Mississippi State Spring Football Game 2017: 5 Things To Watch For

Here's a breakdown of the key players and storylines for every team in a bowl game.

Writeups by Kyle Bonagura, David M. Hale, Sam Khan, Jr., Jake Trotter and Tom VanHaaren.

College Football Playoff

College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

5 p.m., ESPN

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

Oklahoma

Key player: Baker Mayfield is the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman and is arguably the greatest quarterback in Oklahoma history.

Storyline to watch: With Mayfield behind center, the Sooners can score on anybody. But can they play enough defense to give Mayfield a chance?

Georgia

Key player: Nick Chubb, the star senior running back, is the one who makes the Dawgs' offense go.

Storyline to watch: Freshman QB Jake Fromm has acquitted himself well throughout the season, but now the stakes are raised. How will he handle the high-pressure situations that lie ahead?


College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl

No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson

8:45 p.m., ESPN

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

Clemson

Key player: QB Kelly Bryant. What Bryant has done working in the long shadow of Deshaun Watson this season is nothing short of miraculous, but for all the success, he has been inconsistent as a downfield thrower. Bryant will need to be at his best for Clemson's offense to be balanced and effective.

Storyline to watch: It's Clemson's third straight trip to the playoff, but this version has a far different cast. Are the Tigers new stars able to handle the spotlight as well as the old ones did?

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After getting the Tide to the title game last year, can QB Jalen Hurts help them win it all this year? Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama

Key player: QB Jalen Hurts, who will need to throw the ball downfield in order for the Tide to win another championship.

Storyline to watch: The Crimson Tide got a mulligan, but can they capitalize? Their flaws were evident in the Iron Bowl; Nick Saban & Co. have a few weeks to correct them in order to get to a third straight championship game.


Dec. 16

Celebration Bowl

North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling

Noon, ABC

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

North Carolina A&T

Key player: Quarterback Lamar Raynard has thrown for 2,707 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season.

Storyline to watch: This team is undefeated after beating NC Central 24-10 in the final game of the regular season. Finishing the entire season without a loss would be quite the feat.

Grambling

Key player: Linebacer De'Arius Christmas was named SWAC player of the year after tallying 77 total tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss.

Storyline to watch: This team lost its first game of the season to Tulane and has won every game since, including the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game. Can they win 12 games in a conference that doesn't have any other teams with more than seven wins?


R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Troy vs. North Texas

1 p.m., ESPN

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

Troy

Key player: QB Brandon Silvers, who is third among active players in completions (922) and sixth in passing yards (10,133).

Storyline to watch: This will be the last game for Silvers, who has been the Trojans' starting quarterback since he was a freshman, missing only two games in his career.

North Texas

Key player: Running back Jeffery Wilson has rushed for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns but was injured late in the season.

Storyline to watch: Wilson might not be healthy by the time the bowl game rolls around, which would be a huge blow to this offense.


AutoNation Cure Bowl

Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

2:30 p.m., CBSSN

Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

Western Kentucky

Key player: Quarterback Mike White has 3,826 passing yards on the season, with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Storyline to watch: After an 11-3 season in 2016 with head coach Jeff Brohm but going 6-6 this season with Brohm at Purdue, this team needs to find its way back without Brohm.

Georgia State

Key player: WR Penny Hart. The sophomore wide receiver led the way with 1,094 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Storyline to watch: The Panthers have turned in a solid first season for new head coach Shawn Elliott, making a bowl game for just the second time ever.


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Oregon RB Royce Freeman looks to end his Ducks career in style against Boise State. Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire

Las Vegas Bowl

No. 25 Boise State vs. Oregon

3:30 p.m., ABC

Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

Boise State

Key player: LB Leighton Vander Esch. The Mountain West defensive player of the year was third in the conference with 113 tackles and finished with 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Storyline to watch: The Broncos' bowl streak has reached 16 straight seasons, which is the longest among Group of 5 programs and trails only Florida State (36), Virginia Tech (25), Georgia (21), Oklahoma (19) and LSU (18) overall.

Oregon

Key player: QB Justin Herbert. Has any team in the country been affected more by the presence of one player? With him, the Ducks are 6-1. Without him, they're 1-4.

Storyline to watch: With coach Willie Taggart's name caught up in job speculation, how will that affect the team?


GILDAN New Mexico Bowl

Marshall vs. Colorado State

4:30 p.m., ESPN

Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Marshall

Key player: Linebacker Chase Hancock leads the team in total tackles and tackles for loss on the season.

Storyline to watch: Marshall went 13-1 in 2014 and 10-3 in 2015, but then won only three games in 2016 and seven this season. Can this team continue to push back toward the 10-win range?

Colorado State

Key player: WR Michael Gallup. A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver, Gallup ranked third nationally in receptions (94) and fourth in receiving yards (1,345) during the regular season.

Storyline to watch: Can the Rams avoid three straight 7-6 seasons under coach Mike Bobo's watch? This is a program that has the infrastructure to be better than that.


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

8 p.m., ESPN

Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama

Middle Tennessee

Key player: Wide receiver Ty Lee had 916 receiving yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Storyline to watch: This team is bowl eligible for the sixth year in a row, but it has been right around 6-6 the past few seasons. Can the Blue Raiders get past eight wins next season, or is this who they are?

Arkansas State

Key player: DE Ja'Von Rolland-Jones is a fierce pass rusher who could change a game in a hurry.

Storyline to watch: Rolland-Jones is closing in on the FBS career sack record. Going into the bowl game, he needs just one to break the mark.


Dec. 19

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl

Akron vs. Florida Atlantic

7 p.m., ESPN

Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida

Akron

Key player: Linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III leads the team with 118 total tackles and also has five sacks on the season.

Storyline to watch: Who gets the job done at quarterback? The Zips started freshman Kato Nelson in the MAC championship game, but Woodson came in to relieve him in the game.

Florida Atlantic

Key player: Running back Devin Singletary has more than 1,600 rushing yards on the season and has been a catalyst to the Owls' offense.

Storyline to watch: Lane Kiffin is showing he has what it takes to be a head coach and build a consistent program.


Dec. 20

DXL Frisco Bowl

Louisiana Tech vs. SMU

8 p.m., ESPN

Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

Louisiana Tech

Key player: Freshman defensive back Amik Robertson has four interceptions, 58 tackles, six pass breakups, two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss this season.

Storyline to watch: Many people didn't think Louisiana Tech, which finished 6-6 after winning its final two regular-season games, would even make it to a bowl game. Can the Bulldogs show that they belong?

SMU

Key player: Receiver Trey Quinn is the Mustangs' safety net -- a go-to weapon on offense who pairs perfectly with big-play threat Courtland Sutton. The two each corralled more than 1,000 yards through the air and each finished with 12 touchdowns.

Storyline to watch: Can the defense make strides before the bowl? SMU has scored plenty this year, but keeping the opponent out of the end zone is another story. The Mustangs allowed at least 30 points in each of their final five games.


Dec. 21

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Temple vs. FIU

8 p.m., ESPN

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

Temple

Key player: QB Frank Nutile didn't get a real shot at the starting job until late October, but his arrival completely transformed the Temple offense. Aside from struggles against UCF, he was virtually unstoppable down the stretch as Temple finished by winning three of four.

Storyline to watch: For a team that looked lost at the end of September, coach Geoff Collins righted the ship -- and the Owls now look like they have real direction.

FIU

Key player: Defensive end Fermin Silva has seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss on the season.

Storyline to watch: Coach Butch Davis seems to have the Golden Panthers on the right track. Can they continue that momentum headed into next season?


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In the program's first year back, Bill Clark has guided UAB to a bowl game. Matt Bush/USA TODAY Sports

Dec. 22

Bahamas Bowl

UAB vs. Ohio

12:30 p.m., ESPN

Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas

UAB

Key player: Running back Spencer Brown (1,292 rushing yards) has shown why UAB should continue to have a football program, with an opportunity to break a Conference USA freshman rushing record.

Storyline to watch: If UAB can find a way to beat Ohio and get to nine wins on the season in its first season back, that is a storyline in itself.

Ohio

Key player: Quarterback Nathan Rourke is second in the nation in rushing touchdowns (21), first among quarterbacks.

Storyline to watch: Ohio missed out on the MAC championship game, losing its final two games of the regular season, so this team needs to respond in the bowl game to finish out the season strong.


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Central Michigan vs. Wyoming

4 p.m., ESPN

Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

Central Michigan

Key player: Wide receiver Corey Willis has had a big hand in CMU's season, passing former Central Michigan receiver Antonio Brown on the school's all-time touchdown reception list, now sitting at third with 23 TD catches.

Storyline to watch: Quarterback Shane Morris has a chance to eclipse 3,000 passing yards on the season, finishing his college career on the right foot after transferring from a tumultuous tenure at Michigan.

Wyoming

Key player: QB Josh Allen. This will be Allen's last audition for NFL scouts until the scouting combine. He missed the final two games of the regular season, but is expected to be healthy enough to play in the bowl.

Storyline to watch: Outside of Wyoming fans, it's all about Allen. He was billed as a potential first-round pick, but surpassed the 200-yard mark onlyfour times this season.


Dec. 23

Birmingham Bowl

Texas Tech vs. South Florida

Noon, ESPN

Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Texas Tech

Key player: Keke Coutee is one of the most electric players in the country. He is sixth nationally with 1,242 receiving yards.

Storyline to watch: The Red Raiders tried lefty McLane Carter at quarterback against Texas before going back to senior Nic Shimonek. It will be interesting to see if Tech goes with a timeshare at quarterback again in the bowl. Or, if Shimonek finishes off his career as the full-time guy.

South Florida

Key player: QB Quinton Flowers is the engine that makes USF go, throwing for 21 touchdowns and rushing for 10 more in a stellar senior season.

Storyline to watch: Flowers will depart as likely the best quarterback in school history, and his final send-off should be a celebration of a stellar career as much as any last chance for highlights.


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

San Diego State vs. Army

3:30 p.m., ESPN

Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

San Diego State

Key player: RB Rashaad Penny. After leading the nation in rushing during the regular season (2,027 yards), Penny belongs in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Storyline to watch: If the Aztecs win their bowl game, they'll be one of just six teams in the country with three straight 11-win seasons along with Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Army

Key player: Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is the nation's seventh-leading rusher with 1,472 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Storyline to watch: Army has the nation's top rushing offense, but can the Black Knights pop a big pass? They have completed only 18 passes as a team all season.


Dollar General Bowl

Appalachian State vs. Toledo

7 p.m., ESPN

Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama

Appalachian State

Key player: QB Taylor Lamb has thrown for 2,606 yards and and 27 touchdowns, against only six interceptions this season.

Storyline to watch: No active FBS quarterback has played more games than Lamb's 49. The bowl game will be his 50th, concluding an impressive career that includes more than 9,000 passing yards.

Toledo

Key player: QB Logan Woodside already has more than 3,400 yards passing in 2017 and has been a big part of Toledo's success this season.

Storyline to watch: Toledo finished first in the MAC West and can solidify an excellent season with a win in its bowl game.


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Sophomore DL Ed Oliver is a game-changer for the Cougars. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Dec. 24

Hawai'i Bowl

Fresno State vs. Houston

8:30 p.m., ESPN

Hawaiian Tel Federal Credit Union Field at Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

Fresno State

Key player: LB Jeffrey Allison. Allison was the Bulldogs' lone first-team all-conference honoree after finishing the regular season with 103 tackles.

Storyline to watch: Jeff Tedford deserves heavy consideration for national Coach of the Year honors after turning a 1-11 team last season into one of the best Group of 5 squads in the country this season.

Houston

Key player: DT Ed Oliver is one of the country's top interior linemen, wrapping the regular season with 14.5 tackles for loss.

Storyline to watch: It has been a crazy year for the Houston quarterbacks, with Kyle Allen, Kyle Postma and D'Eriq King all starting games. King finished the season as the starter, and the bowl game might be his chance to put one final stamp on the job heading into 2018.


Dec. 26

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

Utah vs. West Virginia

1:30 p.m., ESPN

Cotton Bowl, Dallas

Utah

Key player: RB Zack Moss. Utah's formula for success: Give the ball to Moss. In the four games he received at least 20 carries, the Utes were 3-1, including a 34-13 win against Colorado when he ran for 196 yards.

Storyline to watch: Is Kyle Whittingham the greatest bowl coach of all-time? OK, maybe that's a stretch, but he's 10-1 since 2004.

West Virginia

Key player: David Sills V is the Biletnikoff finalist who leads the country with 18 touchdown catches. Nobody else has more than 14.

Storyline to watch: Quarterback Will Grier broke the middle finger in his throwing hand on the next-to-last game of the season. There's a slim chance he could be back for the bowl game after undergoing successful surgery. Otherwise, the Mountaineers will start Chris Chugunov.


Quick Lane Bowl

Duke vs. Northern Illinois

5:15 p.m., ESPN

Ford Field, Detroit

Duke

Key player: The running backs. As much as QB Daniel Jones has been the centerpiece of the offense, the key to Duke's late-season resurgence was a more balanced attack with Brittain Brown and Shaun Wilson carrying 53 times over the final two regular-season games.

Storyline to watch: Despite some key injuries, Duke's defense finished strong, and Jim Knowles' group allowed more than 30 points just once. Continuing to build on that side of the ball will be a key factor in the bowl game.

Northern Illinois

Key player: Defensive end Sutton Smith has accumulated 28.5 tackles for loss and 14 total sacks on the season.

Storyline to watch: After a disappointing 5-7 season in 2016, Northern Illinois and head coach Rod Carey were able to win eight games this season. Can the Huskies continue to build on that and push past this level of success?


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This will likely be the last chance to catch Josh Rosen in a UCLA uniform before he heads off to the NFL draft. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Cactus Bowl

Kansas State vs. UCLA

9 p.m., ESPN

Chase Field, Phoenix

Kansas State

Key player: Since taking over, true freshman QB Skylar Thompson keyed K-State's late-season surge to get them bowl eligible. He completed 74 percent of his passes in wins over Oklahoma State and Iowa State.

Storyline to watch: Will this be the time Bill Snyder retires? Or at 78, will he coach through the bowl into another season?

UCLA

Key player: QB Josh Rosen. The clear assumption is that this will be his final game at UCLA. Can he finish his career on a high note?

Storyline to watch: New coach Chip Kelly will let Jedd Fisch run the show through the game, but Kelly's impact on the program -- especially in recruiting-- will be closely monitored.


Dec. 27

Walk-On's Independence Bowl

Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State

1:30 p.m., ESPN

Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana

Southern Mississippi

Key player: Running back Ito Smith has 13 rushing touchdowns on the season, while the rest of the running back corps has just five.

Storyline to watch: Can Smith power the offense after rushing for 453 yards and six touchdowns in the final three games.

Florida State

Key player: RB Cam Akers is a weapon, even if the rest of Florida State's offense has been a mixed bag this year. Akers capped the regular season with 117 yards and 2 TDs, teaming with Jacques Patrick for a master rushing game.

Storyline to watch: If the Louisiana-Monroe finale was the official first game without Jimbo Fisher, the bowl feels more like a turning of the page. The team will have had time to process Fisher's departure, practice without him and play a game in which it knew all along it would have a new coach.


New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Iowa vs. Boston College

5:15 p.m., ESPN

Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

Iowa

Key player: Linebacker Josey Jewell leads the Big Ten in tackles and is ranked No. 3 nationally. Jewell has been a stalwart for that defense all season.

Storyline to watch: Sophomore QB Nate Stanley and sophomore TE Noah Fant developed a good rapport throughout the season. Can those two build on that with extra practice and show a glimpse of what next season can look like?

Boston College

Key player: RB A.J. Dillon. BC's emergence coincides with that of Dillon, the freshman tailback who racked up 1,099 yards over his final six games.

Storyline to watch: Harold Landry didn't play in the final four games of the regular season because of injury, but a strong bowl performance could push the senior defensive end back into the discussion as a potential first-round draft pick.


Foster Farms Bowl

Arizona vs. Purdue

8:30 p.m., FOX

Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Arizona

Key player: QB Khalil Tate. Tate was one of the best stories in college football this season and his health is paramount to the Wildcats' success.

Storyline to watch: Coach Rich Rodriguez needs to do the right thing and let Gerhard de Beer punt. This is his last opportunity. It needs to happen.

Purdue

Key player: Quarterback Elijah Sindelar has been a big part of the Boilermakers' wins over Iowa and Indiana to finish the season.

Storyline to watch: Quarterback David Blough was injured late in the season and is out for the remainder, which means Sindelar has the reins and needs to keep command of the ship.


Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

Texas vs. Missouri

9 p.m., ESPN

NRG Stadium, Houston

Texas

Key player: Defensive tackle Poona Ford plugging up the middle has given the Longhorns the flexibility to drop more players in coverage, which has enhanced the Texas pass defense.

Storyline to watch: True freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger has been up and down all season. Finishing on a high note would help him through the offseason going into 2018.

Missouri

Key player: QB Drew Lock put up monster numbers for a surprisingly high-powered Mizzou offense.

Storyline to watch: The Tigers have scored at least 45 points in every game during their current six-game winning streak. Can they reach that mark again?


Dec. 28

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

Virginia vs. Navy

1:30 p.m. ESPN

Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland

Virginia

Key player: LB Micah Kiser is the engine that drives this team. He finished the regular season with 132 tackles, 9.5 for a loss and 5.0 sacks -- his third straight season with at least 100/9/5 line.

Storyline to watch: Can the Cavaliers get the ground game going? The offense has been a large dose of quarterback Kurt Benkert and not much else this season.

Navy

Key player: QB Zach Abey was Navy's biggest offensive threat, rushing 278 times for 1,322 yards and racking up 22 total touchdowns.

Storyline to watch: At the midpoint of the season, Navy looked like it might be a legitimate New Year's Six contender. Things fell apart down the stretch, as the Mids lost five of their final six.


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After talking with Tennessee about its open job, Mike Gundy is back leading the Cowboys into bowl season. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Camping World Bowl

No. 22 Virginia Tech vs. No. 19 Oklahoma State

5:15 p.m., ESPN

Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

Virginia Tech

Key player: QB Josh Jackson looked like an emerging star for the Hokies for two months, but he fell on hard times down the stretch, averaging just 6 yards per pass with two touchdown passes and four interceptions in November. Can he get back to his early success after some time to regroup?

Storyline to watch: Virginia Tech was synonymous with 10-win seasons for the better part of two decades under Frank Beamer, and Justin Fuente now has a chance to get to 10 victories for the second straight season with a win.

Oklahoma State

Key player: Mike Gundy said quarterback Mason Rudolph is the school's most accomplished player since 1988 Heisman winner Barry Sanders. Rudolph has capped his fabulous career by leading the nation in passing.

Storyline to watch: After flirting with Tennessee, Gundy is back at Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys will look to put a disappointing end to the season behind them.


Valero Alamo Bowl

No. 13 Stanford vs. No. 15 TCU

9 p.m., ESPN

Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

Stanford

Key player: RB Bryce Love. The Heisman Trophy candidate ran for 1,848 yards in 11 games and made for a seamless transition from Christian McCaffrey.

Storyline to watch: One thing bowl officials are worried about is if more star players will start sitting out after McCaffrey did last year. Will Love follow suit?

TCU

Key player: After initially being ruled out for the season, coach Gary Patterson suggested RB Darius Anderson could return for the bowl from right leg injury. He's a home run threat out of the backfield.

Storyline to watch: Will the Horned Frogs go exclusively with Kenny Hill at QB? Or will they give snaps to their QB of the future, freshman Shawn Robinson, provided that he's healthy again?


San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Washington State vs. Michigan State

9 p.m., FOX

SDCCU Stadium, San Diego

Washington State

Key player: QB Luke Falk. In Wazzu's three loses, Falk threw two touchdown passes, eight interceptions and was pulled in the loss to Arizona. As he goes, so do the Cougars.

Storyline to watch: The Cougars will play the first half with arguably their best player, defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa, who was ejected from the Apple Cup because of a targeting penalty.

Michigan State

Key player: Quarterback Brian Lewerke has had an excellent season for the Spartans and is a big key to the offense.

Storyline to watch: This is a young Michigan State team, so if they can make a statement in this bowl game, with a few extra practices, there could be even more optimism for next season.


Dec. 29

Belk Bowl

Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

1 p.m. ESPN

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Wake Forest

Key player: QB John Wolford, playing in his final college game, can go out with a bang. He was among the most effective quarterbacks in college football this season, throwing for 25 touchdowns and adding 10 more on the ground.

Storyline to watch: Star defensive end Duke Ejiofor has been exceptional for the Deacons, but he was dinged up to end the season, finishing with just two tackles total in his final three regular-season games. The bowl could be a chance for him to shine one last time.

Texas A&M

Key player: WR Christian Kirk, the Aggies' dynamic wide receiver and returner, is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball.

Storyline to watch: Will it be the last game in maroon-and-white for Kirk? The junior receiver, who's one of the best in the nation and one of the best in school history, is draft eligible. Even if he does declare for the NFL draft, Kirk says he'll play in the bowl game.


Hyundai Sun Bowl

No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State

3 p.m., CBS

Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas

NC State

Key player: DE Bradley Chubb. Arguably the best pass-rusher in the country, NC State's bowl game provides Chubb with one last opportunity to wow pro scouts before likely becoming a first-round pick in the spring.

Storyline to watch: Will NC State's season end on a high note? There have been plenty of ups and downs for the Wolfpack during a season when they appeared poised to challenge for the division, but still lost critical games to Clemson, South Carolina and Notre Dame.

Arizona State

Key player: LB Christian Sam. Not only does Sam lead the Pac-12 in tackles (127), he has 26 more than the next guy on the list.

Storyline to watch: It's a potentially awkward few weeks upcoming as Todd Graham stays on board to coach his team one more time.


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Kentucky vs. Northwestern

4:30 p.m., ESPN

Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Kentucky

Key player: RB Benny Snell Jr. can keep the Wildcats in games with his running ability.

Storyline to watch: The Wildcats are looking for something positive after a rough November. After a 6-2 start, the Wildcats lost three of their past four and were dominated by rival Louisville in the regular-season finale.

Northwestern

Key player: Linebacker Paddy Fisher has been all over the field for the Wildcats this season, leading the team with 110 total tackles.

Storyline to watch: There are a lot of what-ifs this season for Northwestern, so it will be interesting to see if they can show consistency against a good team.


NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Utah State vs. New Mexico State

5:30 p.m., CBSSN

Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona

Utah State

Key player: CB Jalen Davis. Davis led the Mountain West with five interceptions and returned three of them for touchdowns.

Storyline to watch: Under coach Matt Wells, Utah State went from 10 wins to six wins to three wins before bouncing back to reach this bowl at 6-6. Wells needs this win to reinforce that the program is back on the uptick.

New Mexico State

Key player: Quarterback Tyler Rogers came back from injury to throw for 451 yards and led New Mexico State on the game-winning drive against South Alabama to make the Aggies bowl eligible.

Storyline to watch: The Aggies haven't been to a bowl since 1960. That was the longest active bowl drought in the FBS. This will be a big moment for New Mexico State.


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Sam Darnold got plenty of help from teammate Ronald Jones II (23 carries, 116 yards and two touchdowns) in USC's win over Stanford. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State

8:30 p.m., ESPN

AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

USC

Key player: RB Ronald Jones II has become the rare USC player who has been able to fly under the national radar. In the last four regular-season games, he rushed for 674 yards.

Storyline to watch: Will this be the last time QB Sam Darnold suits up for the Trojans? It's likely, but he still has two years of eligibility left should he want to return.

Ohio State

Key player: Running back J.K. Dobbins. It would be easy to say quarterback J.T. Barrett, but backup Dwayne Haskins proved he is capable of running the offense against Michigan, so Dobbins gets the nod.

Storyline to watch: The storyline has become Tennessee's involvement with defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Will that become a distraction if other schools reach out?


Dec. 30

TaxSlayer Bowl

Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State

Noon, ESPN

EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

Louisville

Key player: QB Lamar Jackson. Who else? Jackson turned in a second-straight season with Heisman-caliber numbers, and after struggling in last season's bowl, he'll be out to add one more highlight to his resume.

Storyline to watch: This could well be the final college game for Jackson, one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in a generation. Though he has been a divisive figure among some fan bases, it has been worth tuning in every week to see what he'll do.

Mississippi State

Key player: RB Aeris Williams. Without QB Nick Fitzgerald playing, it will be on Williams to lead the offense.

Storyline to watch: How will the Bulldogs fare without their head coach and star quarterback? Dan Mullen left and Fitzgerald is injured. Williams, a 1,019-yard rusher, needs to have a big game.


AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis

12:30 p.m., ABC

Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee

Iowa State

Key player: Senior wideout Allen Lazard, one of the most accomplished players in school history, will play his final game for the Cyclones.

Storyline to watch: Iowa State is the only remaining FBS team without a fumble this season. No team has ever gone through an entire year without losing at least one fumble.

Memphis

Key player: WR Anthony Miller is the lesser hyped half of Memphis' dynamic passing tandem with QB Riley Ferguson, but Miller's performance has helped Ferguson flourish. He enters bowl season with 1,407 yards and 17 touchdowns, tied for the second most nationally.

Storyline to watch: Ferguson has been the engine behind the Memphis offense, and he remains the biggest storyline. The Tigers finished the regular season by topping 50 points in three of their last four, and Ferguson will look to wrap up his career with another scoring outburst in the bowl game.


PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State

4 p.m., ESPN

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Washington

Key player: DL Vita Vea. One of the best defensive linemen in the country, he is a likely first-round pick and a potential All-American.

Storyline to watch: Will this be RB Myles Gaskin's final game for the Huskies? He's rushed for 1,200-plus yards in three straight seasons.

Penn State

Key player: Running back Saquon Barkley, who saw his Heisman campaign derailed but is still one of the nation's most explosive players.

Storyline to watch: Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead took the head coaching job at Mississippi State, which will have a big impact on Penn State's offense going forward.


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Can freshman Jonathan Taylor run Wisconsin past Miami? Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire

Capital One Orange Bowl

No. 10 Miami vs. No. 6 Wisconsin

8 p.m., ESPN

Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Miami

Key player: RB Travis Homer. The ground game is essential for the Hurricanes, who rushed for less than 3 yards per carry over their past two games, both losses. Homer had just 41 yards on 14 carries against Clemson, but he has also shown he's dangerous when given room to run. With Miami's receiving corps banged up, it'll be a necessity this time around.

Storyline to watch: What happens at QB? Malik Rosier ended the year with some disastrous performances, and the assumption from Miami fans is that the Canes may look in a different direction in 2018. But Rosier has a chance to make a statement before that debate shifts into high gear.

Wisconsin

Key player: Running back Jonathan Taylor was third in rushing yards during the regular season and has been a big part of Wisconsin's success this season.

Storyline to watch: The Badgers have dealt with injuries all season, so health is the biggest storyline. If Wisconsin can get some of the injured players back on the field, they will be even more dangerous.


Jan. 1

Outback Bowl

Michigan vs. South Carolina

Noon, ESPN2

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Michigan

Key player: Quarterback Brandon Peters' play will be important for Michigan's offense as it struggled against Ohio State without him.

Storyline to watch: Peters sustained a concussion in the game against Wisconsin, so it's still unknown when his symptoms will subside. Outside of Peters, will former starter Wilton Speight be completely healthy to finish out his Michigan career?

South Carolina

Key player: QB Jake Bentley. When he's on, South Carolina can get on a roll.

Storyline to watch: Can Bentley take better care of the football? The sophomore has thrown seven interceptions in the Gamecocks' past four games after throwing just four in the first eight.


Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

No. 12 UCF vs. No. 7 Auburn

12:30 p.m., ESPN

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

UCF

Key player: QB McKenzie Milton emerged as one of the best players in the country, and he'll be the driving force behind UCF's offense, which led the nation in scoring during the regular season.

Storyline to watch: UCF is good. That was never in debate. But how good? The schedule made it tough to tell, and the selection committee clearly had its doubts. How will they fare with coach Scott Frost taking the Nebraska job?

Notre Dame

Key player: Running back Josh Adams was at one point in the Heisman conversation. He has rushed for 1,386 yards this season.

Storyline to watch: Can Adams, quarterback Brandon Wimbush and the Notre Dame offense get back on the track? After dominating for much of the season, the Irish failed to do much of anything in late-season losses to Miami and Stanford.

LSU

Key player: RB Derrius Guice is as talented a running back as there is in college football.

Storyline to watch: This is probably the last game for Guice, who coach Ed Orgeron said is likely to declare for the draft after the season.

Source : http://www.espn.co.uk/college-football/story/_/id/21641296/ultimate-college-football-bowl-game-preview

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