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One Can’t-Miss Player on Every Bowl Team

From star quarterbacks to hard-hitting defenders to even a punter, these are the names to know.

There are plenty of teams we’re guessing you haven’t seen play this college football season. But now that we’re in the postseason, there’s no time like the present to pretend you know a thing or two about all of the programs you’ll spend your time ignoring your family in order to watch. What follows is a bowl schedule with one player on each team to pay attention to—some obvious, and some not. Because at the end of the day, if they do something great, who wouldn’t want to be able to brag to their family that they know who that guy is?

Note: All players were reportedly participating as of Dec. 15, and all times are Eastern.

Predicting Every College Football Bowl Game

SDSU's Matt Araiza, MSU's Jayden Reed and Fresno State's Arron Mosby

SDSU's Matt Araiza, Michigan State's Jayden Reed and Fresno State's Arron Mosby.

Friday, Dec. 17

Bahamas Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo
12 p.m. | ESPN

You expect to see a linebacker atop the leaderboard in tackles, but you don’t often see defensive backs. MTSU’s Reed Blankenship is a tackling machine with 106 total and 71 solo tackles (second among all DBs). Toledo running back Bryant Koback provides a robust 6.71 yards per carry (seventh-most of any back with more than 100 carries).

Cure Bowl

Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina
6 p.m. | ESPN2

Coastal Carolina has plenty of firepower in its offense, but RB Braydon Bennett has legit track speed and is a home run threat in his limited touches.

NIU RB Jay Ducker eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in the conference title game, but when you consider that he really only got the full-time starting job in mid-October, his yardage total this season is impressive. A Huskies team that had so many close games this season needed every inch of his effort.

Saturday, Dec. 18

Boca Raton Bowl

Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
11 a.m. | ESPN

Western Kentucky basically imported FCS Houston Baptist’s offense during the offseason. QB Bailey Zappe leads the nation by more than 1,000 passing yards with 5,545 through the air this season. Mission accomplished.

Should App State WR Corey Sutton score in this game, he’ll at least be tied for second-all-time in career TD catches with 25.

Celebration Bowl

Jackson State vs. South Carolina State
12 p.m. | ABC

Jackson State QB Shedeur Sanders became the first HBCU player to win the Jerry Rice award (top FCS freshman) with a 68% completion percentage and 3,056 yards.

Tasked with stopping the Tigers will be All-MEAC first-team DB Decobie Durant.

New Mexico Bowl

Fresno State vs. UTEP
2:15 p.m. | ESPN

Bulldogs edge Arron Mosby is a havoc machine, with five forced fumbles this year and 14.5 tackles for loss. If he can’t get to UTEP’s QB, expect the ball in WR Jacob Cowing’s hands. The pass catcher has a startling 20.04 yards per reception (ninth nationally).

Independence Bowl

No. 13 BYU vs. UAB
3:30 p.m. | ABC

Once BYU RB Tyler Algeier gets the ball, you’d better get out of the way. He’s a load to bring down behind an impressive Cougars offensive line. But it’s not just with the ball in his hands that he shines …

The Blazers are also content to keep the ball on the ground, but when they do pass, a focal point of the attack is TE Gerrit Prince, whose 32 receptions leads the team.

LendingTree Bowl

Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty
5:45 p.m. | ESPN

Flames QB Malik Willis was a dark-horse Heisman candidate this season. It didn’t pan out as he intended, but he still showed flashes, and he’s headed to the Senior Bowl after this game. A good showing will help his draft stock. EMU’s Hassan Beydoun is a catch machine. His 86 grabs were second in the MAC.

LA Bowl

Oregon State vs. Utah State
7:30 p.m. | ABC

Correlation might not be causation, but if you can bottle up Beavers RB B.J. Baylor, you have a good chance to win. That’s easier said than done for the All-Pac 12 back. The same can be said about Aggies WR Deven Thompkins, who is third nationally in receiving yards.

New Orleans Bowl

No. 23 Louisiana vs. Marshall
9:15 p.m. | ESPN

Ragin’ Cajuns QB Levi Lewis could go out in a special way with a big game. He’s quite easily the best signal-caller in school history. Nobody has more touchdowns from the running back position than the Thundering Herd’s Rasheen Ali, who has 20.

Monday, Dec. 20

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Tulsa vs. Old Dominion
2:30 p.m. | ESPN

Tulsa defensive tackle Jaxon Player anchors the Golden Hurricane front. ODU’s Zack Kuntz has made a living being a matchup nightmare from the tight end spot.

Tuesday, Dec. 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Kent State vs. Wyoming
3:30 p.m. | ESPN

Golden Flashes QB Dustin Crum is one of the most exciting dual-threat signal-callers in the country, but what happens when he meets do-everything LB Chad Muma (second in the country in solo tackles)?

Frisco Bowl

No. 24 San Diego State vs. UTSA
7:30 p.m. | ESPN

WR Zakhari Franklin has been road-running over the competition all season with long strides and a high-volume share of UTSA’s passing game.

When the Aztecs are on offense, as a neutral you should simply root for the unit to fail. Because when it’s time to punt, a generational player takes the field. Matt Araiza is in the conversation for best punter ever.

Wednesday, Dec. 22

Armed Forces Bowl

Missouri vs. Army
8 p.m. | ESPN

This is quite a ground game, with the Tigers’ Tyler Badie on one side as one of most productive running backs in the country and Army’s Jakobi Buchanan on the other. The 260-pound load is one of many ways the option attack may knife through a porous Mizzou run defense.

Thursday, Dec. 23

Frisco Football Classic

Miami (Ohio) vs. North Texas
3:30 p.m. | ESPN

Although he plays in limited snaps, Mean Green defensive tackle Roderick Brown is just that … mean. Athletic Miami (Ohio) edge Kameron Butler might not always pull off self-tipped interceptions like this one, but he’s an exciting player to watch.

Gasparilla Bowl

Florida vs. UCF
7 p.m. | ESPN

In the midst of transition, most of Florida’s best players are either in the portal or have opted out. Running back Dameon Pierce is one of the more reliable sources of offense the Gators have left. He’ll be chased down by edge Big Kat Bryant, who followed coach Gus Malzahn to Orlando.

Friday, Dec. 24

Hawai'i Bowl

Memphis vs. Hawai'i
8 p.m. | ESPN

Memphis right guard Dylan Parham is a force on the Tigers’ offensive line. For a team that throws as much as they do, not much gets past him.

Hawai'i DB Khoury Bethley is one of the country’s leading interception artists, with five so far this season.

Saturday, Dec. 25

Camellia Bowl

Ball State vs. Georgia State
2:30 p.m. | ESPN

Cardinals DB Bryce Cosby is one of the MAC’s best. The Panthers’ Shamarious Gilmore is a straight-up people mover.

Monday, Dec. 27

Quick Lane Bowl

Western Michigan vs. Nevada
11 a.m. | ESPN

Cowboys WR Skyy Moore is one of the nation’s better yards-after-catch wideouts. On the other end there is Romeo Doubs, who has been the big beneficiary of Nevada’s Air Raid passing system. Without fellow pass catcher Cole Turner, Doubs will be even more of a focal point in the passing game.

Military Bowl

East Carolina vs. Boston College
2:30 p.m. | ESPN

ECU RB Keaton Mitchell has impressive speed to run away from just about any defender. He’ll have a tall task getting outside Eagles Edge rusher Marcus Valdez.

Tuesday, Dec. 28

Birmingham Bowl

No. 20 Houston vs. Auburn
12 p.m. | ESPN

Derick Hall is one of the best options the Tigers have when coming on the blitz. Besides being one of the better DBs in the country, Marcus Jones is also one of their best return men.

First Responder Bowl

Air Force vs. Louisville
3:15 p.m. | ESPN

Falcons edge Vince Sanford is an explosive pass rusher with a helluva first step. On the other side of the trenches will be Cardinals left guard Caleb Chandler, who thumps everyone in a scheme that demands athletic play from their offensive linemen.

Liberty Bowl

Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
6:45 p.m. | ESPN

Not much gets past Red Raiders LB Colin Schooler, and even less gets past Bulldogs’ LT Charles Cross. If you’re a fan of a bad NFL team, expect the latter to be mock-drafted to your team.

Holiday Bowl

No. 18 NC State vs. UCLA
8 p.m. | Fox

Perhaps you might want to have breakfast for dinner while watching this game, because Ickey Ekwonu will bring plenty of pancakes.

Gone are the days of Chip Kelly’s mach speed system. En vogue is the punishing running of RB Zach Charbonnet.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Minnesota vs. West Virginia
10:15 p.m. | ESPN

Mountaineers center Zach Frazier is a mobile athlete on the interior of WVU’s offensive line. His teammates on the outside are going to have to figure out what to do with Gophers edge Boye Mafe, who brings a blend of athleticism and power that has NFL scouts very intrigued.

Wednesday, Dec. 29

Fenway Bowl

Virginia vs. SMU
11 a.m. | ESPN

Tony Elliott and Virginia got a big boost when QB Brennan Armstrong said he’d come back next season. The dual-threat QB will at some point undoubtedly be chased around by offensive lineman Elijah Chatman, who’s lined up basically everywhere for the Ponies this season.

Pinstripe Bowl

Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
2:15 p.m. | ESPN

Virginia Tech’s Braxton Burmeister is a dual-threat maven who is one of the leading rushing quarterbacks in the country. As far as exciting playmakers go, Terps WR Rakim Jarrett belongs on any list.

Cheez-It Bowl

No. 19 Clemson vs. Iowa State
5:45 p.m. | ESPN

Tigers LB James Skalski is going to meet Cyclones RB Breece Hall at some point in this game. We can’t wait for that collision.

Alamo Bowl

No. 14 Oregon vs. No. 16 Oklahoma
9:15 p.m. | ESPN

While Kayvon Thibodeaux (who has opted out) earns the headlines, DB Verone McKinley III leads the nation in interceptions, and he’ll be looking for more against OU QB Caleb Williams.

Watch NCAA football games online all season long with fuboTV: Start with a 7-day free trial!

Thursday, Dec. 30

Duke's Mayo Bowl

North Carolina vs. South Carolina
11:30 a.m. | ESPN

Tar Heels DB Storm Duck battled injuries most of the season before playing through November. He could end on a high note against the Gamecocks. South Carolina doesn't bring a ton of offense to the table, but to end a wild turnstile at the position, former grad assistant Zeb Noland will play QB as one of two healthy scholarship players the Gamecocks have at the position.

Music City Bowl

Tennessee vs. Purdue
3 p.m. | ESPN

WR Cedric Tillman is only one of the big play threats on this Vols offense. He’s certainly proven himself. In the absence of David Bell, can Purdue’s Milton Wright step up and be the next in line of talented Boilermaker receivers?

Peach Bowl

No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Pittsburgh
7 p.m. | ESPN

Much is made of the Panthers’ offense, but All-ACC DT Calijah Kancey anchors their also stingy defense and gets the job done despite a frame that doesn’t look tailor-made to bang inside. He'd been outshined by his recently opted-out teammate, but Spartans WR Jayden Reed has been basically all the Spartans have had in the vertical passing game.

Las Vegas Bowl

Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
10:30 p.m. | ESPN

If they made Big Ten linebackers in labs, they’d probably come out looking a lot like Wisconsin’s Jack Sanborn. He’ll be in the middle of a unit tasked with stopping Arizona State QB Jayden Daniels, who announced he’ll be returning for another year in Tempe.

Friday, Dec. 31

Gator Bowl

No. 17 Wake Forest vs. No. 25 Texas A&M
11 a.m. | ESPN

It’s hard to choose between either standout receiver for the Demon Deacons, so the triggerman, Sam Hartman, who’s connected with them over and over this season gets the nod. The Aggies have had multiple opt-outs in their bowl prep, but TE Jalen Wydermyer is still around, and he’s one of the better players at that position in the country.

Sun Bowl

Washington State vs. Miami (Fla.)
12 p.m. | CBS

Right tackle Abraham Lucas has been about as solid as they come at the position this year for the Cougars. The Hurricanes may have the quarterback of the future in Tyler Van Dyke.

Arizona Bowl

Central Michigan vs. Boise State
2 p.m. | Barstool Sports

Nobody toted the rock more often than CMU’s Lew Nichols III. His 311 carries led the nation by far, and he did it in 12 games. Broncos WR Khalil Shakir is basically a lock to do something along the lines of this once a game.

Stay tuned ...

Cotton Bowl Classic (College Football Playoff semifinal)

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati
3:30 p.m. | ESPN

If Cincinnati is going to spring the upset here, it’s probably going to come down to how DB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner holds up against Bama WR Jameson Williams.

Orange Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal)

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia
7:30 p.m. | ESPN

Neither Georgia’s Stetson Bennett nor Michigan’s Cade McNamara has really had to do anything otherworldly this season to get their teams to the Playoff. Talented defenses on the other side will try to make each signal-caller take the game on his shoulders and win it. Can they?

Saturday, Jan. 1

Outback Bowl

No. 21 Arkansas vs. Penn State
12 p.m. | ESPN2

Nittany Lions WR Jahan Dotson has some of the best hands in college football, while LB Bumper Pool is everywhere for Arkansas’s defense.

Citrus Bowl

No. 15 Iowa vs. No. 22 Kentucky
1 p.m. | ABC

Kentucky WR Wan’Dale Robinson burst on to the SEC scene in a big way after transferring in this season. His 1,164 yards receiving gave the Wildcats an explosive element.

Rimington Award–winning center Tyler Linderbaum has paved the way all season for Iowa’s offense, with a road-grading style that fits the Hawkeyes’ proud history of great OL play.

Fiesta Bowl

No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
1 p.m. | ESPN

If he’s called Baby Gronk, you know Irish TE Michael Mayer can play. Eventually, he’s going to come into contact with heat-seeking LB Malcolm Rodriguez over the middle. That’s best-on-best.

Rose Bowl

No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Utah
5 p.m. | ESPN

C.J. Stroud didn’t get a Heisman for the Buckeyes, but he will get a whole lot of a stingy Utah defense to start his year. His defense will have to contend with a varied Utes attack that features multiple tight ends, including the versatile Brant Kuithe.

Sugar Bowl

No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 8 Ole Miss
8:45 p.m. | ESPN

Standout Bears DB Jalen Pitre is going to have his hands full trying to contain the vaunted Rebels’ attack. But can Ole Miss edge Sam Williams shut down the Baylor offense?

Tuesday, Jan. 4

Texas Bowl

Kansas State vs. LSU
9 p.m. | ESPN

There’s not much you can do when K-State RB Deuce Vaughn gets loose.

But LSU linebacker Damone Clark will be at the forefront in trying to stop that from happening.  

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