Fiesta Bowl 2022: Underrated Stars to Watch and Picks in TCU vs. Michigan
The passing attacks of the Michigan Wolverines and TCU Horned Frogs grabbed the national headlines over the last month.
Michigan garnered praise for an improved aerial attack, led by quarterback J.J. McCarthy.
TCU received more attention as Max Duggan stormed up the Heisman Trophy rankings.
Both teams need their respective passing games to shine in the Fiesta Bowl. Some underrated stars or both units to make big plays in order for the game to go in their favor.
Of course, there are plenty of underrated defenders who will be asked to step up to stop the opposing wide receivers, but more attention will be given to the breakout offensive stars inside State Farm Stadium.
Taye Barber, WR, TCU
Taye Barber could turn into one of the most important figures inside the TCU offense.
The Michigan secondary should hone in on defending TCU's leading wideout Quentin Johnston.
Johnston is the one difference-making player who could shift the momentum of the Fiesta Bowl in favor of TCU.
Barber needs to be a reliable target for Max Duggan, so that the Horned Frogs can draw some attention away from Johnston.
Barber has a pair of 100-yard games this season. The last one took place against the Baylor Bears on November 19. He had 26 yards and a touchdown in the Big 12 Championship Game.
The senior wide receiver needs to have a few catches, and maybe one or two important red-zone touches, for TCU's passing attack to be well-rounded enough to deal with any stretch of the game in which Johnston is unable to contribute because of the blanket coverage on him.
Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan
Michigan already has a star in Donovan Edwards to replace the injured Blake Corum.
The Wolverines need one of their veteran players to step up in case tight end Colston Loveland is not at 100 percent. Loveland was injured in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Senior Luke Schoonmaker had three catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in the Big Ten Championship Game. Those were his best numbers in over a month.
Schoonmaker may not have the impact of Ronnie Bell or Cornelius Johnson in the passing game, but he can come up with a few vital catches to keep drives going.
He is a candidate to score a touchdown with so much attention paid to Michigan's top two receivers.
If he has a big game, TCU will be in trouble because that likely means J.J. McCarthy is having a great day in the pocket.
Dylan Horton, DL, TCU
Dylan Horton and the TCU defensive line have a Herculean task on their hands dealing with the powerful Michigan offensive line.
Horton had a breakout game in the Big 12 Championship Game with five tackles and a pair of sacks.
He has 24 tackles and is second on the TCU defense in sacks with six.
An overwhelming stat line does not need to be there with Horton. He does have to make an impact with his presence.
A few big disruptions from his pass rush could go a long way in just interrupting Michigan's game plan.
TCU must keep Michigan out of a rhythm as much as possible to avoid going down early and not having a way back.
DJ Turner, DB, Michigan
Michigan's defense does not have a ton of superstars, like the Georgia Bulldogs unit that beat the Wolverines in last year's College Football Playoff semifinal.
D.J. Turner leads the Wolverines in passes defended with 10. He has one interception and 25 solo tackles.
The senior defensive back is one of the few players who will be tasked with slowing down Johnston when TCU has the ball.
Michigan needs to do a better job of slowing down an opponent's best pass game options after Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. both hit the 100-yard mark for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Wolverines do not want to play in a close game going into the fourth quarter with Duggan on the other sideline.
Michigan would love an easy game to advance to the national championship game. Turner and others will be the main reason for that to come to fruition.