Lynch leads offensive showcase in smaller bowls

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Paxton Lynch isn't a household name yet.

But if you'd like to get a head start on learning about the best college quarterback you might not have heard of — particularly if your favorite NFL team is looking for a new quarterback anytime soon — set aside some time on Dec. 30.

That's when the Memphis junior will lead the Tigers (9-3) in search of their second win this season over a Southeastern Conference team when they face Auburn (6-6) in the Birmingham Bowl.

Like many of the record 40 bowl games, the Birmingham Bowl is greatly overshadowed nationally by its playoff brethren. That doesn't mean the lesser-known bowls provide any less offensive excitement, especially one featuring Lynch, a 6-foot-7 wonder who threw for 28 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season.

Lynch's evolution from lightly recruited out of high school to arguably the best non-Power 5 conference player in the country came into focus while leading Memphis to a 37-24 win over Mississippi on Oct. 17.

Even if the Birmingham Bowl isn't Lynch's last collegiate game, tuning in to watch is a must for fans of high-scoring fun and playmakers.

Some of the other top offensive players to watch in lesser-known bowl games this postseason:

FCS CELEBRATION

Why should the big boys of college football get to have all the fun (and money) of bowl season? Enter the Celebration Bowl, the very first of the 40-game marathon postseason and an opportunity for Football Championship Series members Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T to showcase their talents for a national audience on Saturday, Dec. 19. If you're eager for a head start — and some offensive excitement — entering the rest of bowl season, Alcorn State running back Darryan Ragsdale should provide you with his usual array of highlights. The senior is second in the FCS with an average of 8.2 yards per carry, and he and teammate Lenorris Footman combine to average 191.4 yards rushing per game for an offense that averages 40.1 points per game.

FANTASTIC FALK

Enjoying a good, old fashioned bowl-season shootout just wouldn't be the same without a Mike Leach-coached team, would it? Well, the former swashbuckler turned Cougar is back in the postseason with standout quarterback Luke Falk directing Washington State's version of the Air Raid against Miami in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 26. Falk leads the country in passing yardage per game (387.8), and he should provide all the high-flying excitement you can handle while letting your holiday leftovers settle from the comfort of your couch.

ALL-AROUND ERVIN

Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey from Stanford earned rave reviews this season for his versatility while setting the NCAA single-season record for all-purpose yardage (3,496). With far less notoriety, San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin finished second nationally to McCaffrey in all-purpose yardage (200.8 per game) and will lead the Spartans (5-7) against Georgia State in the Cure Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 19. Ervin had 1,469 yards rushing this season, including a 300-yard effort in a win over Fresno State, but the senior is nearly equally electric as a receiver and kick returner.

FISH BOWL

No, it's not OK to watch the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 21 just to see if you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the two 450-gallon fish tanks in Marlins Park. Instead, tune in for one of the most entertaining wide receivers in the country in Western Kentucky's Taywan Tayler. The junior is second in the country with 17 touchdown catches, and he's tied for fourth in yards (1,363).

INDEPENDENT HURRICANE

Yes, it is OK to watch the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26 as a farewell to retiring Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. While you're watching, you're likely to enjoy some unexpected entertainment from the other sideline while watching Tulsa wide receiver Keyarris Garrett. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound senior is second in the country with 1,451 yards receiving, and he's saved some of his top performances for top competition, including a pair of 14-catch efforts against Oklahoma and Memphis this season.

Saturday's Bowl Games

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl — Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T, noon

New Mexico Bowl — Arizona vs. New Mexico, 2 p.m.

Las Vegas Bowl — BYU vs. Utah, 3:30 p.m.

Camellia Bowl — Ohio vs. Appalachian State, 5:30 p.m.

Cure Bowl — San Jose State vs. Georgia State, 7 p.m.

New Orleans Bowl — Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech, 9 p.m.

Monday's Bowl Game

Miami Beach Bowl — Western Kentucky vs. South Florida, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday's Bowl Games

Idaho Potato Bowl — Akron vs. Utah State, 3:30 p.m.

Boca Raton Bowl — Toledo vs. Temple, 7 p.m.

Wednesday's Bowl Games

Poinsettia Bowl — Boise State vs. Northern Illinois, 4:30 p.m.

GoDaddy Bowl — Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green, 8 p.m.

Thursday's Bowl Games

Bahamas Bowl — Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan, noon

Hawaii Bowl — San Diego State vs. Cincinnati, 8 p.m.


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