The bowl season is finally upon us and the matchups are set.
Obviously, the SEC collectively has more talent than any other conference, and will have the talent advantage in the majority of the bowl matchups. But you’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think other teams aren’t talented, too. There are plenty of guys, like those listed below, who would be starters in the SEC, as well.
So, who are the top 10 offensive players SEC players will face during bowl season?
10. Connor McGovern, OG, Penn State
The Lions’ offensive line was a bit up and down this year, but you can’t blame the 6-5, 323-pound junior RG, who was one of the most reliable and consistent offensive linemen in the Big Ten. He’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a mauler in the ground game, showing great power in has base with the ability to generate a push drive blocking. He’s also a solid pass protector who does a good job mirroring and adjusting to stunts. He’ll have his hands full with a physical Kentucky front seven.
9. Karan Higdon, RB, Michigan
The 5-10, 202-pounder finished 3rd in the Big Ten in rushing with 1,178 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He topped 100 yards in 8 of the 11 games he appeared in and was held below 75 just once. He’s a decisive ball carrier who hits the hole with burst and can both shake arm tackles and pick up chunk yardage in the second level. He could be in for a big day against a Florida defense that has been susceptible against the run, allowing 166.7 yards per game.
8. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
It seems like the Cowboys always have a guy considered among the best receivers in the country, and with James Washington off to the NFL, that guy is now Wallace. He finished in the top 3 of the Big 12 in catches (79), receiving yards (1,398), yards per reception (17.7) and receiving touchdowns (11). Mizzou hasn’t exactly done well against the pass this year, and are 104th nationally in receiving yards allowed per game (256.1), so you have to imagine Barry Odom putting together a game plan together on trying to slow down Wallace and company.
7. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Few quarterbacks have improved as much developmentally from their freshman to sophomore seasons this year as the 6-3, 235-pound Ehlinger, who, including the Big 12 Championship Game, finished with 3,123 yards (64.3 percent completion) with 25 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, averaging 7.85 yards per attempt. He also went 1-1 against Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. Alarmingly to Longhorn fans, though, is the fact that 3 of his 5 interceptions have come in the past two games, and he’s about to face by far the best defense he has seen in his life against the Georgia Bulldogs.
6. Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State
The junior tailback was second in the Big Ten in rushing yards this year, finishing with 1,223 yards and 9 touchdowns, while also adding in another 22 receptions and 132 yards out of the backfield. He’s not as dynamic of a playmaker as his predecessor, Saquon Barkley, but he’s not as far off as opponents would like, either. He shows good vision, patience and balance as a ball carrier, with enough lateral quickness to bounce it outside and the burst to go the distance. He’ll be a big test for Kentucky’s defense.
5. Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma
The 6-4, 330-pound junior has been playing RT for the Sooners, and while he’s protected the edge very well, his future likely lies inside at OG at the next level, where he could find himself sneaking into first-round consideration. Ford is a road-grader in the run game who can simply swallow up defenders with his strength and mass. Don’t let his size fool you, either, because he’s an underrated athlete who is light on his feet and can dance in pass protection. Watching him work against Alabama will be a treat.
4. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
He’s undisputedly the greatest quarterback in program history from a statistical standpoint (9,654 career passing yards, 75 touchdowns to 24 interceptions, 8.2 yards per attempt, 1,622 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns), and has led the team to 31 wins in their past 39 games, including a Big Ten title. He noticeably took a step back this year without Joe Moorhead calling the plays, but he’s a natural leader and playmaker who’s one of the last people you want to go against in a 2-minute drill.
3. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
If he can play, and that’s not a guarantee after injuring his leg in the Big 12 Championship Game, he’s a threat to test Alabama’s secondary. If healthy, he might be the most dangerous player in college football.
The go-to target of Heisman candidate Kyler Murray, Brown (5-10, 168) is slight of frame, but few are as likely to make a big play downfield. This fall, Brown led the Sooners in receptions (70), receiving yards (1,264) and receiving touchdowns (10), and he now has 2,359 yards and 17 touchdowns in his past 24 games, averaging 18.6 yards per his 127 receptions. He’s a burner who can slip man coverage with his quickness and explode in the open field. It’ll be interesting to see how Brown fares against the big and physical corners from Tuscaloosa.
2. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The true freshman enjoyed a sensational rookie campaign, leading the Big Ten in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,164) and receiving touchdowns (12), while adding another 203 yards rushing. His 103 receptions were the most in the nation at the conclusion of the regular season. He also seems to play his best when the stage is the brightest, the perfect example being the primetime matchup against Ohio State, where he went off for 12 receptions for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s not the biggest guy at 5-9, 175, but he’s exceptionally fast and athletic, with elite burst, elusiveness and change of direction skills. Auburn’s secondary cannot afford to take him lightly.
1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Texas A&M transfer absolutely erupted this year while replacing Heisman winner and 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield, throwing for 4,053 yards (70.9 percent completion) with 40 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, averaging a stunning 11.9 yards per attempt.
To boot, he added another 892 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
He’s arguably the most exciting player in the country, and is really the only competition for Tua Tagovailoa in this year’s Heisman race. Murray, a center fielder who also was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, will surely face the toughest test of the season against Alabama.