Stars Who Will Emerge in College Football Bowl Games
The best part of the college football bowl season is the number of unheard of players who make names for themselves.
With much of the attention focused on the proven stars of each team, lesser-known players have a chance to steal the spotlight. These players are presented with an opportunity to seize college football stardom.
Some of these players will be looking for the exclamation point after an impressive late-season charge, while others will simply benefit from extended playing time.
All in all, these are players that college football fans will remember as we turn the page on the final chapter of the 2013 season.
Here are seven of those players who will be ready for their close-ups.
RB Javorius Allen (USC)
Bowl Matchup: No. 20 Fresno State (11-1) vs. No. 25 USC (9-4), Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC (Royal Purple Las Vegas)
The Trojans offense was stagnant at best for most of the 2013 season.
Backed by the play of running back Javorius Allen, the unit finally came to life.
Through 10 games, the sophomore rushed for 699 yards and 12 touchdowns on 108 carries. Although the numbers don’t seem too impressive, consider that 562 of those yards and 10 of those scores came within USC’s final five games in relief of the injured Silas Redd.
With Redd likely to miss the bowl game, via The Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein, and USC going up against a poor Bulldogs defense, that run should only continue.
Thus far, the unit ranks No. 41 against the run (147.7 YPG). Fresno State might only concede 3.67 yards per carry, but the team has already conceded 20 rushing touchdowns.
This is the kind of game that Allen can use to put himself on the map.
RB Travis Greene (Bowling Green)
Bowl Matchup: Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3), Dec. 26, 6 p.m. ET on ESPN (Little Caesar’s Bowl)
With their impressive MAC title victory over Northern Illinois, 47-27, a couple weeks ago, the Falcons made their case as to why they deserve to be favorites to crash the BCS next season.
Running back Travis Greene is a large reason for that.
Through 13 games, the sophomore has rushed for 1,555 yards and 11 touchdowns on 261 carries. He’s also caught 16 passes for 145 yards and another two scores.
Furthermore, Greene has topped the century mark in nine games this season and in five consecutive contests.
Given that the Panthers rank No. 61 against the run (160.6 YPG)—19 touchdowns allowed on 4.33 yards per carry—Bowling Green should be able to ride Greene to victory.
It’ll be hard not to remember his name after that.
QB Keenan Reynolds (Navy)
Bowl Matchup: Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4), Dec. 30, 11:45 a.m. ET on ESPN (Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl)
Only Auburn has had more success running the ball than the Midshipmen. The team averages 322.0 yards per game and has found the end zone on the ground 47 times—best in the nation.
A lot of that success could be credited to quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
Through 12 games, the sophomore has racked up 1,260 rushing yards and 29 scores on 280 carries. He’s also thrown for 1,038 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions on 53.7 percent passing.
But while Reynolds has been impressive all year, he’s saved his best for last, rushing for a total of 661 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns over Navy’s final four games.
That run should continue against a Blue Raiders defense that struggles against the run—No. 86 in the nation.
Reynolds should go out on top and make a strong case to be a dark-horse contender for next year’s Heisman Trophy.
QB Hutson Mason (Georgia)
Bowl Matchup: Nebraska (8-4) vs. No. 22 Georgia (8-4), Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2 (TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl)
Although losing starting quarterback Aaron Murray was a tough pill to swallow for the Bulldogs, it could wind up being beneficial for the team’s future.
That’s because backup Hutson Mason will get some much-needed playing time.
Prior to Murray’s injury, Mason had only appeared in seven games since arriving in Athens back in 2010. Furthermore, the junior had never started under center.
By his relief performance thus far, it’s hard to believe.
Over the last two games, Mason has thrown for 488 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 63.7 percent passing. He helped the team pull away from Kentucky, 59-17, in Week 14, while being instrumental during Georgia’s double-overtime victory over in-state rival Georgia Tech, 41-34, in the season finale.
Against a Cornhuskers secondary that has given up 16 touchdowns and surrenders 7.1 yards per attempt, Mason should put himself firmly in the driver's seat for the Bulldogs’ quarterback battle next season.
QB Connor Cook (Michigan State)
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)
Throughout the season, the Spartans were mainly carried by their defense. And if the offense showed up, it was usually the rushing attack.
But when both were failing in the Big Ten title game two weeks ago, Michigan State was saved by the unlikeliest of heroes: quarterback Connor Cook.
In 13 games, the sophomore has thrown for 2,423 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions on 58.4 percent passing. But before the title game, he had never thrown for 300 yards and had only thrown three or more touchdown passes just twice this season.
Against Ohio State, Cook stepped up, throwing for 304 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 24-of-40 passing.
Given the Cardinal’s strength at stopping the run and their vulnerability against the pass—No. 92 in the nation—expect the Spartans to put their trust in Cook once again.
RB Desmond Roland (Oklahoma State)
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)
The Cowboys haven’t had much of a rushing attack this season. In fact, the team ranks just No. 65 in the category (172.0 YPG).
Running back Desmond Roland has been Oklahoma State’s only hope to turn things around.
Through 12 games, the junior has had an up-and-down season, rushing for 745 yards and 12 touchdowns on 160 carries. He’s had games in which he’s rushed for 140 yards and multiple scores, while also having games in which he's struggled to top just 50 yards.
The Tigers run defense could be just the cure for Roland’s consistency issues.
Thus far, the unit ranks No. 48 against the run (151.9 YPG). Missouri has given up 18 rushing touchdowns and has conceded a generous 4.16 yards per carry.
Not to mention, the unit was just gashed for 545 rushing yards two weeks ago.
Roland should have no problem finding yards.
WR Sammie Coates (Auburn)
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)
It’s a known fact that the Tigers love to run the ball.
And can you blame them? The team currently boasts the No. 1-ranked rushing attack in the nation (335.7 YPG).
With a month to prepare, expect an already good Seminoles run defense—No. 14 in the nation—to be more than ready for the challenge. In fact, the team has only conceded five rushing touchdowns all year.
That means Auburn will most likely be forced to put the ball in the air.
Wide receiver Sammie Coates will come in handy there.
Through 12 games, the sophomore has caught 38 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. Furthermore, he’s found the end zone in five of the Tigers’ last seven games.
If Nick Marshall is going to attempt to throw the ball, expect Coates to make him look like he knows what he’s doing.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.