'Tis the season for bowls and big names. Stars will come out in bowl games throughout Florida this holiday season. Here are the Top 10 players to watch in the coming weeks. PHOTO CREDIT: USA TODAY Sports
-- By Andrew Astleford
USA TODAY Sports
10. Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech
Thomas is the conductor of Georgia Tech's triple-option offense, which means discipline and sound decision-making are requirements for success. Though undersized at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, he threw for 1,594 yards with 17 touchdowns and ran for 965 yards with five scores within a system that forces the sophomore to be fleet of foot and mind. He fared well this season, leading Georgia Tech to a 10-3 mark, which includes a near miss in the ACC Championship Game against Florida State. He'll close his first campaign as the Yellow Jackets' regular starter against Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 at Sun Life Stadium.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY SportsJason Getz
9. Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall
No arm has the potential to do more damage in Florida this bowl season. Cato passed for 3,622 yards with 37 touchdowns to 13 interceptions for Marshall this year. He ranks eighth in the nation in passing output, and his potential to produce fireworks from the pocket is a large reason for the Thundering Herd's 12-1 record this season, the lone blemish coming in a wild 67-66 shootout loss to Western Kentucky on Nov. 28. The 6-foot-1, 176-pound senior has another chance to show what he can do when he faces Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 23 at FAU Stadium.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY SportsChuck Cook
8. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
It's hard to imagine that Perine could have made a better first impression at Oklahoma. The freshman running back totaled 1,579 yards and 21 touchdowns on 240 carries this season, the highlight coming when he exploded for 427 yards on 34 carries in a victory over Kansas on Nov. 22. He had four other games with at least 100 yards, and he eclipsed 200 yards on two of those occasions, with 242 yards against West Virginia on Sept. 20 and 213 yards against Texas Tech on Nov. 15. He'll matchup against Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29 at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
7. Jacoby Glenn, CB, UCF
Glenn will be one of the best defensive backs on display in Florida this bowl season. The sophomore cornerback was named a second-team Associated Press All-American, after he ranked third in the nation with seven interceptions and third with 18 passes defended. He had a stretch of three consecutive games with interceptions, from Oct. 9-25 against BYU, Tulane and Temple. At 6-foot, 186 pounds, he could be considered undersized when matching up against taller targets, but Glenn's athleticism has served him well in a standout season. He'll be tested against NC State in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26 at Tropicana Field.
David Manning-USA TODAY SportsDavid Manning
6. Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
Williams became a dependable pass-catching option for the Gophers this season, totaling 29 catches for 471 yards and seven touchdowns, a program record for a tight end. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, he's a sizable target who can shred defenses if left open, as evidenced by his six games with at least three receptions this fall. He will try to exploit Missouri's defense when he closes the season in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsJesse Johnson
5. Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Ray is one of the country's most effective pass rushers, as the SEC came to learn before he was named the conference's defensive player of the year earlier in December. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, he has 14 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, and he provided an effective one-two punch at defensive end with Markus Golden as Missouri claimed its second consecutive SEC East crown and finished 10-3. It's unknown if the junior will enter the NFL Draft, but he has a chance to display his skill on a New Year's Day stage against Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY SportsJim Dedmon
4. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
McKinney is one of the nation's premier linebackers, and his play has helped lift Mississippi State to a surprise 10-2 record. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he leads the Bulldogs in tackles (61) and fumble recoveries (three). He also had three sacks. He was named an Associated Press second-team All-American, and though he's a junior, many observers consider him likely to enter the NFL Draft after he plays against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 at Sun Life Stadium. He'll need to be on his game for the Bulldogs to counter the Yellow Jackets' tough triple-option attack.
Derick E.Hingle-USA TODAY SportsDerick E.Hingle
3. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
Marshall and Auburn had larger ambitions than to appear in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium following their berth in the BCS National Championship Game last season. But the matchup against Wisconsin will provide him an opportunity to showcase his dual-threat capabilities once more on a collegiate stage. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior threw for 2,315 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season, and he also ran for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns on 146 carries. Running could be hard against the Badgers, though. Wisconsin ranks 17th in rush defense by allowing 118.9 yards per game on the ground.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY SportsShanna Lockwood
2. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Prepare to watch the best of interior offensive line play in college football. Scherff has emerged as the class of his position this season. Standing at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, the senior tackle has claimed a litany of honors in recent weeks: An Associated Press first-team All-America mention and the Outland Trophy, among them. Observers consider him to be a high first-round pick, and given how elite offensive-line play is coveted in the NFL, a bright future on Sundays should be in his future if his health cooperates. His final task will be keeping Tennessee's defensive line in check at the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 at EverBank Field.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Who wouldn't want to watch Gordon run? He leads the country with 2,336 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns. He has solidified himself as one of the nation's most dynamic talents in the backfield, his highlight this season coming when he shredded Nebraska for 408 yards and four touchdowns on Nov. 15. The Doak Walker Award winner has been held to fewer than 100 yards just twice in 2014, against Western Illinois on Sept. 6 (38) and Ohio State on Dec. 6 (76). The 6-foot-1, 207-pound junior will bypass his senior year and enter this draft, so a matchup against Auburn in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium will be the last chance to see him before he's playing on Sundays.