Part of what makes the bowl season entertaining is that numerous players who perform outside the national focus get to show off their talents without other games impinging on the spotlight.
Everyone knows about LSU cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. That means Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward doesn't get the notice he deserves.
Penn State's Devon Still, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus and Michigan State's Jerel Worthy became star defensive linemen in the Big Ten this season. But Purdue's Kawann Short put up excellent numbers in the same league.
And while there are guys outside the Big Six that most casual fans know all about -- like FIU wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Temple running back Bernard Pierce -- players such as Utah State running back Robert Turbin and Nevada defensive tackle Brett Roy generally go unrecognized.
Thus, here is a list of 10 so-called "lesser lights" who deserve to be in the spotlight this postseason:
Houston LB Sammy Brown
Bowl: TicketCity Bowl vs. Penn State, Jan. 2
Buzz: Cougars QB Case Keenum gets all the press (and rightly so), but just as with Keenum, Brown is a national leader in a key category. He has 28 tackles for loss, seven more than anyone else; Brown also is tied for third nationally with 12.5 sacks. He has added 89 tackles, 16 quarterback hurries and three pass breakups. If Brown, a senior, is disruptive against Penn State's mediocre offense, Houston's chances for a win increase greatly.
Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox
Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 30
Buzz: A strong case can be made that Cox, a junior, is the best interior defensive lineman in the SEC. Mississippi State's ends are nothing special, meaning Cox gets most of the attention from opposing offensive lines. But he still has thrived. He has made 49 tackles, with four sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He also has an interception, a blocked kick and a forced fumble. Wake has struggled to run the ball as it is, and a big game from Cox would go a long way toward Wake becoming a one-dimensional offense in the bowl game.
Marshall DE Vinny Curry
Bowl: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl vs. FIU, Dec. 20
Buzz: Curry might be too well-known for this list, but we decided to go ahead and use him anyway. He has 11 sacks this season, giving him 23.5 over the past two seasons. Curry, a senior, also has 21 tackles for loss, second-most nationally. He has eight quarterback hurries, three blocked kicks and six forced fumbles, which is tied for third nationally. FIU's offensive line has allowed just 13 sacks.
Louisiana-Lafayette TE Ladarius Green
Bowl: New Orleans Bowl vs. San Diego State, Dec. 17
Buzz: Green, a senior, is a lanky guy (6 feet 6/236 pounds) with good hands and the speed to get downfield. He has 46 receptions for 485 yards and seven TDs this season, and has 21 career TD catches. He had six catches for 66 yards against Arizona in the regular-season finale. San Diego State has been good against the pass, but one reason for that is the Aztecs have been mediocre against the run, so no one has to throw.
Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward
Bowl: Liberty Bowl vs. Cincinnati, Dec. 30
Buzz: Hayward, a senior, is one of the better corners in the nation, but has toiled in anonymity. He has good size, good speed and good hands, and also is a sure tackler. He has five picks and nine pass breakups this season, and is at 13 and 30, respectively, in those categories in his career. Cincy doesn't have a true go-to receiver, so expect Hayward to be deployed in a variety of ways in the bowl game.
Toledo WR Eric Page
Bowl: Military Bowl vs. Air Force, Dec. 28
Buzz: Page, a junior, is one of the more productive receivers in the nation. He is third nationally with 112 receptions, and those catches have gone for 1,123 yards and 10 TDs. He torched Ohio State: 12 receptions for 145 yards and two TDs. That was one of his five 100-yard games this season. In his career, he has scored 30 TDs and thrown four TD passes; he also is a dangerous return man. Air Force's secondary has been solid, but the Falcons can be beaten deep, so expect them to pay extra attention to Page.
Nevada DT Brett Roy
Bowl: Hawaii Bowl vs. Southern Miss, Dec. 24
Buzz: Roy, a senior, was a big-play machine from his tackle spot for the Wolf Pack. He arrived on campus as a walk-on safety but has grown two inches and gained 80 pounds (he's now 6-4 and 280). He has 10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss and six pass breakups this season. He had two sacks against Texas Tech and two tackles for loss against Boise State. Southern Miss' line has been much better than expected this season, but the Golden Eagles' interior linemen are in for a workout on Christmas Eve.
Purdue DT Kawann Short
Bowl: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl vs. Western Michigan, Dec. 27
Buzz: Short was overshadowed by more ballyhooed linemen in the Big Ten, but he made his share of big plays. Short, a junior, leads the Boilermakers and is third in the league with 17 tackles for loss; he also has team-high 6.5 sacks. He had 12.5 tackles for loss last season, when opposing lines had to worry about All-America DE Ryan Kerrigan, but Short really blossomed without Kerrigan this season. Western Michigan's offensive line is strongest at the tackle spots, so the Broncos' interior guys could be in trouble.
Utah State RB Robert Turbin
Bowl: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. Ohio, Dec. 17
Buzz: Turbin, a junior who missed last season with a knee injury, has rushed for 1,416 yards, which is eighth-most nationally. He also has 19 rushing TDs, which is tied for sixth-most nationally. He has had seven 100-yard games and six contests with multi-rushing TDs. Turbin also has four TD receptions and has scored at least once in every game this season. He is the key cog in a rushing offense that is sixth nationally at 277.5 yards per game. Ohio, though, has held seven foes to 115 or fewer yards and allowed more than 167 just once (308 in a win over Temple).
Western Michigan WR Jordan White
Bowl: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl vs. Purdue, Dec. 27
Buzz: White, a sixth-year senior, leads the nation in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,646) and is second in TD catches (16). In three games this season against Big Six foes (Connecticut, Illinois and Michigan), White had 38 catches for 424 yards and three TDs. He had seven games with at least 12 receptions and caught at least seven passes in every game but one (a rout of FCS foe Nicholls State). He also had nine 100-yard games and seven multi-TD outings. Purdue has good pass-defense numbers, but the Boilermakers are bad against the run and the five foes that attempted at least 30 passes against them threw 10 TD passes. Purdue opponents averaged 17 completions; Western averages 26. Indeed, Western has almost as many completions (338) as there have been passing attempts against Purdue (343).