When two of Ohio State’s top receivers opted out of the Rose Bowl to focus on their potential future in the NFL, Jaxon Smith-Njigba responded with one of the best individual performances in the history of the bowl.
Smith-Njigba had 15 receptions for 347 yards to help the Buckeyes overcome a 14-point deficit to beat Utah 48-45 on New Years Day. He also caught three of CJ Stroud’s six touchdown passes, and their ability. Keeping the team’s passing game thriving even without star receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson made Stroud and Smith-Njigba obvious picks for playoff recognition.
With only Monday’s college football playoff championship game between the No.1 Alabama and No.3 Georgia remaining on the Football Bowl division schedule, The Associated Press is now releasing its squad of. bowling, as selected by AP staff. Since some teams go for 4-3 defenses and others prefer 3-4 patterns, this team consists of four defensive linemen and four linebackers.
CJ Stroud, Ohio State (Rose): He threw for a school record 573 yards to spark the Buckeyes’ return.
Jordan Mims, Fresno State (New Mexico): He ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and also caught five passes for 71 yards and one touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 31-24 win over the University of Texas at El Paso.
Brian Robinson, Alabama (cotton): With 26 carries, the Tuscaloosa native set a program bowl record rushing for 204 yards in the Crimson Tide’s 27-6 semifinal win over Cincinnati.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, State of Ohio (Pink): His 347 receiving yards were the highest ever in a bowl game involving FBS teams. His teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. also deserves the credit for making three touchdown passes.
Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky (Boca Raton): Sterns had 13 receptions for 184 yards and caught three of Bailey Zappe’s six touchdown passes as the Hilltoppers beat Appalachian State 59-38.
Broc Thompson, Purdue (Music City): Thompson is going to need offseason surgery on both knees, but he caught seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-45 overtime win over Tennessee in Nashville. He wasn’t the only receiver in this game to produce many highlights. Cedric Tillman of Tennessee had seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Jaheim Bell, South Carolina (Duke’s Mayo): He had five catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns to help South Carolina beat North Carolina 38-21. It’s been a great bowl season for the tight ends. Purdue’s Payne Durham, Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Georgia State’s Aubry Payne also scored two touchdowns apiece.
Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (guaranteed rate): The 6-foot-9, 380-pound left tackle opened up enough leverage to help freshmen Mar’Keise Irving and Ky Thomas each cover over 100 yards as Minnesota beat West Virginia 18- 6. Faalele also lined up at the back and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma (Alamo): A left guard, he played every snap and helped the Sooners gain 564 yards, average 8.1 yards per play and allow no sacks in a 47-32 win over Oregon.
Evan Neal, Alabama (cotton): A left tackle, he helped Alabama run for 301 yards and average 6.4 yards per carry against the Bearcats.
Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (Orange): He started on the left tackle in Georgia’s 34-11 semi-final victory over Michigan and spent much of the night blocking Heisman Trophy finalist Aidan Hutchinson, who did not register a sack. after totaling 14 this season.
Cormac Sampson, Wisconsin (Las Vegas): He replaced injured Joe Tippmann and made his first career start in a 20-13 triumph over Arizona State. Sampson did not allow pressure from the quarterback and set the stage for Braelon Allen’s 159-yard rushing performance. Wisconsin finished the game with a drive of almost 10 minutes.
Dakereon Joyner, South Carolina (Duke’s Mayo): The quarterback turned receiver got work at his home post and completed his nine passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. Joyner also had 10 carries for 64 yards.
Troy Hairston, Mid Michigan (Sunday): He had 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks as the Michigan center survived 24-21 in Washington State.
Nick Heninger, State of Utah (Jimmy Kimmel LA): He had five tackles for a loss and three sacks in a 24-13 win over Oregon State.
Jacob Slade, Michigan State (Peach): He had six tackles and was credited with 1.5 of the Spartans’ five sacks in a 31-21 win over Pittsburgh.
Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech (Liberty): He recorded two sacks in a 34-7 Mississippi State rout and was named the game’s defensive MVP.
Terrel Bernard, Baylor (Sugar): He had 17 tackles and two sacks and had one assist to lead the Bears to a 21-7 victory over Ole Miss.
Nakobe Dean, Georgia (Orange): He had seven tackles (two for a loss), a sack and a forced fumble to lead a dominant performance from the Georgian defense. Michigan didn’t score any touchdowns until the last five minutes of the game.
Malcolm Rodriguez, State of Oklahoma (Fiesta): He racked up 11 tackles, caught one assist and smashed two more as the Cowboys wiped out a 28-7 deficit in a 37-35 triumph over Notre Dame.
Arik Smith, Army (Armed Forces): Smith was named MVP of the game after recording 12 tackles and two sacks in a 24-22 win over Missouri.
Joe Foucha, Arkansas (Outback): He had seven tackles, one sack and one interception in the Razorbacks 24-10 win over Penn State.
Mario Goodrich, Clemson (Cheez-It): He forced a fumble and scored on an 18-yard interception return as Clemson beat Iowa State 20-13.
Derion Kendrick, Georgia (Orange): He intercepted two passes and recorded five tackles against the Wolverines to help the Bulldogs, the Southeastern Conference finalists, secure a rematch with SEC champion Alabama in the national title game.
JT Woods, Baylor (Sugar): He had two interceptions, four tackles and one pass breakage against Ole Miss.
Mitchell Fineran, Purdue (Music City): He was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, including the winning 39-yard overtime kick. Perfect precision gave Fineran the advantage over the Army’s Cole Talley, who went for 41 yards for the win at the end of the time limit, but also missed a 43-yard attempt.
Bernardo Rodriguez, North Texas (Frisco Football Classic): Rodriguez averaged 54 yards on his five punters without any touchdowns in a 27-14 loss to Miami (Ohio). He had a 70 yards and a 66 yards.
Britain Covey, Utah (Rose): Covey scored on a 97-yard return. Old Dominion’s LaMareon James, Louisville’s Jawar Jordan and Western Michigan’s Sean Tyler all scored on 100-yard returns in their bowl games, but Covey gets the nod because he also had an attacking touchdown and has totaled three catches for 34 yards.
Tarheeb Still, Maryland (Pinstripe): His 92-yard return opened the scoring in Maryland’s 54-10 blowout against Virginia Tech.