Welcome to the Bowl Edition of the College Football Barometer. With long layoffs, coaching changes and injuries affecting many squads, let's look at whose stock is rising and whose is falling heading into Bowl Season.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State - Clemson lost the ACC Atlantic to the Seminoles, yet gets to face the vaunted LSU defense in a battle of 10-2 teams in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. FSU won the conference, and plays MAC Champion Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. Huh? A clause in the BCS gives any MAC school finishing in the top-16 of the standings an automatic BCS berth. With Northern Illinois finishing the regular season at No. 15, the Huskies snuck in and will face FSU in a most unlikely affair. Manuel has feasted on weaker opponents this season as the senior finished with career highs in yards, completion percentage and touchdowns. He will look to go out with a bang and improve his draft stock against underappreciated NIU.
Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa - The Conference USA Champions boast a dynamic wide receiver in Garrett, the 6-foot-4 sophomore who hauled in 64 passes for 829 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Garrett really made his mark toward the end of the season, catching three touchdown passes Nov. 17 against UCF, while snaring 12 balls in a close loss at Arkansas on Nov. 3. He had 90 or more receiving yards in four of Tulsa's last six contests. The Golden Hurricane will do battle with Iowa State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl; the Cyclones started 4-1 but dropped five of their last seven games to back into this contest. Garrett should be targeted throughout the game by junior QB Cody Green.
Joe Southwick, QB, Boise State - Southwick struggled out of the gate for the Broncos but really turned it on as the season progressed. The junior tossed seven touchdowns and no interceptions over his last three games, all victories. He completed a stellar 70.7 percent of his passes over that span. The Broncos face an inconsistent Washington squad in the MAACO Bowl, with Washington allowing 31 points to a 3-8 Washington State team in its regular-season finale. Combine that with three other games in which the Huskies allowed at least 40 points this season, and Southwick is a good bet to find the end zone on multiple occasions.
Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse - Lemon quietly surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the Orange this season, hauling in seven touchdowns in the process. The Orange encounter West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl; the Mountaineers have been defensively challenged this year, to say the least. West Virginia finished the regular season 116th in the nation in points allowed, surrendering an astounding 38.1 points per tilt. This game should be a shootout, and if the weather holds, expect Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib to find Lemon early and often.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC - Safe to say, Barkley's senior season did not go as planned. USC started the season as the No. 1 squad in the country. Barkley was supposedly a shoe-in for the Heisman trophy. Instead, the Trojans sit at 7-5, with Barkley having missed the team's last game against Notre Dame due to a shoulder injury. He's expected to play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech, but one has to wonder how motivated he will be. A Sun Bowl victory wouldn't exactly be the missing piece to his USC career. Likewise, Barkley may not want to risk injury since he will almost assuredly be a first-round pick in next April's NFL Draft. Expect Barkley to say all the right things as the game approaches, but it won't be surprising if his mind is elsewhere.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville - Bridgewater gutted out the victory against Rutgers to clinch a BCS berth, hobbling around on one leg while also nursing a broken non-throwing hand. He'll have some time to heal before the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, but that still may not be of much solace as he goes up against the fearsome Florida defense. The Gators finished the regular season third in the nation in points against, giving up a meager 12.9 points per game. The Louisville ground game struggled toward the end of the season as well, meaning the game will be in Bridgewater's hands for the Cardinals. He hasn't faced a defense quite like Florida's this season, which could spell doom for the sophomore quarterback.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama - Yeldon had a standout freshman campaign as the lightning to Eddie Lacy's thunder in the Alabama backfield. Yeldon punctuated his first full year with a 153-yard outburst against Georgia in the SEC Championship. Can he do it against Notre Dame in the BCS Championship? The Irish have the top-ranked defense in the country, though many question if this is merely a product of an easy schedule. It's tough to argue with the results, though, and Heisman runner-up Manti Te'o will certainly have the Irish fired up to stuff the run against the Tide. The Irish have been susceptible to the deep pass this season, but have been pretty consistent against the run. Yeldon will certainly put that notion to the test in January.
Donnell Kirkwood, RB, Minnesota - This could be a complete shot in the dark, but the Gophers face a Texas Tech team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl that has been abysmal on defense recently. The Red Raiders allowed 278 yards on the ground to Baylor in their last game, 256 yards rushing to Oklahoma State in the game prior and a staggering 390 rushing yards to Kansas on Nov. 10. This should be music to Donnell Kirkwood's ears, particularly with the struggles at quarterback for the Gophers this season. Kirkwood feasted on weaker opponents and had three 100-yard outbursts in 2012. Minnesota should rely heavily on the run in this game, even if they fall behind early. Kirkwood should be the chief beneficiary.
James White, RB, Wisconsin - White crossed the goal line four times against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship. It's probably safe to assume he won't be able to repeat that production against Stanford's defense in the Rose Bowl. In fact, White's production against better defenses has been poor. Against Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State, White rushed for a combined 62 yards and failed to find the end zone. With Montee Ball set to receive the bulk of the rushing load, White's production could be pretty poor. Stanford is on a seven-game winning streak and allows just 17.5 points per game in 2012. Coach Bret Bielema is gone as well for the Badgers, with AD Barry Alvarez assuming the post for the bowl game. A five-loss Wisconsin team could be outmatched, meaning less opportunities to run the ball as well.
Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State - The Wolf Pack face Vanderbilt in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The Commodores have been surprisingly stingy on defense this season, allowing just 18.3 points per game while finishing with a winning record in the SEC. Vandy is on a six-game winning streak as well, allowing more than 21 points just once over that span. They have allowed just one quarterback to pass for more than 200 yards over that time too. Glennon has been more of a volume passer this season, completing just 57.7 percent of his throws despite accumulating 3,648 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior. With seven interceptions in his last five games, the Commodore defense could be licking its collective chops at the prospect of facing Glennon.
Case McCoy, QB, Texas - The Longhorns flopped quarterbacks this season, ending with McCoy after beginning with David Ash. McCoy was 26-of-34 for 314 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the last regular season game at Kansas State. Ash was pulled in the TCU game on Thanksgiving, then returned before suffering a rib injury and being replaced again. In other words, there's a full-fledged quarterback controversy in Austin as Ash struggled down the stretch for the Longhorns. Whoever starts will not have it easy against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl; the Beavers allow just 19.8 points per game, and two of their three losses came to Oregon and Stanford. It remains to be seen if Case can be the real McCoy.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech - Thomas did not have the expected leap in production this season, and as a result the Hokies stumbled to a 6-6 record. Thomas completed just 52.6 percent of his passes for 2,783 yards, 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Although he did manage nine rushing scores, his inability to consistently move the chains and find open receivers cost Virginia Tech at least a couple of games this season. The Hokies face an angry Rutgers squad fresh off a brutal collapse down the stretch. The Rutgers defense is still fourth in the nation in points allowed, and boasts the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in linebacker Khaseem Greene. Greene may even shadow Thomas across the field as a spy in this contest. As a result, this season may end with yet another disappointment for Thomas.
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