Players to watch during NCAA bowl season

Players to watch during NCAA bowl season

The biggest stars in U.S. college football will be on display over the next few weeks as the 2019 college football season wraps up with its annual set of bowl games. Here are TSN's 10 players to watch during bowl season.

Chuba Hubbard

Oklahoma State - Sophomore - 6'1, 201 lbs
Sherwood Park, Alta. - Running back

309 carries, 1,936 yards, 21 TDs
Texas Bowl: vs. Texas A&M – Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:45 p.m. ET

Hubbard, who virtually came out of nowhere before taking the college football world by storm, had a season for the ages.

No Canadian had ever led Division 1 football in rushing yards until Hubbard did it this past season. His 1,936 rushing total — which included 10 straight games with over 100 yards on the ground — surpassed the totals put up by college football standouts and former Heisman Trophy winners Mark Ingram, Reggie Bush, Bo Jackson and Earl Campbell.

Hubbard, the Big 12 Conference’s offensive player of the year, has two more years of collegiate eligibility remaining, but on the heels of his stellar 2019 campaign, the star running back may very well look to take advantage of his success and enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

Chase Claypool

Notre Dame - Senior - 6'4, 229 lbs
Abbotsford, BC - Wide receiver

59 receptions, 891 yards, 12 TDs
Camping World Bowl: vs. Iowa State – Saturday, Dec. 28, at noon ET

After pretty modest production through the first three years of his career, Claypool had a breakout season for Notre Dame in 2019, leading the school in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. The big receiver’s touchdown total has him ranked in the top 10 in all of college football.

Claypool almost certainly will be playing professional football next season. He was listed as the Canadian Football League Scouting Bureau’s No. 2 prospect when its December rankings were released, but there’s good chance that the Abbotsford, B.C., native could be drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, as well. At the very least, he’ll likely get a shot to make an NFL team if he does go undrafted.

Neville Gallimore

Oklahoma - Senior - 6'2, 301 lbs
St. Catharines, Ont. - Defensive lineman

27 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal): vs. LSU – Saturday, Dec. 28, at 4 p.m. ET

Gallimore, who is a mountain of a man, is the anchor of Oklahoma’s defensive line. Though, his numbers are down from last season, Gallimore has still been a key contributor for Oklahoma’s defence, ranking third on the team in sacks and second in forced fumbles..

Gallimore was the CFL Scouting Bureau’s No. 1 prospect during their December rankings, but he’ll likely have an opportunity to make an NFL club, too.

After two straight trips to the Playoff without advancing to the National Championship, Gallimore’s Sooners will be looking for better results in 2019 as they face the No. 1-seeded LSU Tigers in the semfinals.

Nathan Rourke

Ohio - Senior - 6'1, 210 lbs
Oakville, Ont. - Quarterback

2,676 yards, 20 TDs, 5 interceptions; 780 rushing yards, 12 TDs
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: vs. Nevada – Friday, Jan. 3, at 3:30 p.m. ET

Rourke has been Ohio’s starting quarterback for the past three seasons. He’s a solid passer, but also possesses great skill when it comes to running the football. His 780 rushing yards this season rank just 43 yards behind the team’s leading rusher.

Ohio has had great success in bowl games with Rourke under centre, winning each of their bowl matchups the past two seasons.

Like the other Canadians mentioned, Rourke, too, will likely be in the professional ranks next season. He was the No. 3 rated prospect on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s December rankings, and given that he has previously participated in the highly regarded Manning Passing Academy, which is associated with famed football brothers Peyton and Eli, it would appear that Rourke may be on the NFL’s radar, too.

Jalen Hurts

Oklahoma - Senior - 6'2, 219 lbs
Houston, Texas - Quarterback

3,634 passing yards, 32 TDs, 7 interceptions; 1,255 rushing yards, 18 TDs
Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal): vs. LSU – Saturday, Dec. 28, at 4 p.m. ET

Hurts has been both a dynamic passer and runner this season, which perhaps makes him the most dangerous offensive player in all of college football. He’s had tremendous success in his lone season at Oklahoma, helping the program maintain a high standard of play following the departures of former Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyle Murray.

In addition to his impressive skillset, Hurts also has experience on his side. This year marks the quarterback’s fourth consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff — his first three came when he played for college football powerhouse Alabama, whom he won a national championship with and made three straight appearances with in the big game.

Expect to see Hurts playing professionally next season on Sundays, as the Heisman finalist is expected to be drafted somewhere within the early rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.

CeeDee Lamb

Oklahoma - Junior - 6'2, 191 lbs
Richmond, Texas - Wide receiver

58 receptions, 1,208 yards, 14 TDs
Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal): vs. LSU – Saturday, Dec. 28, at 4 p.m. ET

Lamb, who has been Hurts’ favourite receiving target this season, is arguably the most explosive playmaker in college football. He possesses the speed to blow by defenders, but he’s also extremely shifty and often leaves defenders looking silly as they struggle to attempt to tackle him.

In addition to catching passes, look out for Lamb on punt returns, too. He’s returned 25 of them this season, with a long of 46 yards..

Undoubtedly one of the best wide receivers in the NCAA, Lamb is expected to be selected early in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft should he declare.

Trevor Lawrence

Clemson - Sophomore - 6'6, 220 lbs
Cartersville, Ga - Quaterback

3,172 passing yards, 34 TDs, 8 interceptions; 407 rushing yards. 7 TDs
Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal): vs. Ohio State – Saturday, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m. ET

After leading Clemson to an undefeated regular-season campaign and an eventual win in the National Championship Game as a true freshman, some have argued that the quarterback’s play has regressed somewhat this season. Whether or not that’s true, what Lawrence does deserve a tremendous amount of credit for, however, is once again leading Clemson to a perfect regular-season record.

Lawrence was universally ranked as the No. 1 quarterback coming out of high school, and despite his perceived down season, he is still widely expected to be the first quarterback drafted should he declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, which would be the first year that he’s eligible to do so.

If Clemson is going to earn its fourth trip to the National Championship Game in the last five years and repeat as champions, Lawrence is going to have to lead the way for the Tigers.

Justin Fields

Ohio State - Sophomore - 6'3, 223 lbs
Kennesaw, Ga. - Quaterback

2,953 passing yards, 40 TDs, 1 interception; 471 rushing yards, 10 TDs
Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal): vs. Clemson – Saturday, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m. ET

After serving as a backup last season as a freshman with Georgia, Fields has become one of the biggest stars in college football. Taking over the No. 1 QB job from Dwayne Haskins, who was drafted in the first round of last year’s NFL draft, Fields has led the undefeated Buckeyes back to the Playoff for the first time since 2016.

A solid pivot both throwing and running, what has arguably been most impressive from Fields’ play this season has been his outstanding ability to limit turnovers. On this season, the first-year starter has somehow managed to throw only one interception.

The NFL will have to wait a little longer for Fields, though. As just a sophomore, the Heisman finalist won’t be eligible for the draft until 2021.

Chase Young

Ohio State - Junior - 6'5, 265 lbs
Hyattsville, Md. - Defensive end

44 tackles, 16.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles
Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal): vs. Clemson – Saturday, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m. ET

Ohio State has several players that are expected to play in the NFL, but Young stands head and shoulders above the rest. In fact, the massive defensive end is universally considered to be the best player in college football.

Despite being suspended two games this season for an NCAA violation, Young still managed to break Ohio State’s single-season sack record. Young’s stellar campaign saw him rack up multiple awards, including the Chuck Bednarik Award given to the college defensive player of the year. He was also a finalist for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

Young will still have to decide if he’s leaving Ohio State at the end of the season, but if he does, he’s expected to be the first non-QB to hear his name called at the draft.

Joe Burrow

LSU - Senior - 6'4, 216 lbs
Athens, Ohio - Quaterback

4,715 passing yards, 48 TDs, 6 interceptions; 289 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal): vs. Oklahoma – Saturday, Dec. 28, at 4 p.m. ET

Burrow, a fifth-year player, has been the biggest story in college football this season. After spending the first three years of his career with Ohio State, Burrow transferred to LSU a season ago and put up pedestrian numbers in his first go-around as a starter. His 2019 campaign has been a total 180 from the rest of his career.

This season Burrow has led LSU to an undefeated record and the No. 1 overall seed in the Playoff. Along the way, he’s racked up a ton of top college honours – including the most prestigious one of them all, the Heisman Trophy. Burrow is the first LSU quarterback to win the award and the first winner the school has had since 1959.

Burrow’s magical season is expected to end with the quarterback being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.