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Top 25 NFL Prospects to Watch this College Bowl Season

Another college football bowl season is upon us, and for those of you who don’t follow the college game religiously, the bowl season offers an opportunity to catch some of college football's brightest

Another college football bowl season is upon us, and for those of you who don’t follow the college game religiously, the bowl season offers an opportunity to catch some of college football's brightest stars. Some of these players play at smaller schools, who rarely, if ever get national television coverage. These bowl games give the nation an opportunity to watch some players we have read about, but not given a chance to watch.

The bowl season starts on December 20th this year and runs through till January 12th, where the season cumulates with college football's first playoff winner.  Most bowl games have contracts with certain conferences, and will pit teams ranked in various conferences against each other. For example the Alamo Bowl will match a Big 12 team versus a Pac 12 team, this year that puts Kansas State up against UCLA.  A school becomes “bowl-eligible” with a .500 record. In a 12-game season, that would mean six wins would make the school eligible for a bowl. With the multitude of bowls available now, most qualifying schools will find themselves playing in a bowl game, but scenarios could arise where there would be more eligible teams, then available slots in the games.

For the purpose of this list, we need not worry so much about the schools involved in these games, this list will focus on the star players. The future stars of the NFL will be showcased in these major bowl games, with many underclassmen contemplating their decision on declaring for the draft based on how well they perform in their final game. For the players these games hold a lot of weight. For the greater majority of the seniors these game will mark the last football game they will ever play. For the elite few they will move on to the NFL, and hope to carry on the success they had in college. You've got to believe that the NFL's bottom feeders like the Buccaneers, Titans, Raiders, Jets and Jaguars will be watching these games closely. The following list will look at 25 marquee players in these upcoming bowl games to watch.

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25 Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech: Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Dixon is a touchdown machine. He finished 3rd in the FBS with 26 total touchdowns (21 rushing, 5 receiving). This is the second time in his career he has topped 26 total touchdowns. In his freshman year he totaled 28 (27 rushing and one receiving). He has scored a rushing touchdown in every game, but the opener against Oklahoma. He comes into the bowl game on a complete tear, rushing for 10 touchdowns over the last four games.

He'll face an Illinois team that has a horrendous run defense. They ranked 120th out of 125 FBS teams surrendering 260 yards rushing a game, at a 5.11 per carry rate. Needless to say this is prime matchup for Dixon, and the Rebels are going to feed him the ball. Don’t be surprised to see Dixon crack 200 yards, with 3+ touchdowns.

24 Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The 5-foot-9 sophomore quietly had a monster season for the San Diego State Aztecs. He finished 3rd in rushing yards with 1,761, behind two running  backs set to go in the top 2 rounds of next year’s NFL draft.  He had a fantastic 6.9 yards/carry average, and 19 rushing touchdowns. He was also very consistent throughout the year going over a hundred yards in 10 of 12 games, and scoring a touchdown also in 10 of 12 games. Every one of the Aztecs wins this season was by double digits, and they leaned on Pumphrey to help salt away the games.

Their opponent in this game (Navy) also has a dynamic rusher of their own in quarterback Keenan Reynolds, and it should make for a back and forth duel between these two great talents. With this game being played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the Aztecs will have a major home field advantage in this bowl game, and it will give Pumphrey the platform to introduce himself to the nation.

23 Cody Fajardo, Nevada: R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Fajardo is one of the premiere duel threat quarterbacks in college football. Fajardo is one of only two players in college football history to have passed for over 9,000 yards, and rush for 3,000, the only other player to do it, was the player he replaced, Colin Kaepernick. Fajardo took over the starting job as a freshman in 2011 when Kaepernick jumped to the NFL. He does not possess Kaepernick’s rocket arm, and this limitation might prevent him from being an NFL quarterback, but he is as good of runner as Kaepernick. In this his senior year Fajardo passed for 2,370 yards and 18 touchdowns, while adding another 997 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Fajardo has gone over 100 yards rushing in four of his last five games, with five touchdowns.

Their opponent, the Ragin' Cajuns have a vaunted running game of their own led by the electrifying Elijah McGuire. This game will be won and lost in the trenches, but just because the game will feature a lot of running, don’t think this won’t be an exciting game. There should be quite of few long touchdowns broken with the talented runners each team possesses, and this game will likely come right down to the wire.

22 Shaq Thompson, Washington: Ticket City Cactus Bowl

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Last year it was UCLA’s Myles Jack who was all the rage as a two way star. This year it was Shaq Thompson of the Washington Huskies. Simply put, Thompson is a playmaker. He had six touchdowns, four on the defensive side where he had three fumble recoveries for touchdowns, and a pick-6. The other two touchdowns came as a part time running back. As a running back Thompson had 61 carries for 456 yards, which was a fantastic 7.5 yards/carry. Early in the year, the Huskies would only give Thompson a handful of touches each game, never more than three per game.

Over their last three games, the Huskies started to feature their star a little more with 52 carries. As a result, he went over 100 yards in two of the three games, and narrowly missed the third by two yards. If Thompson declares for the draft next year, he would be a first round pick, with some pegging him as a top-15 overall pick. His future in the NFL is as a linebacker, but in this bowl game you should see him featured on both sides of the ball, which makes him a must watch player.

21 Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Valero Alamo Bowl

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

 Tyler Lockett has been one of the most electrifying players this college football season. He finished the year with 93 catches, 1,351 yards, and 9 touchdowns. The yardage was 4th best in the FBS, but he was also one of the premiere punt returners in the nation. He totaled 361 yards, for a 19-yard average-- both were 2nd best in the FBS. He also returned two of those kicks for touchdowns. With Lockett not being the biggest wide receiver (5’11, 175) his pro prospects are probably limited to slot duties, but he can contribute immediately as a returner.  Lockett comes into this game red hot. In his last four games he has 44 receptions, 669 yards and four touchdowns. This game with UCLA looks to be a back and forth shootout, and Lockett is going to have be at his best for them to take home the victory.

20 Duke Johnson, Miami: Duck Commander Independence Bowl

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Johnson bounced back this year after a fractured ankle ended his 2013 season. He finished this year with 1,890 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. When rushing the ball, Johnson averaged 7.0 yards a carry, and posted six 100-yard rushing games. He was very consistent as he never rushed for under 88 yards in one game this year, with his high being the 249 he dropped on Virginia Tech. With his 1,520 yards rushing this year, Johnson became the all-time leader in rushing yards in Miami school history. With the multitude of NFL star running backs that have come through the U, that is quite the accomplishment. The one skill that is going to propel Johnson into a very good NFL back is his ability to catch the ball. He had 33 receptions on the year, and had a least one catch in all but one game this year. Despite not doing it this year, Johnson is also an elite returner, and this is going to allow him to contribute on Sundays. Johnson is a special player with the ball in his hands, and this likely will be his last college game.

19 Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

All Myles Garrett did in his freshman campaign was break Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC record for sacks by a freshman. He did that in only nine games (five starts), and finished the year with 11 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and a blocked kick. The much hyped 5-star recruit has been as advertised, and more for the Aggies. Possessing a similar frame as Clowney, the 6-foot-5, 225 pounder has been a terror off the edge. If it were not for a late season injury that cost him the last two games, Garrett would have posted even more impressive numbers. With the rest, he should be fully healthy for this game against West Virginia. In this Bowl season he is one defensive player that is going to pop off the screen. Garrett is a star in the making, take this opportunity to catch this star as he develops right before our eyes.

18 18.Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky: Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

With the slew of talented quarterbacks in the FBS it was Brandon Doughty from little Western Kentucky that led in passing yards, and touchdowns. He finished the year throwing for 4,344 yards and 44 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. The season came as a complete surprise as Doughty only threw for 2,857 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last year. He would have two 560+ yards game, and threw for five or more touchdowns in four games.

It was Doughty and the Hilltoppers, who ruined Marshall’s bid for perfect season with a barn burning 67-66 OT shootout. In that game Doughty went for 8 touchdowns, and had the gutsy two point conversion in overtime to spoil the party. Central Michigan will look to slow the pace of the game with their star Thomas Rawls, a Michigan transfer, but Doughty will set the sky a blaze on Christmas Eve in what has the making of a very entertaining game.

17 DeVante Parker, Louisville: Belk Bowl

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

DeVante Parker missed the first seven games of the season with a broken foot. When he returned, he reminded us why he is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the FBS. Last year with Teddy Bridgewater, Parker put up 12 touchdowns. This year Louisville has gone through three quarterbacks, but Parker has not missed a beat. In five games he has put up 735 yards on 35 catches. At 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, Parker has ideal NFL receiver size, and will be a 1st rounder in next year’s draft. In his last game, Parker showed real good chemistry with Kyle Bolin. Bolin came in after a Reggie Bonnafon injury, and proceeded to connect with Parker for three touchdowns. With the freshman Bonnafon questionable with a knee injury it looks like Bolin and Parker might have one more game together. Georgia presents a stiff test for Louisville, and if they have any chance Parker is going to have to be great, which sets the stage for a dynamic performance. Perhaps Parker will reunite with Bridgewater in Minnesota next year?

16 16.Rakeem Cato, Marshall: Boca Raton Bowl

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the last game in Rakeem Cato’s illustrious career at Marshall.  This year he had another fantastic season, as he went on to break most of former NFLer Chad Pennigton’s school records.  He enters this game with an FBS record 45 game touchdown streak. He broke the mark set by Russell Wilson who had gone 38 straight games. On the season Cato threw for 3,622 yards and 37 touchdowns, the third straight season that he has eclipsed the 37 touchdown mark, which gives him of total 128. The total puts him fifth overall in career touchdowns, and in the bowl game he has a chance to creep to fourth spot as he trails Colt Brennan by only three touchdowns.

Despite Cato’s collegiate success, he has limited NFL appeal. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Cato lacks the ideal size for the position at the NFL level. Cato’s arm is good, but not great, but he does possess some mobility. An NFL team may take a flier on him as a project, as some smaller quarterbacks have had recent success in the league, but in all likelihood this game will be the last chance we get to watch Cato perform at an elite level. That reason alone it makes watching this bowl game.

15 Jaelen Strong, Arizone State: Hyundai Sun Bowl

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

 You will be watching Jaelen Strong playing on Sundays next year as he is a projected 1st-round draft pick. He is a big receiver at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, and is a force when the ball is in the air. You will remember Strong as the player who hauled in the Hail Mary pass this year that knocked off USC on the last play of the game. He finished the year with 75 catches for 1,062 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Those stats could have been even better if Mike Bercovici had been the starter all year.

The Sun Devils started the year with senior quarterback Taylor Kelly, who is more of an option style quarterback. When Kelly got hurt, Bercovici, who is more a pure pocket passer with a much better arm stepped in. This is when Strong began to flourish. In the three games Bercovici started, Strong averaged 10 catches for 141 yards, in comparison to 5.6 catches and 79 yards in games Kelly started. Bercovici took over for a struggling Kelly in their last game versus Arizona, and he seems to be the front runner to start the bowl game.

14 Bryce Petty, Baylor: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Petty and the Baylor Bears entered the season with college playoff aspirations, which would likely have put Petty in the Heisman race. They fell short on both accounts. Petty’s numbers took a hit this year, as he struggled with a back injury, and the Bears featured the run game a little more. He still finished with 3,305 yards in 11 games, and finished 9th in the FBS with 8.8 yards per attempt. Last season Petty managed 4,200 yards in 13 games, with a 10.4 yards per attempt which was 2nd in the FBS. When Petty is on the Baylor offense, it's a thing of beauty. They operate at a break neck pace, and are very hard to defend.

This season Petty and the Bears were at their best in a thrilling come from behind victory against TCU which spoiled the Horned Frogs playoff ambitions. In that game Petty managed 510 yards and 6 touchdowns, and led his team back from 21 points down, in the final 11 minutes of the game to pull off the 61-58 victory. The very next game Petty showed the Hyde side of his game against West Virginia where he completed only 16 of 36 for 223 yards, as Baylor lost their only game of the season. This game is a very important one for the senior quarterback. Heading into the year Petty was being mocked as a first rounder, now he is being pegged as a mid-round pick. This game will be a big factor on settling his draft stock, so he should be motivated to have a great game.

13 Justin Hardy, ECU: Birmingham Bowl

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Hardy is the all-time NCAA leader in receptions with 376. He passed Ryan Broyles in his 10th game against Tulane, and has the lead to himself by 27 catches. He currently sits with 110 receptions on the year, which makes it back to back seasons with over 110 catches. The total placed him 2nd in receptions behind only Amari Cooper.  He is only the 16th player in FBS history to surpass 4,000 yards receiving, and ranks 6th on the all-time list. His partner in crime is quarterback Shane Carden, and the duo has led the Pirates to a 9-3 record, with some big wins over ACC teams in North Carolina, and Virginia Tech. This game will be a big step up in competition against an elite SEC defense. Hardy himself will be matched up against one of the best cornerbacks in the nation Vernon Hargreaves. The competition between these two elite talents will be fun to watch.

12 T-12. Leonard Williams, USC & Randy Gregory, Nebraska: National University Holiday Bowl

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

If he declares, Leonard Williams should be a top-3 pick in next year’s NFL draft, and would be the top rated defensive player in the class. A dominating performance in this game would make his decision an easy one. His numbers were down from his stellar freshman year as he posted 42 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and three forced fumbles, but all it takes is  watching one game for you to understand what was has scouts drooling. He is 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, and has played both inside and outside on the USC line. That type of versatility is going to appeal to all NFL teams. He has cat like quickness, and can get into the backfield in a flash. When he is on, he can be unstoppable.

In this bowl game he will be facing the other top defensive name in the NFL draft next year-- Randy Gregory of Nebraska. Gregory is a speed edge rusher, who can also take over a game when his motivation is right. This game will be a big selling point for the two players, and watching them try to one up each other will make for a very entertaining game, as the winner may very well be the top pick in next year’s draft.

11 Brett Hundley, UCLA: Valero Alamo Bowl

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Had Brett Hundley left after his junior season, he would have likely been the first quarterback off the board. He decided to come back for his senior year, and it may have cost him severely. Instead of solidifying his pro prospects, Hundley struggled in a season where he was expected to dominate. Some flaws in his game were revealed, and his stock has dropped. The most noticeable questions have to do with operating inside the pocket.

He has displayed questionable ability to read a defense, and has shown a bad habit of throwing into the teeth of a defense. Hundley is a fine athlete, and seems to excel best when he is on the move, and use his dual threat ability. With some of these athletic quarterbacks starting to struggle in the NFL, due to their limitations in the pocket, it is now a trait that scouts nitpick. He is clearly now behind Mariota and Winston, and has likely fallen out of the first round. This game is very important for his NFL future, as it will be the last game he has to put to rest some of the skepticism that has grown this season.

10 Rashard Higgins, Colorado State: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Rashard Higgins is the best college wide receiver you have never heard of. The sophomore finished second in receiving yards with 1,640 yards, and led the FBS with 17 receiving touchdowns. The impressive thing is he did this in only 11 games. In comparison the FBS leader Amari Cooper needed 13 games to put up the leading 1,656 yards. Higgins averaged a whopping 149 yards a game, in the last 10 games, the average is a staggering 162.3 yards per game.

Higgins has not been on national television much this year, so it will be a prime opportunity to watch one of the most explosive wide receivers in college football. The Utah Utes possess a very strong defense, and a dominating defensive line. It will be fun to watch what kind of damage Higgins can do  against an elite defense, something Colorado State has not faced much of this year.

9 Jay Ajayi, Boise State: Vizio Fiesta Bowl

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Ajayi led the nation in plays from scrimmage with 370, that was 46 more than the next closestt. With the multitude of touches Ajayi would rack up he achieved some amazing numbers. He would put up 2,225 yards from scrimmage, which was second in the FBS, and would be tied for the lead with 29 total touchdowns. The touches and totals for Ajayi were consistent for most of the year as he was only under 100 total yards in two games.  This game versus Arizona is primed for a shootout as Vegas has the line set at 69 points. Both offenses play fast, and score a bunch. With that style of play, Ajayi and Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson should be going back and forth and finding the end zone. If you like offense this game is a must watch, and Ajayi is the guy that should impress the most from it on the offensive side of the ball.

8 Scooby Wright III, Arizona: Vizio Fiesta Bowl

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Scooby Wright joined Rey Maualuga as they only PAC-12 defenders to win the Chuck Bednarik award given to the best college defender. It was a clean sweep for Wright as he also brought home the Lombardi for best lineman/linebacker, the Bronko Nagurski award, and the PAC-12 defender of the year. Wright was a dominating force for the surprising Wildcats. Wright announced his presence to the nation in primetime when the Wildcats knocked off the no.2 Oregon Ducks in Eugene. Late in the game Marcus Mariota was leading the Ducks on a game tying drive, when Wright sacked him, and ripped the balls out of his hands turning the ball over. The fumble against the Heisman winner would seal the biggest victory in school history, and made everyone take note of the sophomore.

He finished the year with 153 tackles, 28 for loss, 14 sacks, and forced 6 fumbles. Heading into this bowl game, he has a chance to become the first player since 1999 (LaVar Arrington) to lead the nation in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. He enters the game first in tackles for loss, second in tackles, and third in sacks. This game will be played at a very high pace.

7 Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Capital One Orange Bowl

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In the first half of the season Mississippi State was the top team in the nation, and that was due in large part to their junior quarterback Dak Prescott. Mississippi State is led by coach Dan Mullen, who was the offensive coordinator in Florida during Tim Tebow’s reign. Mullen uses Prescott very similar to how Tebow was used, and the numbers in the early part of the season reflected that. During the first half of the season, Prescott was on a tear throwing for 1,685 yards, and 15 touchdowns, while running for 664 yards and 10 touchdowns. Prescott was unstoppable in the redzone, and was the leading candidate for the Heisman.

In the second half Prescott struggled totaling only 12 touchdowns. His struggles were apparent in their two loses to Alabama and Mississippi, as he only managed a couple touchdowns in each of those games, and both elite defenses bottled up his running his ability. The beauty of Prescott and Mississippi State in this bowl game is that Georgia Tech has a bad defense, and they are not going to look anything like the SEC powerhouse they have gone up over the past couple of months.  It would not be a surprise to see the Rebels drop 50 in this game, and Prescott is going to be in for a huge game.

6 Trevone Boykin, TCU: Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of last year Trevone Boykin was a wide receiver and running back for TCU. This year he was a top-5 finisher for the Heisman as a quarterback. One of the most unlikely stories of the college football season was the transformation of Trevone Boykin under offensive coordinators Doug Meacham, and Sonny Crumbie. He would finish with 3,714 yards passing, 30 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. What makes Boykin special is his dual threat ability, as he added 659 yards rushing, and eight more touchdowns. If that was not enough, Boykin added a 55-yard touchdown reception in his last game. That incredible season led the Horned Frogs to a 11-1 record, which looked like it would send them to the college football playoff, and Boykin to New York for the Heisman final. Despite a 52-point win to close the season, neither would occur.

It will be interesting to see the level of motivation this squad has in this game, as they feel they should have been in the FBS playoff, and they have plenty of arguments for being there. This bowl is almost a slap in the face to them, but this game will go a long way to showing what type of leader Boykin is. He is quite certainly returning for his senior year, as he does not have prototypical NFL quarterback size, and he won’t leave early as a receiver. He needs to lead them to play inspired ball, and not pack it in, as the first step to them appearing in a playoff next year, is by showing the committee they made a mistake leaving them off this year.

5 Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: Russell Athletic Bowl

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

All Samaje Perine did this season was break the FBS record for rushing in a single game with 427 yards, as a true freshman. A week after Melvin Gordon had broke the previous standing record with 408 yards, Perine went out the next game and just embarrassed Kansas. It took an early season injury to Keith Ford for Perine to get an opportunity, but once he did he never looked back. In his first start he dropped 242 yards, and four touchdowns against West Virginia. The game before Kansas he eclipsed the 200-yard mark again with 213 and three touchdowns versus Texas Tech. In his last three games heading into to this bowl game he has rushed for 791 yards, and 10 touchdowns.

This all has been done with the return of Keith Ford, who actually started the game he broke the record. At 5-11, 243 pounds Perine is an absolute bull, that players genuinely try to avoid to tackle. When you throw in his surprising speed and quickness for a back his size, it makes for a remarkably special player. Clemson does have a very strong defense, so this will be a great test for Perine. But, look for Perine to use this game as an exclamation point to a fantastic season.

4 Amari Cooper, Alabama: All State Sugar Bowl

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Amari Cooper is the best player for the best team in the nation. He has dominated the competition in the best conference in college football. He finished the year ranked 2nd in receiving touchdowns, and led the FBS in receptions and receiving yards. The only game he was held below 8 catches, was a game against Western Carolina where he exited early with an injury. He torched three SEC defenses for 200 yards (Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn). Cooper is the best route runner in the nation, and no corner can match up one on one with him.

Cooper was the clear choice for the Biletnikoff, as the best receiver, and was a finalist for the Heisman, an award rarely giving out to wide receivers. Cooper is not only a great collegiate receiver, but he is being touted as the best receiver to come into the NFL draft since AJ Green and Julio Jones.  With Cooper playing his best football when the lights are brightest, you can expect a special performance in this bowl game, and very possibly in the national championship game.

3 Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: Outback Bowl

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Gordon was the most dominating running back in the FBS this year. He led the nation in rushing yards with 2,336, and touchdowns with 26. Early in the season some were questioning Gordon’s talent as he put up a dud against lowly Western Illinois, managing only 38 yards on 17 carries. That seemed to spark Gordon as he would go on to rush for 2,082 yards over his next 10 games, with 25 touchdowns. Wrap your head around those numbers, in that span he averaged 208 yards per game, with 2.5 touchdowns. He would also go on to break the single-game rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska. The previous mark had lasted 15 years when LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 406 yards in 1999.

Gordon would have a much shorter reign, as his record was broken the very next week by Samaje Perine. The other impressive thing was that it did not come against an FBS punching bag, like Perine’s record performance against Kansas. This performance came against a legit FBS powerhouse school in Nebraska, who features one of the best defenders in the NCAA in Randy Gregory. If he played all four quarters, Gordon could have easily broken 500, on a day when he averaged 16.3 yards a carry. Gordon has declared for the draft, making this his last game for Wisonsin.

2 Marcus Mariota, Oregon: Rose Bowl

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide garnering 90.9% of the possible points. That mark is second highest in history, trailing only the 91.6% put up by Troy Smith in 2006.  Mariota is a breath of fresh air to the Heisman award, after its last two winners have had major off the field issues. Mariota is a class act, and has the character that is more commonly associated with a Heisman winner.

On the field Mariota had another spectacular year leading the Oregon Ducks high powered attack to a 12-1 record, and a birth in the first ever college playoff. He finished with a great TD-to-INT ratio, with 38 touchdowns and only two picks.  The added element to Mariota’s game is his running ability. He posted 669 rushing yards, which was down 46 yards from the previous year, but he increased his rushing touchdowns from nine to 14. He does not seem likely to fall victim to the Heisman curse, that has bestowed many before him. Mariota will likely be taking his talents to the NFL next season as one of the top two picks in draft. He possess all the traits the NFL looks for in a quarterback with great size (6’4, 219 pounds), arm strength, intelligence, and the intangibles of a great work ethic, and character. He is a must watch in the marquee game of the bowl season against last year’s Heisman winner Jameis Winston.

1 Jameis Winston, Florida State: Rose Bowl

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The most polarizing player in college football is once again a former Heisman trophy winner. Like Johnny Football before him, Jameis Winston has seen his fair of off the field issues, which has taken the luster off his Heisman win . Pundits and scouts alike, have put into question Winston ability to lead on the field, due to his decision making off of it. This is where the intrigue lies. On the field Winston looks, and feels like a leader.

As one of the youngest players on the team the past two years, veterans look to Winston as a leader. The coaching staff loves him as a player, and have defended him in the media numerous times. You watch games, and  Winston who leads the pep talk on the sidelines, the guy going up and down the bench making sure the guys' heads are still in the game, and he is the one who leads them out of dire straits. Winston is still without a loss in his collegiate career, but there were many close calls for the defending champs. They had to comeback in the 4th quarter five times this season, but this gives even more credence to the leadership Winston possesses on the field. In these games, with the world against the defending champs, he always found a way to remain calm, and lead the troops back. It is a trait that NFL teams are going to really look at, when looking for a counter argument to his off the field behavior. In this game he goes up against this year’s Heisman winner in Marcus Mariota, a dream matchup for the FBS.

This will likely be the most watched game due to the two quarterbacks who are projected to become the top two picks in next year’s NFL draft. The winner in this duel may get the edge for the 1st overall pick. If you must watch one game, this should be it. Off field issues aside, this game will allow you to form your own opinion on the polarizing Jameis Winston.

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