What will Manziel (2) do in possibly his final collegiate game?
With a handful of evenly matched showdowns on tap for college football’s bowl season, it’s only expected that there will be several interesting matchups to keep an eye on.
Nothing comes easy at this stage of the season. Strength will go up against strength, as some of the nation’s top offensive players duke it out with the cream of the crop on defense.
All in all, it will result in some fascinating results.
Here are 10 of those matchups that college football fans should keep a close eye on.
Donald (97) has been a pest in the backfield all season long.
Bowl Matchup: Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3), Dec. 26, 6 p.m. ET on ESPN (Little Caesars Bowl)
Running back Travis Greene wrapped up his season on a tear.
Through 13 games, the sophomore rushed for 1,555 yards and 11 touchdowns on 261 carries. That includes a 133-yard, two-touchdown effort in a win over Northern Illinois in the MAC title game.
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald will attempt to slow him down in this one.
Thus far, the senior has recorded 54 tackles (26.5 for loss), 10.0 sacks, forced four fumbles and blocked one punt. Furthermore, he leads the nation in tackles for loss.
Donald will go a long way in the Panthers’ success at stopping the run.
Floyd (right) has been a large part of Louisville's defense.
Bowl Matchup: Miami (9-3) vs. No. 18 Louisville (11-1), Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN (Russell Athletic Bowl)
Since losing running back Duke Johnson against Florida State back on Nov. 2, quarterback Stephen Morris has played a lot better for the Hurricanes.
In the four games since, the senior has tossed nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. On the year, he has thrown for 2,868 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on 58.7 percent passing.
He may not be the most accurate of quarterbacks, but Morris is the key to Miami’s chances of pulling the upset.
On the other sideline, cornerback Terell Floyd could very well be the key to shutting down Morris and the Hurricanes.
Thus far, the junior has recorded 45 tackles (2.0 for loss), broken up two passes, forced a fumble and intercepted four passes. He even took back one interception 17 yards for a touchdown.
Behind Floyd’s stellar play, the Cardinals rank No. 8 against the pass (171.7 YPG). The team has given up just eight passing touchdowns and concedes only 6.0 yards per attempt.
It could be another rough outing for Morris and Co.
Williams has been a force in the backfield all season long.
Bowl Matchup: Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5), Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (AdvoCare V100 Bowl)
This game will pit two of the nation’s top running backs against one another.
On one hand, you have the Eagles’ Andre Williams.
Through 12 games, the senior has rushed for 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns on 329 carries. During the team’s recent four-game win streak, he racked up a ridiculous total of 1,063 rushing yards while finding the end zone eight times in that span.
On the other hand, the Wildcats will counter with Ka’Deem Carey.
Thus far, the junior has rushed for 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns on 322 carries. He’s also caught 26 passes for 173 yards and another score.
Furthermore, Carey has topped the century mark in each of the 11 games he’s played in this season.
Given that both Boston College and Arizona struggle at stopping the run—No. 50 and No. 71 respectively—the game could come down to which running back can outperform the other.
Hundley will have himself a tough matchup in the bowl game.
Bowl Matchup: Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. No. 17 UCLA (9-3), Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET on CBS (Hyundai Sun Bowl)
Throughout the ups and downs of the Bruins’ season, quarterback Brett Hundley still had a solid year.
In 12 games, the sophomore threw for 2,845 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 67.8 percent passing. He also added another 587 yards and nine scores on 150 carries.
Hundley will be a vital part of UCLA’s game plan if the team hopes to get past a pesky Hokies defense.
Most noticeably, defensive tackle Luther Maddy should make some noise in the backfield.
Thus far, the junior has recorded 52 tackles (11.5 for loss), 6.5 sacks and eight quarterback hurries. He’s a large reason that Virginia Tech ranks No. 9 in the nation in sacks (37.0).
Furthermore, given the Bruins’ struggles with pass protection—No. 109 in sacks allowed (34.0)—Maddy might be hearing his name called quite frequently in this one.
Edwards (left) has been one of the hardest hitting corners in the nation.
Bowl Matchup: No. 24 Duke (10-3) vs. No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4), Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN (Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Quarterback Johnny Manziel has made a valiant run at winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies.
Through 12 games, the sophomore has thrown for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 69.1 percent passing. He’s also added another 686 yards and eight scores on 133 carries.
Time and time again, Manziel has created plays out of nothing.
That will be a lot tougher to accomplish against the Blue Devils' DeVon Edwards.
In 11 games, the freshman has recorded 55 tackles (0.5 for loss), six passes broken up and has intercepted three passes. He’s taken two of those picks back for touchdowns.
Backed by his play, Duke ranks No. 9 in the nation in interceptions (18).
Can Manziel get back on track, or will the Blue Devils secondary only extend his slump?
Gaffney (25) has done it all for the Cardinal.
Bowl Matchup: No. 5 Stanford (11-2) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (12-1), Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN (Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio)
Who knows where the Cardinal would be without running back Tyler Gaffney.
Through 13 games, the senior has rushed for 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns on 306 carries. That includes running for more than 100 yards in seven of the last eight contests while finding the end zone in all but one game this season.
He capped of a spectacular regular season by rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns to lead Stanford to the Pac-12 title over Arizona State, 38-14.
Things will get tougher for Gaffney against the stifling run defense of the Spartans.
Thus far, the unit ranks No. 1 against the run (80.8 YPG). Michigan State has given up just seven rushing touchdowns while conceding a meager 2.7 yards per carry.
Earlier this year, the team held Michigan to a school-low negative 48 rushing yards.
Gaffney will be looking at an uphill challenge in this one.
Colvin (14) has been vital to the Sooners' defense this season.
Bowl Matchup: No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. No. 3 Alabama (11-1), Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Allstate Sugar Bowl)
AJ McCarron has three BCS title rings and a 36-3 career record that proves he is among the greatest quarterbacks college football has ever seen.
Through 12 games this season, the senior has thrown for 2,676 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions on 67.6 percent passing. Furthermore, he’s tossed multiple touchdowns in six consecutive games—a career high.
McCarron’s previous high was two games.
But don’t expect defensive back Aaron Colvin to make his life easy.
Thus far, the senior has recorded 49 tackles (5.0 for loss), 1.0 sack, broken up three passes and intercepted a pass. He’s been a key to a Sooners secondary that has been very stubborn against the pass.
Entering bowl season, the unit ranks No. 15 in the category (198.0 YPG). Oklahoma has given up just 15 passing touchdowns while conceding only 6.3 yards per attempt.
This one could be a lot tougher for McCarron than most people think.
Sam's defensive intensity has made him a fan favorite.
Bowl Matchup: No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. No. 8 Missouri (11-2), Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX (AT&T Cotton Bowl)
Quarterback Clint Chelf has been instrumental to the Cowboys' second-half turnaround.
Through eight starts, the senior has thrown for 1,792 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions on 56.0 percent passing. He’s also added another 321 yards and six touchdowns on 53 carries.
Recently, Chelf helped orchestrate an upset of then-No. 4 Baylor, 49-17, by throwing for 370 yards and accounting for four touchdowns on 19-of-25 passing.
Defensive lineman Michael Sam will look to cause a disruption in the backfield.
Thus far, the senior has recorded 45 tackles (18.0 for loss), 10.5 sacks and forced a fumble. He also returned his lone fumble recovery 21 yards for a touchdown.
Behind Sam’s pressure, the Tigers have ranked No. 9 in the nation in turnovers forced (29).
Chelf should get used to seeing a lot of Sam in this one.
Hyde (left) will keep up his strong running.
Bowl Matchup: No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1), Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Discover Orange Bowl)
Since returning from suspension, running back Carlos Hyde has torn it up for the Buckeyes.
Through 10 games, the senior has rushed for 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns on 183 carries. That includes topping the century mark in eight consecutive contests, including two performances with 225 yards or more.
Behind his powerful running, Ohio State boasts the nation’s No. 4-ranked rushing attack.
The Tigers’ Vic Beasley might have something to say about that.
Thus far, the junior has recorded 36 tackles (19.0 for loss), 12.0 sacks, broken up six passes and forced four fumbles. He also brought back his lone fumble return 13 yards for a touchdown.
Already this season he’s helped Clemson shut down top running backs such as Andre Williams (24 CAR, 70 YDS, 0 TD) and Mike Davis (15 CAR, 22 YDS, 0 TD).
But don’t expect Hyde to back down.
After running for 118 yards against Michigan State’s vaunted run defense last weekend, the Naples, Fla., native will come into this one beaming with confidence.
Mason has been a hard man to bring down.
Bowl Matchup: No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1), Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Vizio BCS National Championship)
Nobody has run the ball better than the Tigers this season.
Through 13 games, the team ranks No. 1 in the nation, averaging 335.7 yards per game. That includes racking up 841 yards on the ground over the last two games—victories over then-No. 1 Alabama and then-No. 5 Missouri.
If it’s not running back Tre Mason (283 CAR, 1,621 YDS, 22 TD) leading the charge, quarterback Nick Marshall (156 CAR, 1,023 YDS, 11 TD) is picking up the slack.
Together they’ll give the Seminoles all they can handle.
Thus far, Florida State ranks No. 14 against the run (116.5 YPG). Furthermore, the team has given up just five rushing touchdowns while conceding only 3.14 yards per carry.
Then again, nobody thought Missouri and Alabama could be run on either.
Only time will tell if the Seminoles can prove to be the exception.