The 50 Biggest Stars From The Bowls, Part 2
Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard
Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard
Posted Jan 12, 2011

Who were the hot teams and players to come out of the bowls?

2010-2011 CFN Bowls

50 Biggest Stars ... Part 2

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

- 2010-2011 50 Biggest Stars - 26-50

25. Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw

The Tide got myriad defensive contributions in the Capital One Bowl, but none stood out more than Upshaw's. He was a force coming off the edge on blitzes, making five tackles, three tackles for loss, a pair of sacks, and a forced fumble. That forced fumble on QB Kirk Cousins knocked Michigan State completely out of the red zone and changed the momentum of the game.

24. LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu

Quickly emerging as a household name, Mathieu is on his way to becoming one of the nation's best young defensive playmakers. Just a rookie, he made Texas A&M dizzy in the Cotton Bowl, making seven tackles, a sack, a beautiful pick, and recovering one of his two forced fumbles. Once CB Patrick Peterson departs, he becomes the next show-stopper of the secondary for the Tigers.

23. Oklahoma's Big 3

As expected, the Sooners' primary weapons on offense were way too much for Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl, fueling a lopsided 48-20 victory. QB Landry Jones was on target, going 34-of-49 for 429 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick. As usual, he connected early and often with WR Ryan Broyles, who caught 13 balls for 170 yards and one of those scores. RB Demarco Murray chipped in with 93 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

22. Florida International

The obese bowl system has its benefits, like a thrilling Golden Panther victory in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Playing in its first postseason game, less than a decade after starting the program, the Sun Belt champs rallied in the final 74 seconds for a 34-32 win on a Jack Griffin field goal. It was a landmark moment for a school that was mired in a 23-game losing streak just a few years back.

21. Army

Behind the play of its defense, the Black Knights hung on in the Armed Forces Bowl, beating SMU, 16-14, for their first bowl win in 25 years. It was quite an achievement for the Academy, which has been down for so long and hasn't had a winning season since 1996. In just his second season at West Point, Rich Ellerson has helped breathe life into the program and somewhat narrow the divide with Navy and Air Force.

20. Auburn RB Michael Dyer

One-upping Heisman-winning teammate Cam Newton, Dyer rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries to earn Offensive MVP honors of the BCS National Championship game. His 37-yard, balance-defying scamper on the game's final drive was arguably the play of the night, setting up Wes Byrum's walk-off field goal for the title.

19. TCU LB Tank Carder

The Defensive MVP for the Horned Frogs in the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, Carder set the tone for his side of the ball. Although he had just six tackles, he made them count, getting three stops behind the line and a sack. His batted ball on a potential game-tying two-pointer from the Badgers late in the fourth is a play that'll forever live on in program lore.

18. Iowa

Who could have faulted the Hawkeyes had they mailed in the Insight Bowl? Not only did they stumble to the regular season finish line, but top back Adam Robinson and top receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos were suspended for drug-related charges. However, the team pulled together behind the running of rookie Marcus Coker and delivered a rare fourth quarter rally to surprise No. 12 Missouri and finish a disappointing year with a rousing win.

17. San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman

One of the brightest young individual heroes of the entire postseason, Hillman ran circles around Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl, rushing for 228 yards and scoring four times. It marked the sixth time he'd rushed for at least 150 yards in his debut season, a remarkable campaign for a La Habra (Calif.) High School kid, who'd only received offers from Mountain West schools.

16. Florida State CB Greg Reid

One of the main reasons the Seminoles got to 10 wins in Jimbo Fisher's debut, Reid sparked a defense that forced six South Carolina turnovers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The MVP of Florida State's 26-17 win in Atlanta, the sophomore had five tackles, broke up four passes, forced two fumbles, and added a couple of long punt returns on special teams. His explosive hit on Gamecock RB Marcus Lattimore separated him from the ball and knocked him out of the game.

15. Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure

The junior put on a show for NFL scouts wondering where he'll be playing in 2011, running for 184 yards and three touchdowns in the Texas Bowl blowout of Baylor. If this was his final game with the program, it was quite an audition, as he rewrote the school record book and ran through the Bear D with his typical vision, power, and determination.

14. UCF

The Knights capped their best season in school history with their first-ever bowl win, beating Georgia, 10-6. Forgetting for a moment that the Dawgs entered the Liberty Bowl 6-6, beating an SEC team from a neighboring state was an enormous achievement for UCF. The defense was the catalyst, keeping the Dawgs out of the end zone and preventing WR A.J. Green from becoming a major factor in the outcome.

13. Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward

The defensive star of the Sugar Bowl, Heyward had his way with the Arkansas offensive linemen all night, harassing Ryan Mallett and requiring more than one blocker. An end in a tackle's body, he consistently overpowered his guy(s), making six tackles, 3.5 stops for loss, one sack, and a bunch of hurries. He set the tempo for a Buckeye D that held the high-powered Hogs to just a pair of touchdowns.

12. Mississippi State

Rich Rodriguez's seat is hotter than ever because of the play of the Bulldogs, which rolled to a 52-14 Gator Bowl rout on New Year's Day. Mississippi State got it done on both sides of the ball, erasing an early deficit and scoring 52 of the game's final 59 points. The offense was especially sharp, scoring touchdowns on all six red zone trips and successfully converting all five fourth down tries.

11. Stanford LB Shayne Skov

The signature player in an incredible Orange Bowl effort from Vic Fangio's D, Skov spent the entire night harassing Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor. Propelling himself into the national spotlight, he collected a game-high 12 tackles, four stops for loss, and three of the Cardinal's eight sacks. It was a wake-up call for those around the country who haven't followed the Pac-10 this season.

10. Washington

Talk about having a short memory. Three months after getting rocked by Nebraska in Seattle, the Huskies turned the tables in the Holiday Bowl, pulling the major upset, 19-7. The Mason Foster-led D was the big story, racking up 11 tackles for loss and five sacks in a complete 180 from the first meeting. Nebraska only managed a season-low 189 total yards and was totally shut down on the ground.

9. Iowa RB Marcus Coker

A star was born in the desert, as Coker rushed for a Hawkeye bowl-record 219 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries in the Insight Bowl win over Missouri. A true freshman fill-in for suspended starter Adam Robinson, he flashed shades of former Iowa star Shonn Greene, running with terrific power and pad level, and just enough giddy-up to get through the secondary.

8. Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor

Fighting back incessant criticism that he shouldn't have even been eligible for this game, Pryor put on an MVP show in the Sugar Bowl, the second straight year he's delivered in January. He produced 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns, consistently frustrating the Arkansas defense with his ability to break containment and make things happen outside the pocket.

7. Stanford QB Andrew Luck

Fulfilling skyrocketing expectations, Luck validated his projection as a possible No. 1 overall selection in April's draft if he leaves school early. Leading the charge in the Cardinal's 40-12 Orange Bowl demolition of Virginia Tech, he went an efficient 18-of-23 for 287 yards, four touchdowns, and a pick. He found TE Coby Fleener for three of those scores, dissecting a Hokie secondary that hadn't allowed more than one touchdown pass in a game since early October.

6. Ohio State

The Buckeyes got their long-awaited first win over an SEC team in the postseason, beating Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, 31-26. It was an emotional capper to an exhausting postseason that was marked by off-field issues and concerns over the availability of a handful of key players. Ohio State also overcame some in-game injuries to its defensive backs and allowed a blocked punt late in the game, yet still stiffened and hung on for the pivotal win.

5. Alabama

In the most dominant team effort of the postseason, the Crimson Tide abused No. 7 Michigan State, 49-7, from wire-to-wire in the Capital One Bowl. In a game that many felt ‘Bama was vulnerable, it outgained the Spartans 546-171 and held them to -48 yards on the ground. In an up-and-down season for the defending national champs, they delivered about as flawless a New Year's Day bowl effort as you'll ever see.

4. Auburn DT Nick Fairley

On the grandest stage, Fairley delivered the most intimidating individual effort of the postseason, toying with a very good Oregon line in the BCS National Championship game. The catalyst on the inside for a tremendous Tiger defensive effort, he routinely busted through blockers, making five tackles, three stops for loss, and a sack. Even when he wasn't getting into the boxscore, he was making life easier for his teammates, eating up blocks and occupying space.

3. TCU

The Horned Frogs wrapped up their second-ever perfect season—and first since 1938—holding off red-hot Wisconsin, 21-19, in the Rose Bowl. Proving it belongs in the national championship discussion, TCU went toe-to-toe with the nation's No. 5 team, holding on behind the play of a stout defense and the veteran leadership of QB Andy Dalton.

2. Stanford

The Cardinal was to the Orange Bowl what Alabama was to the Capital One Bowl. Facing one of the hottest teams in America, Virginia Tech, Stanford showed no ill effects from the long lay-off, crushing the Hokies with a 27-0 second half. Equally dominant on defense as offense, it won a bowl game for the first time since 1996 and wrapped up what will go down as one of the best seasons in program history.

1. Auburn

The Tigers capped a perfect season with their first national championship since 1957, slowing down Oregon just long enough for a 22-19 victory. Where the offense misfired, the defense picked up the slack, holding the Ducks 30 points and more than 200 rushing yards below their regular season average. As was the case throughout 2010, Auburn found a way to survive a dogfight, winning for the seventh time by eight points or fewer.

- 2010-2011 50 Biggest Stars - 26-50

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