The 50 Biggest Stars From The Bowls
Washington RB Chris Polk
Washington RB Chris Polk
Posted Jan 12, 2011

Who were the stars and the big winners from the bowl season? Which teams helped themselves the most, and which players stepped up and became the memorable playmakers? Richard Cirminiello breaks down the 50 headline-grabbers of the 2010-2011 postseason higlighting those who made the bowls memorable.

2010-2011 CFN Bowls

50 Biggest Stars ... Part 1

- 2010-2011 CFN Bowl Central
- 2010-2011 CFN All-Bowl Team & Top 50 Players

- 2010-2011 50 Biggest Stars - 1-25

50. Toledo RB Adonis Thomas
In a losing cause, Thomas was heroic for the Rockets in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, rushing for 193 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. He staked his team to an early two-touchdown lead and had a key run when Toledo drove for the go-ahead score late in the game. In both cases, however, his defense was unable to protect the cushion.

49. Air Force

For the second straight December, the Falcons clipped the wings of a more recognizable opponent, beating Georgia Tech in the Independence Bowl. While the offense never really got going in Shreveport, the defensive and special teams units excelled, keeping the Yellow Jackets off the scoreboard over the final three quarters.

48. Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong

To the naysayers, it was just a Beef O'Brady's Bowl victory over a Conference USA opponent. To a Cardinal team that wasn't supposed to play 13 games in 2010, it was a pretty significant step in Strong's debut at the program. If you caught how Louisville celebrated its come-from-behind win in St. Petersburg, you'd have a better understanding of just how important the game was to the staff's rebuilding plan.

47. Interim Head Coaches

Tom Matukewicz of Northern Illinois, Lance Guidry of Miami U., and Pitt's Phil Bennett had a couple of things in common this postseason. All were operating on an interim basis, realizing their head coaching stints were temporary. And all won their bowl games, the Humanitarian Bowl, Bowl, and BBVA Compass Bowl, respectively.

46. Troy QB Corey Robinson

USC was ineligible, so the boys from Alabama had to uphold the Troy empire this postseason. The Trojans steamrolled Ohio in the New Orleans Bowl, getting an MVP performance from their redshirt freshman hurler. Robinson threw for a bowl-record 387 yards and four touchdowns, going 32-of-42 as part of a 607-yard explosion. With great mechanics and three years left, he better start making room in the trophy case on campus.

45. Maryland RB Da'Rel Scott

One of many Terrapin stars to help send off Ralph Friedgen with a victory, Scott rushed for more than 200 yards, gutting the middle of the East Carolina defense for two long scores. It was an especially sweet Military Bowl victory for the Fridge, who was shown the door by the administration just a few weeks after being named 2010 ACC Coach of the Year.

44. Florida S Ahmad Black

A vastly underrated player for Urban Meyer over the past four seasons, Black gave his head coach a proper send-off in the Outback Bowl. Earning MVP honors in the Gators' 37-24 win over Penn State, making a team-high six tackles, one tackle for loss, and two interceptions. The final pick, with about a minute left, was taken back for an 80-yard touchdown, thwarting the Lions' comeback bid.

43. Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts

Potts finished his college career on a high note, leading the Red Raiders to a 45-38 win in the TicketCity Bowl over Northwestern. Looking sharp in Dallas for the second time this season, he went 43-of-56 for 369 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception, hooking up liberally with long-time friend Lyle Leong.

42. The Syracuse Offense

The frosty New York weather and slick Yankee Stadium track couldn't keep the Orange from a surprise outburst. In a better-than-expected Pinstripe Bowl, Syracuse piled up a season-high and school bowl-record 498 yards for its first postseason win in nine years. The balanced production included 198 rushing yards and two scores from RB Delone Carter and three long touchdown passes from Ryan Nassib to Marcus Sales.

41. The Boise State Defense

The Broncos snapped Utah's nine-game postseason winning streak in the Maaco Bowl, thanks in large part to the play of the defense. Sure, it helped that QB Jordan Wynn was unavailable and Terrance Cain was under center, but that couldn't diminish the accomplishment. Boise allowed just 200 yards and eight first downs, holding the Utes off the scoreboard over the final three quarters.

40. BYU's Frosh Connection

In the New Mexico Bowl, true freshman Jake Heaps threw four touchdown passes, three to redshirt freshman Cody Hoffman, in a prelude to the next few seasons in Provo. The 52-24 rout of UTEP was an ideal capper for a resilient bunch of Cougars, who started 2-5, yet finished by winning 5-of-6 games.

39. The NC State Defense

Disruptive from the opening kickoff of the Champs Sports Bowl, the Wolfpack never trailed, keeping West Virginia off the scoreboard for the final 32 minutes. LB Nate Irving and the rest of the front seven built a canopy above the head of QB Geno Smith, pressuring him all night and creating five turnovers. The Mountaineers went an entire game without once getting into the NC State red zone.

38. San Diego State

The Aztecs put an exclamation point on their best season in a generation, racing past Navy, 35-14, in the Poinsettia Bowl. At 9-4 under Brady Hoke, it was the program's most wins since 1977 and its first winning season in a dozen years. San Diego State now has two bowl victories in its history, the other coming over Boston University in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl.

37. The Oklahoma State Defense

Saving its best game of the season for the Alamo Bowl, the Cowboy D was unusually suffocating in San Antonio. Led by LB Orie Lemon's 14 stops, it not only kept Arizona out of the end zone over the final 50 minutes, but also made things happen with big plays. Oklahoma State got to Nick Foles five times, picked off three of his passes, and recovered a fumble.

36. Tulsa Linebackers

The Golden Hurricane didn't just win a bowl game on Christmas Eve. It defeated ranked Hawaii in its own backyard in the Hawaii Bowl, 62-35. The offense rolled for 531 yards and seven touchdowns, but the D also chipped in with a slew of big plays. Linebackers Curnelius Arnick and Shawn Jackson were the main heroes, combining for 18 tackles, five sacks, two picks, and an Arnick touchdown on a 54-yard interception return.

35. Northern Illinois

No coach, no problem. With Jerry Kill off to Minnesota and interim head coach Tom Matukewicz calling the shots, the Huskies dominated Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl, 40-17, winning a school-record 11th game of the year. QB Chandler Harnish was typically sharp running the offense, and DE Jake Coffman was the defensive star, getting 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and a forced fumble.

34. Notre Dame

By easily disposing of Miami in the Sun Bowl, 33-17, the Irish finished a season on a four-game winning streak for the first time since 1992. Notre Dame coasted after opening up a 27-0 lead, picking off four Hurricane passes, including three from S Harrison Smith, and getting balanced production out of the offense.

33. North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant

In a wild and entertaining Music City Bowl, Sturdivant was one of the key figures in the Heels' double-overtime victory against neighboring Tennessee. The talented senior had a team-high dozen tackles, two stops for loss, and a sack, while picking off Tyler Bray in the final frame to seal the 30-27 win.

32. Washington RB Chris Polk

The offensive sparkplug of the Huskies' Holiday Bowl upset of Nebraska, Polk ran 34 times for 177 yards and a touchdown. He performed with a workhorse mentality throughout the game, hitting the hole with authority and often bouncing off Huskers defenders. On a night when U-Dub was the far more physical team, he set the tone on offense.

31. South Florida

The Bulls secured their fifth straight eight-win season and first bowl victory over a team from a BCS conference, knocking off Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. It also gave the program a pair of wins over ACC opponents in the last three games, beating Miami in November. Leading the way was QB B.J. Daniels, who returned form injury to go 20-of-27 through the air and account for three touchdowns.

30. Mississippi State QB Chris Relf

Alright, so his career day came against the feeble Michigan D, but it was still plenty impressive. Spearheading a 52-point explosion in the Gator Bowl, Relf went 18-of-23 for 281 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception, adding 30 yards and another score on the ground. The junior was in complete control, nicely setting the table for his final year in Starkville.

29. Illinois

In a Texas Bowl that was supposed to be a toss-up game, the Illini simply tossed around Baylor, 38-14, in an end-to-end rout. While RB Mikel Leshoure was the MVP, this was a total team effort that included exceptional line play and a crisp, 18-of-23 passing effort from redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase. On defense, Illinois was dominant, getting constant pressure from DT Corey Liuget and allowing the Bears to convert just 2-of-10 third down attempts.

28. Tulsa WR Damaris Johnson

Johnson didn't just back into the NCAA record books during the Hawaii Bowl. He broke through with the same electricity that's become his trademark over the last three seasons. He accounted for a career-high 326 yards in a Hurricane rout, establishing a new record for career all-purpose yards. He rushed for 98 yards and a score, caught four passes for 101 yards and another touchdown, and had 127 yards in the return game.

27. Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon

Blackmon wrapped up one of the great seasons ever for a receiver with typical flair, catching nine balls for 117 yards and two scores in the Cowboys' Alamo Bowl destruction of Arizona. It was his 12th consecutive game with at least one touchdown and 100 yards receiving, one of many records the sophomore established this season.

26. LSU WR Terrence Toliver

One of the heroes of the Tigers' offensive outburst in the Cotton Bowl, Toliver had a career game at the expense of the Texas A&M secondary. The senior, who grew up just 45 miles from the Aggie campus, caught five of Jordan Jefferson's passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns.

- 2010-2011 50 Biggest Stars - 1-25