We already know who the stars of the B1G are.
Guys like Saquon Barkley, J.T. Barrett, Jabrill Peppers and others have already become household names and are players everyone will be keeping an eye on this bowl season. There’s no need to reiterate how important each of them is to their team.
But bowl season isn’t just about those flashing stars. Usually, the postseason uncovers a few guys waiting for their B1G moment. Who are the best candidates this postseason?
Here are five players who could have their breakout game this bowl season:
RB – Ty Johnson, Maryland
Johnson has already had a few breakout games this season. He bookended the B1G schedule better than anyone, rushing for 204 yards on seven carries in the conference opener against Purdue and ended the year with a 168-yard effort on 11 touches against Rutgers. Thanks to those big outings, the sophomore lead the league in yards per carry average (8.9).
So why is Johnson a breakout candidate after such impressive outings?
He hasn’t performed well against good defenses. In Maryland’s battles with Nebraska, Penn State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Michigan, Johnson totaled just 87 yards on 34 carries. That’s not a promising statistic.
Boston College has a stout defense but lacks those four and five star recruits that some of Maryland’s previous opponents had on the roster. Johnson has a real opportunity to prove he can be consistent against a formidable defense and carry that momentum into his junior season.
WR – Flynn Nagel, Northwestern
Pat Narduzzi was the mind behind Michigan State’s stellar defenses. Chances are he’s going to have some sort of strategy to try and keep the ball away from B1G leading receiver Austin Carr. Pitt’s defense won’t be able to stop him completely, but Clayton Thorson is going to need another reliable target in the Pinstripe Bowl.
That’s where Nagel could step in. He caught 37 passes for 421 yards and two TDs this season but never really had that breakout moment. The sophomore might have that opportunity against Pitt.
Carr will be gone next season so it’s essential the Wildcats find a new primary target for next year. Maybe that’ll be uncovered in the Pinstripe Bowl.
CB – A’Shon Riggins, Indiana
Riggins had an excellent campaign as a freshman in Bloomington, tallying 37 total tackles, two stops for a loss and an interception. His efforts earned him a spot as an All-B1G honorable mention at the end of the regular season.
As Indiana’s focus will likely change defensively under Tom Allen, Riggins has the potential to be a great asset to the Hoosiers defense. Against an average Utah defense, he can have a huge impact.
Utah will probably try and keep the ball away from Rashard Fant and Jonathan Crawford as much as possible, meaning Riggins should have the opportunity to make some plays. Don’t be surprised if you hear the freshman’s name called frequently during the Foster Farms Bowl.
QB – Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin
He won the starting job, he led the Badgers to 10 wins and claimed a B1G West crown. That’s a pretty good resume for a freshman quarterback. While Wisconsin’s success as a team can’t be knocked, Hornibrook’s play under center could certainly be criticized.
Thanks to a strong rushing attack and an even stronger defense, Hornibrook didn’t have to do too much this year. But without Corey Clement in that backfield next year, the young gunslinger’s role is going to be expanded.
A big game in the Cotton Bowl would be an important step for the freshman, who didn’t reach the 100-yard mark through the air in any of his final five contests. And against an unproven Western Michigan defense, he has a good chance to make some plays.
With a month to recover from his injuries and game plan, Hornibrook has a great chance to show he can be a quality B1G quarterback.
S – Antonio Reed, Nebraska
In the absence of Nate Gerry who was suspended for the final game of his career, sophomore Antonio Reed will take over at safety for the Huskers. Those are pretty big shoes to fill.
Reed’s played in nearly every game over the past two seasons but hasn’t had too much of an impact. Still, Mike Riley has said that he’s excited for the youngster to get his opportunity and show he can fill that position that next season.
Nothing really grabs your attention about Reed, at least statistically. Still, Josh Dobbs and the Tennessee defense will probably pick on the sophomore, giving him the chance to disrupt some of those big plays the Volunteers will try to take.
A good performance in the Music City Bowl could help Reed solidify his role in that safety position next season.