For Florida State, it's Jameis Winston. For Auburn, it's Tre Mason. For Alabama, it's AJ McCarron. And for Michigan State and Stanford, well, it's basically the entire defense. These are the names we all know, but what about the other guys?
Several stars will take the stage in early January for the BCS bowl games, but a handful of guys who haven't been popular will have to make a difference in order for their teams to pull out a victory.
Here is a list of guys who, despite going relatively unnoticed throughout the season, have been crucial to the success of their teams and will continue to be during the BCS bowl season.
|BCS Bowl Schedule|
|BCS Title Game||Jan. 6||8:30 p.m.||Florida State vs. Auburn||Florida State|
|Orange||Jan. 3||8:30 p.m.||Clemson vs. Ohio State||Ohio State|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||8:30 p.m.||Alabama vs. Oklahoma||Alabama|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||8:30 p.m.||Baylor vs. UCF||Baylor|
|Rose||Jan. 1||5 p.m.||Michigan State vs. Stanford||Michigan State|
Rose Bowl: RB Tyler Gaffney and RB Jeremy Langford
Kevin Hogan and Connor Cook have both had fantastic seasons behind center for their respective teams, but the real key to Stanford's and Michigan State's offenses lie just behind their signal-callers.
Tyler Gaffney took the 2012 season off to pursue a career in baseball but ultimately decided to return to the gridiron this season. Luckily for Stanford, it doesn't appear he missed a step, rushing for 1,618 yards—over twice as many as he ran his first three years combined—and totaling 21 touchdowns in 2013.
In his last tuneup prior to the Rose Bowl, Gaffney had one of the best games of his career, going off for 133 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Gaffney is an explosive player who will be a huge difference-maker for the Cardinal, but he'll have to contend with another great running back in Jeremy Langford.
All Langford has done this season is consistently improve. After a slow start to the season—if scoring four touchdowns through four games is considered slow—Langford has rattled off eight straight 100-plus-rushing-yard performances and 14 total touchdowns during that stretch.
Langford's performance against a Stanford rushing defense that allows just 91.62 yards per game will dictate the success of the Spartans. Gaffney is facing a tougher task against a Michigan State team that allows just 80.77 rushing yards per game and has held opponents to an average of 2.7 yards per carry.
Fiesta Bowl: RB Lache Seastrunk and WR J.J. Worton
On one side is Bryce Petty, a guy many believe should have been a Heisman finalist, and on the other is Blake Bortles, a guy draft experts believe will go in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
But outside of those guys, there are two players who will be looking to desperately prove themselves on the biggest stage of their lives.
For Baylor, Lache Seastrunk made an announcement in the offseason that he would be the second Heisman winner for the Bears. That didn't exactly work out for Seastrunk, but he put together a very good season and helped get Baylor to its first BCS bowl.
The junior tailback started the season off at a torrid pace, rushing for over 100 yards in six of the first seven games, but an injury against Oklahoma caused him to miss two games. Since his return, Seastrunk has failed to amass more than 100 yards and hasn't touched paydirt in the two games he's played.
As for UCF's J.J. Worton, the junior receiver has put together a good season, passing his numbers from his first two seasons with over 600 yards and leading the team with seven receiving touchdowns. But Worton, much like Seastrunk, hasn't had much success in his last two games.
In order for the Knights to have any chance of keeping up with Baylor, they will need Worton to stand up and give Bortles another target in the passing game. For Seastrunk, just getting back to business as usual from earlier in the season will do wonders for the Bears offense.
Sugar Bowl: WR Kevin Norwood and RB Brennan Clay
While Alabama has quite a few relatively well-known names—such as AJ McCarron, Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon—there is another standout player who came on late in his final season to help get the Crimson Tide to another BCS bowl game.
Senior receiver Kevin Norwood started off the season with just 236 yards and two touchdowns through the first seven games. In his last five regular-season games, he has 302 yards and five touchdowns, with one touchdown in each contest.
With Alabama playing a stingy Oklahoma defense that will require the Tide to spread the ball around, McCarron will likely try to find Norwood when Cooper draws double coverage. For Oklahoma, its success will depend on one player who has had to carry the load over the last two games of the season.
Brennan Clay put together a good season for the Sooners with two 100-yard games and four touchdowns through the first eight games of the season. But when his partner in the backfield, Damien Williams, was dismissed from the team, Clay had to take on a more demanding role.
In his first game without Williams, Clay rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game of the year. He wasn't able to replicate that success in the final game against Oklahoma State, but a 70-yard performance was enough to help get the team a crucial win.
With both players taking on more important roles as of late, Norwood and Clay could tip the scales one way or the other in this matchup.
Orange Bowl: WR Martavis Bryant and RB Carlos Hyde
Wait, doesn't everyone know who Carlos Hyde is? Yes, but when we're talking about players to watch, there is no bigger key to the Buckeyes' success outside of Braxton Miller than Carlos Hyde.
The senior has come in for the last 10 games of the season and lit up every single team he's faced. Over the last eight games, Hyde has rushed for over 100 yards in each contest and totaled 14 touchdowns. The likelihood of Hyde getting the offense going for Ohio State against Clemson is pretty good.
Despite having five games with multiple touchdowns, Hyde has totaled just one touchdown in his last two games. But with the explosiveness out of the backfield he brings to the Buckeyes, it might be a long day for Clemson trying to bring him down.
On the other side, Clemson has a plethora of offensive weapons, with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins being the most notable. But when it comes to size and athleticism in one package, Martavis Bryant is the real deal.
The junior receiver stands at 6'5" and has routinely beaten teams over the top—just ask Georgia Tech, whom he torched for 176 receiving yards and a touchdown. Bryant is usually the second option for Boyd during passing plays, but his playmaking ability could be the difference for the Tigers against an Ohio State team that puts up points in bunches.
BCS National Championship: WR Kelvin Benjamin and QB Nick Marshall
What Bryant brings to Clemson is very similar to what Kelvin Benjamin brings to the Florida State offense. The only difference is that Benjamin adds about 34 more pounds and is tougher to bring down—well, that and the fact that he has seven touchdowns in the last three games for the Seminoles.
Benjamin's targets were slim at the beginning of the season as Jameis Winston looked to more experienced receivers. But the rapport with Winston has grown over time, and Benjamin is now seen as a potential first-round pick in next year's draft.
In his last two games, Benjamin has 14 receptions for 331 yards and five touchdowns. Needless to say, he will more than likely be the home run hitter for Winston yet again in the National Championship.
For Auburn, Nick Marshall has been steadily getting better throughout the year and is now the glue that holds the team together. In his last four games, the junior quarterback has at least one rushing and passing touchdown, including two total touchdowns against Missouri in the SEC Championship.
While Marshall is usually seen as a game manager, it has paid off for him in the last six games of the season. During that stretch, Marshall has thrown for just six touchdowns, one per game, but he has thrown only one interception.
Both teams will need their stars to perform in the final game of the season, but with playmakers like Benjamin for FSU and Marshall for Auburn, the defenses will need to be on top of their game.
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