AP All-Bowl Team: Top performers from the Alamo to Sun bowls
When two of Ohio State’s top receivers opted out of the Rose Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft, Jaxon Smith-Njigba responded by delivering one of the great individual performances in bowl history.
Smith-Njigba had 15 receptions for 347 yards to help Ohio State rally from a 14-point deficit to beat Utah 48-45. He also caught three of C.J. Stroud’s six touchdown passes.
Their ability to keep Ohio State’s passing game thriving even without star receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson made Stroud and Smith-Njigba obvious selections for The Associated Press’ all-bowl team.
With only Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game between Alabama and Georgia remaining on the postseason schedule, AP is releasing its all-bowl team now as picked by AP staff. Since some teams go with 4-3 defenses and others prefer 3-4 schemes, this team includes includes four defensive linemen and four linebackers.
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (Rose): Stroud threw for a school-record 573 yards to spark Ohio State’s comeback.
Jordan Mims, Fresno State (New Mexico): He rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and also caught five passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 31-24 victory over UTEP.
Brian Robinson, Alabama (Cotton): Robinson had 26 carries for an Alabama bowl record 204 yards in the Crimson Tide’s 27-6 College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Cincinnati.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (Rose): His 347 yards receiving were the most ever in any Football Bowl Subdivision-level bowl. Ohio State teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. also deserves credit for catching three touchdown passes as well.
Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky (Boca Raton): Sterns had 13 receptions for 184 yards and caught three of Bailey Zappe’s six touchdown passes as Western Kentucky defeated Appalachian State 59-38.
Broc Thompson, Purdue (Music City): Thompson is going to need offseason surgery on both knees but still caught seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-45 overtime victory over Tennessee. He wasn’t the only receiver in this game to produce plenty of highlights. Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman had seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Jaheim Bell, South Carolina (Duke’s Mayo): Bell had five catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns to help South Carolina beat North Carolina 38-21. This was a big bowl season for 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 each.
Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (Guaranteed Rate): The 6-foot-9, 380-pound left tackle opened up enough running room to help freshmen Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving each run for over 100 yards as Minnesota beat West Virginia 18-6. Faalele also lined up at fullback and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma (Alamo): Hayes, a left guard, played every snap and helped Oklahoma gain 564 yards, average 8.1 yards per play and allow no sacks in a 47-32 victory over Oregon.
Evan Neal, Alabama (Cotton): Neal, a left tackle, helped Alabama rush for 301 yards and gain 6.4 yards per carry against the Bearcats.
Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (Orange): Salyer started at left tackle in Georgia’s 34-11 victory over Michigan and spent much of the night blocking Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, who didn’t post a sack. Hutchinson entered the night with 14 sacks this season.
Cormac Sampson, Wisconsin (Las Vegas): Sampson took over for an injured Joe Tippmann and made his first career start in Wisconsin’s 20-13 triumph over Arizona State. Sampson didn’t allow a quarterback pressure and paved the way for Braelon Allen’s 159-yard rushing performance. Wisconsin ended the game with a drive lasting nearly 10 minutes.
Dakereon Joyner, South Carolina (Duke’s Mayo): The quarterback-turned-receiver got some work at his original position and completed all nine of his pass attempts for 160 yards and a touchdown. Joyner also had 10 carries for 64 yards.
Troy Hairston, Central Michigan (Sun): Hairston had 3½ tackles for loss and 2½ sacks as Central Michigan outlasted Washington State 24-21.
Nick Heninger, Utah State (Jimmy Kimmel LA): Heninger had five tackles for loss and three sacks in Utah State’s 24-13 victory over Oregon State.
Jacob Slade, Michigan State (Peach): Slade made six tackles and was credited with 1½ of Michigan State’s five sacks in a 31-21 victory over Pitt.
Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech (Liberty): Wilson recorded two sacks in a 34-7 rout of Mississippi State and was named the game’s defensive most valuable player.
Terrel Bernard, Baylor (Sugar): Bernard had 17 tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup to lead Baylor to a 21-7 victory over Mississippi.
Nakobe Dean, Georgia (Orange): He had seven tackles – two for loss – plus a sack and a forced fumble to lead a dominant performance by Georgia’s defense. Michigan didn’t score a touchdown until the final five minutes of the game.
Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State (Fiesta): Rodriguez had 11 tackles, picked off a pass and broke up two others as Oklahoma State erased a 28-7 deficit in a 37-35 triumph over Notre Dame.
Arik Smith, Army (Armed Forces): Smith was named the Armed Forces Bowl’s most valuable player after collecting 12 tackles and two sacks in Army’s 24-22 triumph over Missouri.
Joe Foucha, Arkansas (Outback): Foucha had seven tackles, a sack and an interception in Arkansas’ 24-10 victory over Penn State.
Mario Goodrich, Clemson (Cheez-It): Goodrich forced a fumble and scored on an 18-yard interception return as Clemson beat Iowa State 20-13.
Derion Kendrick, Georgia (Orange): Kendrick intercepted two passes and recorded five tackles against the Wolverines.
J.T. Woods, Baylor (Sugar): Woods had two interceptions, four tackles and a pass breakup against Ole Miss.
Mitchell Fineran, Purdue (Music City): He went 4 of 4 on field-goal attempts, including a game-winning kick from 39 yards out in overtime. His perfect accuracy gave Fineran the edge over Army’s Cole Talley, who made a game-winning 41-yard field goal as time expired but also missed a 43-yarder.
Bernardo Rodriguez, North Texas (Frisco Football Classic): Rodriguez averaged 54 yards on his five punts with no touchbacks in a 27-14 loss to Miami (Ohio). He had a 70-yarder and a 66-yarder.
Britain Covey, Utah (Rose): Covey scored on a 97-yard kickoff return. Old Dominion’s LaMareon James, Western Michigan’s Sean Tyler and Louisville’s Jawar Jordan all scored on 100-yard kickoff returns in their bowl games. Covey gets the nod because he also scored a touchdown on offense and had three catches for 34 yards.
Tarheeb Still, Maryland (Pinstripe): His 92-yard punt return opened the scoring in Maryland’s 54-10 blowout of Virginia Tech.
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