Quarterback quandaries could complicate the offseason for Alabama, Clemson and Georgia

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Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) celebrates a touchdown against Tennessee with Tua Tagovailoa (13).(Photo: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

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LOS ANGELES — The question seemed to irritate Georgia coach Kirby Smart, certainly because of the timing but perhaps because he knows deep down that a legitimate quandary is about to land on his plate. 

Georgia will start Monday’s Rose Bowl with freshman Jake Fromm at quarterback, a natural leader who has played his role to perfection for the SEC champion. It will have a backup on the sidelines in sophomore Jacob Eason, a former five-star recruit who started last year and had the job until getting hurt early in the Bulldogs’ season opener. Next season Georgia will welcome Justin Fields, viewed by recruiting experts as one of the best quarterbacks the state has ever produced.

“Come on, why would we even bring that up right now?” Smart responded to a question about whether he would try to talk Eason into staying at Georgia next season. “Why is that a conversation right now?”

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Because in the realm of this sport, where rosters change every year but expectations remain crazy high, the euphoria for the winners in Monday’s College Football Playoff semifinals and the disappointment for the losers will fade away rather quickly. What lingers — not just for Georgia but for Clemson and Alabama as well — will be an offseason of drama surrounding the quarterback position. And it’s not hard to envision the conversation being shaped by what happens in the Playoff. 

While Oklahoma’s future is also somewhat uncertain, that’s because Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield will depart and the cycle will start anew, likely with Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray taking over at quarterback. 

For the other three Playoff schools, the intrigue will be about whether experience and incumbency trumps potential. 

That probably rings true for Alabama more than any team in the country. Despite his massive early career success, sophomore Jalen Hurts has become a polarizing player among Crimson Tide fans. Some see his 24-2 record as a starter, the electricity he can generate as a runner and his propensity to avoid big mistakes, while others have criticized his limitations as a passer  (he’s thrown for 200 yards or more only twice this year) and believe he’s made Alabama too easy to for good teams to defend.

“Jalen has improved dramatically from last year to this year, and I think his consistency in performance throughout this past season was a lot better especially in the passing game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He’s always been a guy that because of his athleticism, his ability to run the ball, has made a lot of plays with his feet. But I also think that we’ve been able to help him develop as a quarterback in terms of his decision making in the pocket. When he’s done that well, he‘s been extremely effective.”

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But regardless of his development trajectory, it seems Alabama is gearing up for a competition next spring and into the fall with freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who carries almost a mythical reputation as potentially the best passer Nick Saban has ever recruited.

Saban never has been afraid of putting his players in competitive situations, of wiping the slate clean every year and making them earn their jobs. It’s part of what sustains his program as the gold standard: The players who give him the best chance to win will play.

But quarterback decisions have unique implications. They shape identities and styles. They can cause divisions. And if Alabama wins a national title this year with Hurts, it seems almost unfathomable that he could lose his job with two years of eligibility remaining. And where would that leave Tagovailoa, who certainly didn’t come to Alabama to wait three years?

Conversely, wouldn’t it be easier for Saban — at least politically — to push the reset button the quarterback position if Alabama falls short of a national title again this year? 

On the other sideline Monday, Clemson’s quarterback issue will have a much different tone, given Dabo Swinney’s history of handling his quarterbacks and the timing between the arrival of Trevor Lawrence — ranked by some experts as the No. 1 quarterback in this recruiting class — and the end of current starter Kelly Bryant’s career. 

Clemson recruit Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville (Ga.). (Photo: Troy Wayrynen, USA TODAY Sports)

For Clemson, 2017 was viewed largely as a bridge year at quarterback between Deshaun Watson’s exit for the NFL and Lawrence taking over, perhaps right away in 2018. Swinney opened up the competition this fall between Bryant, redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson, a five-star recruit out of Indiana. 

Bryant won the job going away, but he was still an unknown quantity, having played sparingly as Watson‘s backup his first two seasons. His performance, however, kept the Clemson machine going, as he completed 67% of his passes with six interceptions while proving to be an even more adept runner than Watson in the Tigers’ spread system. 

Swinney values experience and is sensitive to the team dynamics of displacing a trusted leader who has performed well — Clemson was slow to promote Watson over Cole Stoudt in 2014 — so you can probably pencil in Bryant as the Tigers’ starter to open his senior year as the starter.  The more dramatic battle could be in 2019 between Lawrence and Johnson, unless he decides to transfer. At the same time, Clemson staffers gush over Lawrence, a 6-6 specimen who will have the physical tools to play right away. 

“He’s just way ahead of Deshaun from a physical standpoint,” Swinney said on Dec. 20 when Lawrence, who was committed to the Tigers for a year, finally could sign his scholarship papers. “We’ll see where he is mentally and how he transitions and all that once he gets here and we start coaching. I don’t think that you really know that until you start coaching a guy, but he’s been well prepared, well groomed.”

Georgia and Clemson face a similar issue: How do you create competition between two highly rated prospects who enrolled within a year of each other while convincing both of them to stay in an era where quarterbacks are often quick to seek a safe landing if they don’t play early? 

Georgia Bulldogs quarterbacks Jake Fromm (11) and Jacob Eason (10). (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)

Eason, to his credit, has handled the situation with class. Even though he was back to 100% midway through the season, it was basically impossible for Georgia to pull the job from Fromm after he led the Bulldogs to a Week 2 win at Notre Dame, setting the stage for a 9-0 start. 

“He’s playing really well,” Eason said. “He’s done a great job of taking this team great places. He’s been a great leader. I’m super proud of him and want him to do the best he can do and win the ballgame. I’m part of this team as well and I’m always going to root for Jake no matter what. I love the kid he’s done a great job.”

Still, Eason believes deep down that Georgia also would have gotten here if he had remained at the controls the offense. We’ll never know if that’s the case, but after showing some flashes of greatness along with inconsistency as a freshman, he needs to play to find out how good he can be. 

There’s no guarantee that will happen at Georgia, which leads to natural speculation that he’ll transfer, perhaps closer to his home near Seattle. Likewise, you can’t exactly pencil Fromm into the starting job at Georgia for the next two or three years regardless of what happens in the Playoff. In one scenario, he’ll have to start his competition anew with Eason this spring. In another, he could spend 2018 and beyond trying to hold off Fields, which might be difficult to do given the hype. 

Though its first national title since 1980 would bring euphoria to Athens, keeping everyone happy probably isn’t in the cards.

“Seems to me like their job is to keep me happy,” offensive coordinator Jim Chaney joked. “All the recruiting and stuff is behind us, so now the rubber hits the road and you’ve got to go out there and do it. I don‘t know what‘s going to happen in the future.”

But the groundwork for that future will begin being laid as soon as the semifinals are over. 

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Alabama defensive lineman Da‘Ron Payne, left, and quarterback Jalen Hurts hold the 2018 Sugar Bowl trophy after beating Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal.  Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports Alabama defensive lineman Da‘Ron Payne catches a touchdown pass against Clemson during the third quarter of the 2018 Sugar Bowl.  Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports Alabama running back Damien Harris jumps over the pile for a touchdown against Clemson during the third quarter of the 2018 Sugar Bowl.  Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant tries to scramble away from Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick during the second quarter of the 2018 Sugar Bowl.  Greg M. Cooper, USA TODAY Sports Clemson coach Dabo Swinney shakes hands with Alabama coach Nick Saban before the 2018 Sugar Bowl.  Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) and linebacker Roquan Smith (3) celebrate after the Bulldogs beat Oklahoma at the 2018 Rose Bowl.  Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports Georgia blocks a field goal attempted by Oklahoma place kicker Austin Seibert during double overtime of the 2018 Rose Bowl.  Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports Dimitri Flowers catches a touchdown pass.  Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb churns out some yards.  Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sport Notre Dame wide receiver Miles Boykin makes a one-handed catch in front of LSU defensive back Donte Jackson before scoring the game-winning touchdown in the 2018 Citrus Bowl.  John Raoux, AP Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson breaks free from Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith for a big gain in the first half of the 2018 Rose Bowl.  Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports Central Florida defensive back Tre Neal returns a recovered fumble against the Auburn during the 2018 Peach Bowl.  Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham throws a pass against the Central Florida defense during the 2018 Peach Bowl.  Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports Notre Dame‘s Jalen Elliott defend a pass intended for LSU receiver Tory Carter during the 2018 Citrus Bowl.  Joe Robbins, Getty Images South Carolina coach Will Muschamp gets doused by his players after the Gamecocks beat Michigan 26-19 in the 2018 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.  Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis (57) recovers by Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports South Carolina defensive lineman Daniel Fennell grabs the facemask of Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters during the first half of the 2018 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.  Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports LSU linebacker Devin White tackles Notre Dame running back Josh Adams on fourth down during the first half in the 2018 Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium.  Matt Stamey, USA TODAY Sports Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton drops back to pass during the first quarter of the 2018 Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst celebrates after winning the Orange Bowl.  Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook scrambles during the Orange Bowl against Miami.  Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports Wisconsin wide receiver A.J. Taylor catches a 20-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter as Miami defensive back Sheldrick Redwine (22) defends.  Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports Miami wide receiver Lawrence Cager celebrates after a touchdown against Wisconsin Badgers in the Orange Bowl.  Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) scores a touchdown against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.  Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) hurdles Washington defenders during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl.  Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 30: The Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrate victory in the TaxSlayer Bowl.  Melina Vastola, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 30: Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson looks for running room in the TaxSlayer Bowl, perhaps his final college game.  Melina Vastola, USA TODAY Sports Mississippi State quarterback Keytaon Thompson is hit hard by Louisville safety Dee Smith (11) during the first half in the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field.  Melina Vastola, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 30: The Iowa State Cyclones with the Liberty Bowl trophy.  Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 30: Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Hakeem Butler leaps over a defender.  Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports Iowa State running back David Montgomery (32) carries the ball against Memphis linebacker Shareef White (30) during the second half of the Liberty Bowl.  Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer holds up the Cotton Bowl trophy after the game against the USC Trojans in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.  Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports USC Trojans and Ohio State Buckeyes players are separated by officials during the fourth quarter in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.  Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) runs for a touchdown in the second quarter against Southern California Trojans cornerback Iman Marshall (8) in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.  Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports Ohio State Buckeyes defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis (59) and Nick Bosa (97) defend USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during the first quarter in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.  Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports New Mexico State Aggies running back Jason Huntley (1) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Utah State Aggies during the first half in the 2017 Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium.  Casey Sapio, USA TODAY Sports New Mexico State Aggies wide receiver Johnathan Boone (13) catches the ball against Utah State Aggies cornerback Wesley Bailey (8) during the second half in the 2017 Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium.  Casey Sapio, USA TODAY Sports New Mexico State Aggies wide receiver Johnathan Boone (13) loses his helmet as he is tackled by Utah State Aggies safety Gaje Ferguson (23) in the first quarter of the 2017 Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium.  Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports Utah State Aggies tight end Dax Raymond (87) and New Mexico State Aggies linebacker Leon McQuaker (41) battle for the ball in the 2017 Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium.  Casey Sapio, USA TODAY Sports Northwestern Wildcats defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster (1) and safety Godwin Igwebuike (16) celebrate with the Music City Bowl trophy following a win against the Kentucky Wildcats at Nissan Stadium.  Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson (18) shakes hands with a Kentucky player after being injured during the first half of the 2017 Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium.  Jim Brown, USA TODAY Sports Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) runs for a touchdown during the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats in the 2017 Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium.  Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports North Carolina State Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren and his team celebrate with the trophy after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils 52-31 in the 2017 Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium.  Ivan Pierre Aguirre, USA TODAY Sports North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Nyheim Hines (7) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the 2017 Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium.  Ivan Pierre Aguirre, USA TODAY Sports Wake Forest Demon Deacons running back Matt Colburn (22) runs the ball against Texas A&M Aggies linebacker Otaro Alaka (42) in the third quarter in the 2017 Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.  Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback John Wolford (10) gets grabbed by the facemask by Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Jayden Peevy (93) in the first quarter in the 2017 Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.  Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports The TCU Horned Frogs celebrate their 39-37 victory over the Stanford Cardinal in the 2017 Alamo Bowl.  Erich Schlegel, USA TODAY Sports Stanford Cardinal wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (19) stretches into the end zone past TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Jeff Gladney (12) and safety Nick Orr (18) for a touchdown in the second quarter of the 2017 Alamo Bow.  Erich Schlegel, USA TODAY Sports TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver John Diarse (9) attempts to catch a pass as Stanford Cardinal cornerback Quenton Meeks (24) defends in the 2017 Alamo Bowl.  Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and the Spartans raise the Holiday Bowl trophy after defeating the Washington State Cougars at SDCCU Stadium.  Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 28: Michigan State Spartans running back LJ Scott (3) knocks the helmet of guard Tyler Higby (70) off as he leaps over the pile as Washington State Cougars linebacker Justus Rogers (37) defends during the second quarter in the 2017 Holiday Bowl at SDCCU Stadium.  Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports The Oklahoma State Cowboys raise the trophy and celebrate winning the 2017 Camping World Bowl over the Virginia Tech Hokies at Camping World Stadium.  Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Dillon Stoner (17) catches a touchdown against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half in the 2017 Camping World Bowl at Camping World Stadium.  Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) attempts a pass while being hit by Virginia Tech Hokies defensive end Houshun Gaines (11) during the second half in the 2017 Camping World Bowl at Camping World Stadium.  Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 28: Navy Midshipmen hold the Military Bowl trophy after whipping Virginia.  Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports Navy Midshipmen running back Josh Brown (28) jumps over a teammate as he runs during the first quarter against the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2017 Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.  Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports Navy Midshipmen quarterback Malcolm Perry (10) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2017 Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.  Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Texas celebrates after beating Missouri to win the Texas Bowl in Houston.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Texas linebacker Anthony Wheeler (45) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the first half of the Texas Bowl against Missouri.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Texas defenders Gary Johnson (33) and Brandon Jones (19) bring down Missouri running back Ish Witter (21) during the first half.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Purdue celebrates after beating Arizona to win the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif.  Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Purdue receiver Gregory Phillips (10) crosses the goal line to score past Arizona defender Lorenzo Burns (2) during the first half of the Foster Farms Bowl.  Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Arizona receiver Tyrell Johnson (2) hauls in a touchdown catch behind Purdue defender Jacob Thieneman (41) during the second half.  Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Florida State receiver Auden Tate (18) hauls in a touchdown catch over Southern Miss defender Cornell Armstrong (3) during the second half of the Independence Bowl.  Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Florida State running back Amir Rasul (22) dives for extra yardage during the first half.  Nelson Chenault, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Iowa celebrates after beating Boston College to win the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York.  Vincent Carchietta, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 27: Boston College defender Charlie Callinan (83) brings down Iowa receiver Matt VandeBerg (89) during the second half.  Vincent Carchietta, Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports Kansas State Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder is presented with the Cactus Bowl championship trophy after defeating the UCLA Bruins in the 2017 Cactus Bowl at Chase Field.  Casey Sapio, USA TODAY Sports Kansas State Wildcats players celebrate after defeating the UCLA Bruins in the 2017 Cactus Bowl at Chase Field.  Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports Kansas State Wildcats wide receiver Dominique Heath (4) scores a touchdown against the UCLA Bruins in the third quarter of the 2017 Cactus Bowl at Chase Field.  Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports UCLA Bruins wide receiver Jordan Lasley (2) runs the ball under pressure from Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Denzel Goolsby (20) during the first half in the 2017 Cactus Bowl at Chase Field.  Casey Sapio, USA TODAY Sports The Duke Blue Devils celebrate their victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies in the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field.  Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports Duke Blue Devils running back Brittain Brown (22) scores a touchdown in the third quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies in the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field.  Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports Northern Illinois Huskies wide receiver Jauan Wesley (9) makes a catch over Duke Blue Devils safety Michael Carter II (26) in the first half in the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field.  Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham gets doused following a 30-14 victory against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the 2017 Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium.  Raymond Carlin III, USA TODAY Sports Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) carries the ball for a 2-yard touchdown against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first half in the 2017 Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium.  Raymond Carlin III, USA TODAY Sports Fresno State Bulldogs offensive lineman Markus Boyer (51) holds up kicker Jimmy Camacho (36) after he made a field goal during the fourth quarter at the 2017 Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium.  Marco Garcia, USA TODAY Sports Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Marcus McMaryion (6) dives for the end zone but does not score against the Houston Cougars during the second quarter in the 2017 Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium.  Marco Garcia, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 23: Appalachian State running back Jalin Moore celebrates a touchdown with teammates during the Dollar General Bowl against Toledo at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.  Robert McDuffie, USA TODAY Sports Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield holds the Dollar General Bowl trophy after the Mountaineers beat Toledo at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.  Robert McDuffie, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 23: Appalachian State wide receiver Malik Williams dives into the end zone to score a touchdown during the fourth quarter against Toledo in the Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.  Robert McDuffie, USA TODAY Sports Appalachian State running back Jalin Moore carries the ball for a touchdown against Toledo during the Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.  Robert McDuffie, USA TODAY Sports Army celebrates after beating San Diego State 42-35 to win the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.  Raymond Carlin III, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 23: Army running back Darnell Woolfolk (33) tries to break free of San Diego State defenders Ron Smith (17) and Tariq Thompson (14) during the second half of the Armed Forces Bowl.  Raymond Carlin III, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 23: South Florida celebrates after beating Texas Tech 38-34 to win the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field.  Adam Hagy, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 23: South Florida receiver Tyre McCants (8) hauls in a fourth-quarter touchdown catch against Texas Tech at the Birmingham Bowl.  Adam Hagy, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 22: Spuddy Buddy, the mascot for the Idaho Potato Commission, poses with the Famous Idaho Potato before the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl between Wyoming and Central Michigan at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho.  Brian Losness, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 22: Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, middle, holds up the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl trophy while quarterback Josh Allen, left, looks on at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho.  Brian Losness, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 22: Wyoming cornerback Tyler Hall upends Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin, breaking up a pass during the first half of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.  Darin Oswald, AP The Temple Owls celebrate with the trophy after defeating the FIU Panthers in the 2017 Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field.  Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports Dec. 20: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs receivers Teddy Veal (9) and Javonte Woodard (84) celebrate a touchdown in the second quarter against Southern Methodist in the Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports Louisiana Tech safety Secdrick Cooper returns an interception against Southern Methodist quarterback Ben Hicks, left, during the first quarter in the Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports From left to right, Terry Bradshaw, Eric Dickerson, Craig James and Cole Beasley pose before the Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports Louisiana Tech celebrates after winning the Frisco Bowl against Southern Methodist at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin holds up the trophy after defeating the Akron Zips in the 2017 Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium.  Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports Florida Atlantic Owls tight end John Raine (30) is tackled by Akron Zips cornerback Kyron Brown (4) and defensive back Jordan George (7) in the 2017 Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium.  Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders players hoist the trophy after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves in the 2017 Camellia Bowl at the Cramton Bowl.  Marvin Gentry, USA TODAY Sports Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders wide receiver Ruben Garnett (27) catches a touchdown pass ahead of Arkansas State Red Wolves offensive lineman B.J. Edmonds (3) during the second quarter in the 2017 Camellia Bowl at Cramton Bowl.  Bob Rosato, RVR Photos/USA TODAY Sports Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday celebrates alongside players with the trophy after winning the 2017 New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium.  Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Tyre Brady (8) runs down the sideline for a touchdown after making a catch against the Colorado State Rams during the first half in the 2017 New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium.  Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports Boise Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin hoists the Las Vegas Bowl trophy after defeating the Oregon Ducks in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium.  Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) loses the football after being hit by Boise State Broncos safety Kekaula Kaniho (28) during the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium.  Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports Georgia State Panthers head coach Sean Elliott celebrates with his team after winning the 2017 Cure Bowl against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Camping World Stadium.  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defensive back Devon Key (2) tackles Georgia State Panthers running back Glenn Smith (17) just shy of the goal line during the fourth quarter in the 2017 Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports Troy Trojans defensive tackle Trevon Sanders (90) and defensive end Seth Calloway (94) carry the New Orleans Bowl Trophy after defeating the North Texas Mean Green at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  Albert Cesare, Montgomery Advertiser/USA TODAY Sports Troy wide receiver John Johnson (2) scores a touchdown against North Texas during the 2017 New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  Albert Cesare, Montgomery Advertiser/USA TODAY Sports

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