College Football Playoff: 10 Best Players to watch

The College Football Playoff games are almost here and anticipation is boiling over for college football fans everywhere. Here are 10 players you should watch during the playoffs.

Playoff games begin Saturday, beginning with Alabama and Washington in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, then Clemson and Ohio State in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. With those teams, comes no shortage of great players to watch in both games and the impending National Championship game between the winners of the two bowl games on Saturday. From offensive lineman, to linebackers, and star positions such as the quarterbacks in the games, fans will be treated to watching some of the best and most talented teams in the country.

Each playoff team is littered with talent all around, but who are the top 10 to watch in these games? It isn’t easy to exactly narrow a list down to just 10 players, but we’re gonna try. Of course there are other players certainly deserving of making this list but these are the players that will have the biggest impacts on their teams games. These are the players that will make or break the playoff games. These are the players that will be counted on to either make the plays to win the game, or allow plays to happen to win games.

Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) in action during the game against the USC Trojans at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

10. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Perhaps the best left tackle in college football, Cam Robinson is a player to watch simply because he is that dominating of an offensive lineman, and he will be needed for Alabama to have success on offense against the defense they will see in Washington and potentially see beyond that from Clemson or Ohio State.

Robinson has helped pave the way for success from true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, as well as allow the Alabama run game to continue to be a threat throughout the season. Alabama, while being more diverse on offense and throwing the ball and using option plays more, still want to establish the run game to win games. With Robinson, the Crimson Tide have an excellent run blocker as well as a natural pass blocker for when they do go through the air. Robinson has excelled in his time with the team at shutting down excellent pass rushers such as Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and will be counted on to do the same in the playoff games.

Being an offensive lineman, it can be easy to overlook or not pay attention to Robinson but when you see him dominate a defensive lineman, you’ll take note and begin to pay attention.

December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies running back Myles Gaskin (9) runs past Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Addison Gillam (44) during the first quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi

9. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

Myles Gaskin is part of the Washington trio of offensive players (Browning and Ross the others) that have helped to make the Huskies offense one of the more potent and high scoring offenses in the country.

Gaskin ran for 1,339 yards this season, as well as 10 touchdowns. The sophomore was expected to do big things this season and he certainly delivered on those expectations. Gaskin is a player to watch because he is a smaller guy at 5′ 9″ but he delivers a punch and is fast enough to make long breakaway runs. He’ll be counted on for the Huskies to pound the football and keep things balanced on offense against the ultra-tough Alabama defense. The last thing Washington would want is to be one dimensional on offense against the Crimson Tide and Gaskin will help give them a threat on the ground as well as a check down option in the passing game.

Gaskin, in my opinion is the best running back amongst the four playoff teams but he also has the hardest draw in the form of the Alabama defense, great players step up, it’ll be fun to watch and see what he can do against that defense.

Nov 12, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) shakes off the tackle by a Pittsburgh Panthers defender during the first half at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

8. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Clemson finds itself back in the College Football Playoff for the second season in a row and will be looking to have a different ending to their playoff run than a season ago. In order to do that, wide receiver Mike Williams will be counted on to continue making the same type of plays that have made him a potential first round pick in the NFL Draft.

Paired with quarterback Deshaun Watson, the duo make one of if not the best QB, WR combinations in the the country. Williams had 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016; he is a big receiver who more often than not wins the battle for the football in the air, using that strong body that he has. Williams is without a doubt the best offensive weapon at Watson’s disposal in the Clemson offense. In order for Watson to be as effective as he can be at quarterback, then Williams has to be on top of his game.

Williams won’t find the easiest matchup in the Ohio State secondary, but he has the talent to be able to overcome the secondary of the Buckeyes and be one of the standout players to watch in the playoffs. Keep an eye on the Clemson wide receiver this Saturday.

Nov 26, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) pulls in a pass against the Auburn Tigers during the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

7. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

O.J. Howard’s numbers during the 2016 season will not wow anyone, but he makes his presence known in big games, much in the same way that he did in the National Championship game against Clemson last season.

Howard is 6′ 6″, an imposing individual already but the fact that he has as good of hands as most wide receivers and can really run is what makes him such a scary player for imposing teams. For instance, in last years championship game, Howard had 5 receptions for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns. That would be insane numbers for a wide receiver. For a tight end? It’s almost unfathomable. That just shows the impact that he can have on offense. He will need to be the safety blanket for quarterback Jalen Hurts in the playoff games. Hurts is a true freshman stepping into the biggest game(s) in his life, if the young quarterback gets rattled he’ll need someone to step up and help make some plays and Howard is one of the players that would be counted.

If Howard does go off like he did in last years championship game, then college football fans are in for a treat as he is a special player to watch at that position.

Nov 25, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) breaks away form Washington State Cougars linebacker Peyton Pelluer (47) during the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

6. John Ross, WR, Washington

Washington’s best receiving threat is also one of its best overall players in John Ross, he’ll be another exceptional receiver to keep an eye during the 2016 playoff games.

Ross is a smaller receiver at 5′ 11″, but what he lacks in size he makes up in speed and quickness. The junior receiver can burn defensive backs in an instant, and his quarterback Jake Browning certainly has the arm strength to get Ross the ball at any point on the field. If Washington is going to beat Alabama and advance to the championship game, then they are going to have to get a great game out of their best receiver against the exceptional defensive secondary that Alabama has. Ross will have to use his speed to get past corners and then find his way between or around safeties for Browning to be able to deliver him the ball.

John Ross is a player to watch because he is so explosive with his speed, it will also be interesting to watch and see how he does against the Crimson Tide secondary, if he does well, then Washington should have a good shot at winning the game and Ross will see his NFL Draft stock continue to climb.

Nov 26, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) scrambles up the field against the Auburn Tigers during the fourth quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama defeated the Auburn Tigers 30-12. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

5. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama

A true freshman, Jalen Hurts has been the surprise of Alabama’s season ever since he entered the season opener against USC and proceeded to shred their defense. Ever since, Hurts has gone into hostile environments such as Baton Rogue, Louisiana and continued to excel on the field in leading the Crimson Tide to another SEC Championship and another trip to the College Football Playoff.

Hurts has been a true dynamic duel threat that the Tide have really never had under Head Coach Nick Saban. Give credit to offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin as well, he’s done a great job in game planning and calling the right plays to always help Hurts and make him comfortable in different situations.

Hurts will be fun to watch in the playoffs. Not simply because of his athletic ability, but also to see how he handles the pressure and magnitude of the game(s). Hurts continuously proved himself again and again this season against the best the SEC had to offer. Hurts has a lot of talent around him and a great defense to fall back on as well, but he is more than capable of making his fair share of plays in a game too.

December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) during the third quarter in the Pac-12 championship against the Colorado Buffaloes at Levi

4. Jake Browning, QB, Washington

Another excellent young quarterback in these playoff games is Washington quarterback, Jake Browning.

Browning was the driving force of the Washington offense in 2016, passing for 3,280 yards and 42 touchdowns this season. The young quarterback has been exceptional and will need to continue to be great if Washington wants to hang around in the playoffs for longer than a single game. Browning’s best attribute is his decision making. He rarely turns the ball over (only 7 interceptions in 2016) and knows when to throw the ball away or take a sack in order to live another day. Only a sophomore, Browning has proven himself to be one of college football’s best quarterbacks, and to see him go up against the best defense in the NCAA, will be a nice New Years treat when he and the Huskies go up against Alabama.

Browning is a pocket passer but does have decent mobility that allows him to escape the pocket and make plays when necessary but his arm strength and decision making are what stand out. Keep an eye on Browning against Alabama, if he can throw the football on that secondary and score points, you’ll realize just how good he is.

Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) fires a pass upfield in the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

3. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

J.T. Barrett finally gets his chance to show what he can do in the College Football Playoff when leads Ohio State in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl against Clemson.

Barrett suffered a season ending injury back in 2014 before the Big 10 Championship and watched Cardale Jones lead Ohio State to a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and a victory over Oregon in the National Championship game. Barrett has waited for the spotlight, Ohio State narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year but they found a way in in 2016 and will look to make a splash, much in the same way that they did in 2014. Barrett is the key to it all for the Buckeyes, if he does well, so too will the Buckeyes. Barrett threw for 2,428 yards and 24 touchdowns this season and I would expect him to continue to do well against Clemson, who has been prone to allowing excellent quarterbacks to have good games, Lamar Jackson comes to mind.

Barrett will be motivated to show what he can do in the big spotlight of the playoffs, not that anyone doubts him, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and he should have a good day against Clemson.

Dec 3, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws the ball in the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the ACC Championship college football game at Camping World Stadium. Clemson Tigers won 42-35. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

The last and best quarterback on this list, Deshaun Watson excelled last year in the playoff games against Oklahoma and Alabama, and while Clemson wasn’t able to win the championship game last year, Watson certainly put on a show that made the college football world and the NFL take notice. He’ll be looking to do that and more the second time around.

Watson threw for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns during the regular season. He is the clear leader of the Clemson Tigers, and they go as he goes. Watson is a terrific pocket passer, he makes all of the throws and he shows up in the big games. That was never more clear than it was last year when he put on a show to the tune of 405 passing yards and 4 touchdowns against Alabama in last years championship game. Watson would like nothing more than to meet Alabama once again for a rematch.

You should watch Watson in the Fiesta Bowl (and possibly the title game) because it will be his last game as a Clemson Tiger before leaving the school as a junior to enter the NFL Draft. Watson is the greatest quarterback in Clemson’s history and should put on a show in what will be his final game(s).

Dec 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Austin Appleby (12) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) during the second quarter of the SEC Championship college football game at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Surprised to see a defensive lineman be the number one player to watch in the playoffs? You shouldn’t be. Jonathan Allen is the most dominant offensive lineman and he will make his mark on the game against Washington and a potential championship game matchup against Clemson or Ohio State.

Jonathan Allen is simply a game changer. So much so that he could possibly become the first overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Allen can sack the quarterback, he can shed blocks to stop a running back, he can even return interceptions 75 yards for touchdowns (it’s true, he did it against Ole Miss). Allen is the complete package along the defensive line and can be moved from end to tackle and still be productive at either position. He’s a game changer, and should be watched because he will make plays himself, or draw double and triple teams from the opposing offensive line and allow his teammates to make plays.

Jonathan Allen is the best overall player of the four teams participating in the College Football Playoff and he will be watched and noticed by many, beginning with the matchup against Washington on New Years Eve in the Chick-Fil-a Peach Bowl.

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