.J. McCarron and Co.
The national title game is expected to be a defensive battle. Whichever team is able to get more big plays, whether it be stepping up on third down or forcing turnovers, from its defense will come out on top. Shembo is one player who can turn that tide in the Irish's favor.
BCS Bowl Schedule
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