15 players to watch during bowl season
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Will Rosen be the No. 1 pick in next April’s draft? He just might be. The Cactus Bowl matchup against Kansas State will almost certainly be the last time we see the quarterback suit up for UCLA, though he’s saying it’s not a done deal yet. NFL scouts will have more or less solidified their opinions of him by this point, so the game will really be more about a big final sendoff in a Bruins uniform. It’s poised to be a very entertaining game between two explosive offenses, and Rosen will be right in the middle of whatever happens.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Will Love even play? Christian McCaffrey didn’t a year ago, and like McCaffrey, Love has played himself into the first round of the NFL Draft. If he does play, he’ll be set up for an exciting and intriguing matchup against Gary Patterson’s high-quality TCU defense in the Alamo Bowl. Love may still have a point to prove. He won’t hurt his stock by sitting out, but he may still have a bit of room to grow in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators.
McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF
We’re still trying to figure out how good UCF is thanks to their underwhelming strength of schedule. It’s hard to deny, though, that their sophomore quarterback has established himself as one of the best young signal-callers in the country. Milton threw for 35 touchdowns and rushed for seven more, leading the nation’s most potent offense to a 12-0 record. The perfect season remains in reach — a matchup with Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is an opportunity for him to show just how good he is. UCF may have been left out of the College Football Playoff, but this fun team will have a chance to make a real statement against a team that beat two CFP entrants.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Quarterback Riley Ferguson gets a lot of the hype, but Miller has played himself into the NFL — even if only as a second-day selection. The star receiver reeled in 17 touchdowns in 2017, racking up over 1,400 yards for the second consecutive season. Ferguson wouldn’t be nearly as good without him. Memphis could find itself in a Liberty Bowl shootout against Iowa State, which would be a fine opportunity for the senior receiver to put on one last show.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Underappreciated by virtue of playing at Houston, Oliver is evolving into one of the nation’s top players. He’s only a sophomore, so he has at least another year of school ahead of him. That’s good, though he’s already great, and he could really make a name for himself nationally in his junior year. He already collected 5.5 sacks in 2017, and he certainly has the ability to put together a performance in the Hawai’i Bowl against Fresno State that shines a spotlight on him nationally.
Malik Rosier, QB, Miami
Life comes at you fast. A few weeks ago, it looked like Rosier just might lead the revitalized Hurricanes to an unbeaten regular season and a spot in the College Football Playoff. After two awful games — including a benching against Pitt — the junior’s starting job is suddenly in question. Highly-touted freshman recruit N’Kosi Perry is lurking in the shadows, and Rosier will face a fight for his position next year. He could do a lot for himself with a strong performance in the Orange Bowl against a high-quality Wisconsin defense. The fight for his job really starts now.
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen was extremely highly-touted when the season started, being regularly mentioned in the same sentence as Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. His season was a huge disappointment, with only four 200-yard games and an AC joint injury that cost him the last two games of the season. His status for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Central Michigan is iffy right now — he says he will play only if he is 100 percent. NFL scouts still like him, but his stock has unquestionably fallen. A big performance would be in his best interest.
Darius Anderson, RB, TCU
TCU’s leading rusher was supposed to be done for the season after injuring his leg in the team’s Nov. 11 loss to Oklahoma, but coach Gary Patterson hasn’t ruled out Anderson suiting up for the team’s bowl game. Anderson has had some big performances this year, including a 160-yard, three-touchdown game against Oklahoma State. If he can play, it would set up an intriguing backfield matchup with Stanford’s Bryce Love in the Alamo Bowl.