I’m not a fan of the bowl system.
I’d love an eight-team bracketed playoff to find a true national champion.
With the way things are set up now, are teams really feeling that great coming off a win in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl? Doubt it.
But one thing that bowl season does do is give a brief spotlight, however dim it might be, on each bowl and its participants one at a time.
While it can be about juniors and seniors elevating their draft stock in their final collegiate game, it can also be about a younger crop of players increasing their national notoriety. The best of those players will maintain that spotlight throughout the off-season.
Once the 2013 season kicks off this fall, these players will be at the top of the list of front-runners for the most prestigious individual awards in sports: the Heisman Trophy.
(NOTE: This list only includes players that have competed in a bowl games through January 2nd. I understand Johnny Manziel will be a Heisman frontrunner, as will the likes of AJ McCarron, Marcus Mariota, and TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacy, as well as Braxton Miller, who did not play in a bowl game this year. I’ll update the list after the completion of bowl season.)
1) Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
I honestly think that Clowney will begin the year at the top of the Heisman list, and rightfully so.
If he were eligible to enter the NFL draft after this season, there’s a very good chance (especially given the weak QB crop) that he could go first overall.
Yeah, he might have only had three tackle,s but this play should tell you all you need to know about how good Clowney can be in his upcoming junior season.
2) Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
The Cardinals entered the Sugar Bowl as huge underdogs as champions of the (disrespected…and rightfully so) Big East. Louisville was facing off against Florida, who had been near the top of the rankings all year.
Louisville’s defense got the ball rolling with a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage, but then Teddy Bridgewater took command from there, throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-23 win that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
Bridgewater will have the advantage of playing in the weakest “power conference” and could put up some serious stats.
3) Aaron Murray, Georgia
I’ve been very impressed with Murray over the last few Bulldogs games, including the SEC championship where Georgia fell just short of toppling Alabama.
The senior-to-be came out and had an excellent day against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, throwing for 427 yards and five touchdowns against what was the nation’s top-ranked pass defense. Murray was particularly impressive in the second half, completing 7 of 10 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Bulldogs back from a third-quarter deficit.
Georgia loses a few key cogs (namely Jarvis Jones) but should reload enough to contend in the SEC. Murray’s name is already out there and in my opinion, fairly close to a lock to at least head to the Heisman ceremony.
4) Marqise Lee, USC
As far as pure talent goes, Lee is right up there with Clowney as having the most of any player in the country.
Sure, USC got pounded 33-7 by Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, but you can’t chalk that up to Lee, especially when quarterback Max Wittek completed just 14 of 37 passes. Lee caught nearly half of those, finishing with 6 catches for 41 yards. The numbers don’t pop off the page for the bowl game, but the over 1,700 he had over the course of the season certainly do.
It’s incredibly tough for a wide receiver to remain in the Heisman conversation all season long, but in his upcoming junior season, Lee just might have the ability to do so.
5) Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Carey was a consensus All-America selection at running back for the Wildcats this season, and he could maintain his lead in the overall rushing title if Kenjon Barner is held in check against Kansas State.
In the New Mexico Bowl against Nevada, Carey helped lead Arizona to a come-from-behind 49-48 win over the Wolfpack. The junior rushed for 172 yards on 28 carries, including three touchdowns, to give him 1,929 yards on the season.
With one more season in RichRod’s spread offense, there’s no reason not to think he couldn’t approach the 2,000 yard plateau again.
What other performances from the bowl games thus far have impressed you the most?