Stats: 134 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions; Bowl opponent: Florida; Summary: As much attention as East Carolina's offense receives, and deservedly so, the Pirates aren't without some talent on the other side of the ball. Here's Zeek Bigger, tackling machine for a so-so defense and an important piece as East Carolina goes against a run-dominant Gators team. Bigger ranks seventh nationally in total tackles, averaging more than 11 per game. He racked up 43 tackles in three games against Power 5 opponents, and he'll be asked to do the same in Birmingham.
John Geliebter-USA TODAY SportsJohn Geliebter
Leon Allen, RB, Western Kentucky
Stats: 259 rushes, 1,921 total yards, 15 total TDs; Bowl opponent: Central Michigan; Summary: In a mid-November blowout win over Army, Allen posted one of the most impressing individual performances of the 2014 season, rushing for 345 yards and three scores on 33 carries. It wasn't the last time the junior would help the Hilltoppers during their four-game winning streak to end the campaign: Allen also accounted for 288 total yards and two scores in the overtime thriller that ended Marshall's perfect season. In total, the former two-star recruit ranks 13th nationally in rushing in a balanced, explosive offense. Despite contending with a high-powered passing attack in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, Central Michigan will need to keep its eye on Allen.
Brian Powers-USA TODAY SportsBrian Powers
Andrew Hudson, DL, Washington
Stats: 71 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles; Bowl opponent: Oklahoma State; Summary: After posting just two total tackles as a fourth-year senior, Hudson was an oft-forgotten piece of a talented defensive front that first-year head coach Chris Peterson inherited. He quickly made his presence known as a senior. Though Hudson is, at best, the fourth-best defender in a unit that includes NFL Draft prospects Danny Shelton, Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson, he's putting up all-conference numbers. The 6-foot-3 pass rusher finished seventh nationally in sacks (11.5) ahead of well-known names like Vic Beasley (Clemson), Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) and Shawn Oakman (Baylor). He demands to be accounted for.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY SportsJoe Nicholson
Tony Lippett, WR, Michigan State
Stats: 60 receptions, 1,124 receiving yards, 11 TDs; Bowl opponent: No. 5 Baylor; Summary: Junior quarterback Connor Cook's favorite target exploded onto the scene in his final year in East Lansing. After amassing 1,049 receiving yards and four touchdowns during his first three seasons, Lippett, who entered college with an underrated yet star-studded recruiting class that included Le'Veon Bell, Darqueze Dennard and Jeremy Langford, has already topped those totals in 2014. He's one of 19 FBS players with double-digit receiving touchdowns and he ranks 15th nationally in receiving yards.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY SportsMike Carter
Curt Maggitt, LB/DL, Tennessee
Stats: 43 tackles, 14 tackles for loss; Bowl opponent: Iowa; Summary: On a roster with a select few veterans, junior Curt Maggitt has been an asset for coach Butch Jones. After missing the entire 2013 season due to ACL surgery, Meggitt returned as one of the premier pass rushers in the Southeastern Conference. Thanks to a late-season surge that saw him log seven combined sacks against South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt, the 6-foot-3 redshirt junior finished with 11 sacks, tied for the eighth-best mark in the country. It's a trend that Iowa will want to end in Jacksonville.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY SportsRandy Sartin
Aaron Green, RB, TCU
Stats: 111 rushes, 854 rushing yards, 9 TDs; Bowl opponent: No. 9 Ole Miss; Summary: The 5-foot-11 junior was a bit of late bloomer in first-year offensive coordinator Doug Meacham's offense. He didn't log more than 10 carries in a single game until November. He didn't eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the season or log double-digit touchdowns. Slowly but surely, though, the Horned Frogs couldn't keep Green off the field. After putting up 106 rushing yards on six carries against Texas Tech, he became a bigger part of the offense, hitting double-digit carries and at least 100 yards in three of the team's final five games. There are only five FBS players with 100 or more carries and a better per rush average (7.69) than Green. Not a single one plays in a Power 5 conference.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Stats: 217 rushes, 1,610 total yards, 12 TDs; Bowl opponent: No. 1 Alabama; Summary: It seems a little strange to label a former four-star recruit that's accounted for more than 1,600 yards on a title-contending team as under-the-radar, but so much of the spotlight has focused on the quarterback depth chart in Columbus that it's easy to forget the guy behind J.T. Barrett and, now, Cardale Jones. Elliot was quiet in the early going, but he hit the 100-yard mark in seven of the Buckeyes' final 10 games. In the Big Ten title game, facing a top-15 opponent with a third-string quarterback (Jones), Elliot pieced together 220 yards and two scores on 20 carries. He'll be equally as important against Nick Saban's defense.
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY SportsJoseph Maiorana
Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor
Bowl opponent: No. 8 Michigan State; Summary: No, offensive linemen aren't the easiest players to watch for, but Drango & Co. have a big task ahead of them in the Cotton Bowl. Led by Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush, Michigan State likes to get after the quarterback, ranking 14th nationally in sacks this season. It's a strength-versus-strength matchup, though, as Baylor allowed just 19 sacks on 467 pass attempts this season. Drango is considered a promising draft prospect, and he will be tasked with protecting QB Bryce Petty's interests against defensive powerhouse.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
Erick Dargan, S/CB, Oregon
Stats: 82 total tackles, 6 interceptions, 5 passes broken up; Bowl opponent: No. 3 Florida State; Summary: With potential first-round draft pick Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sidelined for the College Football Playoff after tearing his ACL, Dargan's role in Oregon's secondary becomes that much more important. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has not been nearly as effective as he was during his Heisman run, but the Seminoles still claim the 14th-ranked passing offense in the country with plenty of options. Dargan, a safety who has played some corner, has been a playmaker for the Ducks, logging four of his six interceptions against Power 5 opponents. Winston has been turnover-prone, and Oregon would love to give its offense extra possessions in the Rose Bowl.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY SportRobert Hanashiro
Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Stats: 325 rushes, 2,225 total yards, 29 total TDs; Bowl opponent: No. 10 Arizona; Summary: One of the best, and perhaps most underrated, running backs in the country, Ajayi has been the centerpiece to a resurgent Boise State program in offensive-minded coach Bryan Harsin's first season. The 6-foot junior from Texas racked up six games of 150 or more rushing yards this season and has become a potent receiver out of the backfield, picking up an additional 536 yards and four scores through the air. Ajayi ranks behind only Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) in terms of total yards from scrimmage this season, and if he returns for a senior campaign he'll receive similar preseason attention. The 10th-ranked Arizona Wildcats will need to keep the one-man offensive juggernaut in check at the Fiesta Bowl.