Mike Huguenin is the epitome of a Gamedayr. He has spent over 28 years in sports journalism, with notable stints at Yahoo! Sports/Rivals.com, NY Times, The Sporting News, and Orlando Sentinel. On Gamedayr, Mike provides expert analysis on Heisman updates, weekly game news, bowl projections and college basketball.
We’re less than a week away from the first bowls of the season, with the New Mexico and Famous Idaho Potato (seriously, that’s the best name the organizers can come up with?) bowls scheduled for Saturday.
[Related: Ranking the games from worst to first]
Here’s a look at 10 under-the-radar guys to pay attention to during their bowl games. They’re listed alphabetically.
Mississippi State WR Chad Bumphis
Bowl opponent: vs. Northwestern in Gator Bowl, Jan. 1
Note: Bumphis is a speedy senior who has had the misfortune of playing with some horrible passing quarterbacks during his career with the Bulldogs. This season, Tyler Russell emerged as a competent quarterback and Bumphis benefited, leading the SEC with 12 TD receptions. He had four 100-yard games and six games with at least six catches. Northwestern gives up a ton of passing yards per game (262.6, last in the Big Ten) so Bumphis could end his career at Mississippi State with a bang.
Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Bowl opponent: vs. SMU in Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24
Note: Carr, a junior whose older brother, David, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, has had a magnificent season for the Bulldogs. He has thrown for 3,742 yards, with 36 TDs and just five picks. Carr also has completed 68.1 percent of his 457 attempts and ranks ninth nationally in passing efficiency. His touchdown total is fourth-highest nationally. SMU is 106th nationally in pass defense, and while the Mustangs have 19 interceptions (tied for sixth-most nationally), they also have surrendered 26 TD passes (tied for 13th-most nationally).
San Jose State QB David Fales
Bowl opponent: vs. Bowling Green in Military Bowl, Dec. 27
Note: Fales signed with Nevada out of high school in Salinas, Calif., and redshirted with the Wolf Pack in 2009. He then transferred to Monterey (Calif.) Peninsula College and started for two seasons there. He enrolled at San Jose State in January and won the starting job in spring practice, then proceeded to throw for 3,798 yards, 31 TDs and nine interceptions. He had three games with four TD passes and eight games with at least three TD tosses, including four against San Diego State and three against BYU. He was 38-of-50 for 467 yards, three TDs and no interceptions in a loss to Utah State. He faces a good Bowling Green defense in the Military Bowl; the Falcons are 13th nationally in pass efficiency defense and have allowed just nine TD passes (tied for sixth-fewest nationally).
Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher
Bowl opponent: vs. Western Kentucky in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26
Note: Fisher, a senior, was a 255-pounder when he signed with Central Michigan out of high school in the Detroit area. He has added 50 or so pounds, and at 6 feet 8 and 305 pounds, he has excellent size. Fisher, who was a three-year starter for the Chippewas, also has quick feet and a mean streak, and seems likely to be a late first-round/early second-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. His matchup against Western Kentucky DE Quanterus Smith would’ve been must-watch viewing for NFL scouts (Smith had three sacks against Alabama), but Smith will miss the bowl game with an injury.
Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene
Bowl opponent: vs. Virginia Tech in Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 28
Note: Green, a senior who could go late in the first round of the NFL draft, has been incredibly productive the past two seasons after moving from safety; he has 125 tackles, which is tied for 17thnationally and third among players from the “Big Six” conferences. He also has 5.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries, two interceptions, a fumble recovery, five pass breakups and six forced fumbles. While he is the best defensive player in the Big East, voters inexplicably chose teammate Steve Beauharnais – who had 50 fewer tackles – as a Butkus Award finalist over Greene. Virginia Tech has struggled to run the ball consistently this season, so look for Greene to make double-digit tackles against the Hokies in the bowl game.
UCLA QB Brett Hundley
Bowl opponent: vs. Baylor in Holiday Bowl, Dec. 27
Note: Hundley, a redshirt freshman, has been overshadowed in the Pac-12 by other quarterbacks and in his own backfield by TB Johnathan Franklin. But Hundley was productive all season; he has thrown for 3,411 yards, 26 TDs and 11 interceptions and also has rushed for 365 yards and nine TDs. He ran for a season-high 83 yards against a tough Stanford defense in the Pac-12 title game, and his best day as a passer day came when he threw for 372 yards against Oregon State, which ranks 17th nationally in passing efficiency defense. He’ll be going against an extremely porous Baylor defense in the bowl game.
Bowling Green DT Chris Jones
Bowl opponent: vs. San Jose State in Military Bowl, Dec. 27
Note: Jones, a senior, has been a big-play machine for the Falcons, who are seventh nationally in total defense and ninth nationally in scoring defense. Jones has made 41 tackles, with 12.5 sacks (tied for fourth-most nationally) and 19 tackles for loss (tied for eighth nationally). He also returned a fumble for a TD and had at least one sack in eight games. He has 21 sacks in the past two seasons. In his bowl game, Jones will be going against a San Jose State squad that likes to throw the ball but has had some trouble protecting QB David Fales.
Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib
Bowl opponent: vs. West Virginia in Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 29
Note: Nassib, a fifth-year senior, has steadily improved throughout his career. He has good size (6-3/227) and a nice arm, and has thrown for 3,619 yards and 24 TDs this season. Nassib should be one of the top four or five quarterbacks taken in the 2013 NFL draft and looks to be a likely second-round pick. He has had six 300-yard games this season and could have his second 400-yard performance of the season when he goes against the sieve-like West Virginia secondary in the Pinstripe Bowl. Nassib threw four TD passes in a rout of WVU last season, when the teams were Big East rivals.
Purdue DT Kawann Short
Bowl opponent: vs. Oklahoma State in Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1
Note:Short has been a steady playmaker in the middle of the line for Purdue in each of the past three seasons. He has six sacks this season, which give him 18.5 for his career; he also has 14.5 tackles for loss this season and 48 for his career. Short also has a knack for blocking kicks, with four blocks this season and eight in his career. Short has long arms but still is able to bench press 400-plus pounds. Oklahoma State has two seniors and a junior starting in the interior of its offensive line and has been able to run the ball effectively almost all season; Short needs to make his presence felt if the Boilermakers are to keep it close in the bowl game.
Oklahoma State WR Josh Stewart
Bowl opponent: vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1
Note: Though he has been overshadowed by a plethora of receivers in the pass-happy Big 12, Short, a sophomore from the Dallas area, has had a big season for the Cowboys. He has 96 receptions (seventh-most nationally) for 1,154 yards and seven TDs. He has had five 100-yard games and four contests with double-digit receptions; Stewart has 40 catches in the past four games. Purdue has been solid against the pass this season, but the Cowboys’ passing offense is much better than any the Boilermakers have faced except Marshall’s (the Thundering Herd threw for 439 yards and five TDs in a 51-41 loss to Purdue).
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