Taking the extra 24 hours to review all six of the New Years' Day bowl games, I've come up with a list of the five draft-eligible players who I felt enjoyed the strongest performances.
In New Years' fashion, I'm putting them in reverse order, starting with the No. 5 performance and finishing with the player I thought was No. 1 on the day of ones (1-1-11).
5. OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State : Those that followed me on Twitter yesterday (I had 55 posts) they know that I'm quite high on the Bulldogs' left tackle. Sherrod doesn't have elite quickness off the edge, but rarely allowed pressure from Michigan pass rushers during the Gator Bowl. Sherrod's ability to pop the defensive end and switch off to blitzing linebackers (essentially blocking two men) gave quarterback Chris Relf plenty of time to attack the Wolverines' vulnerable secondary. For Relf, who completed only 55.5% of his passes and threw only 10 touchdowns during his 12 regular season starts, it was his most impressive performance of the year (completed 78.3% of his passes for 281 yards, 3 TDs and an INT). In fact, Relf's 18 of 23 passing was the most efficient of any New Years' Day quarterback, helping him earn MVP honors. The credit should go just as much to Sherrod as Relf.
4. RB Jordan Todman, Connecticut: The Oklahoma Sooners knew heading into the Fiesta Bowl that if they could contain Todman, the No. 2 rusher in the FBS (behind Oregon's LaMichael James), they'd almost surely be victorious. The Sooners won easily, but like nearly every other opponent this season, they couldn't stop Todman from rushing for over 100 yards. It was Todman's agility, burst and determined running, in fact, that served as the Huskies' only offensive spark in the 48-20 loss. I remain concerned about the 5-09, 195 pound Todman's ability to hold up long term in the NFL, but the Huskies apparenty aren't. Todman rushed 32 times for his 121 times against the Sooners -- the fifth time in final six games of his Connecticut career in which he had at least 30 attempts.
3. C Mike Pouncey, Florida: It hasn't always been easy this year for Pouncey, who, of course, took over at center for his twin brother, Maurkice - Pittsburgh's first round pick last April. Mike more than held his own yesterday against Penn State, however, clearing the way for interior running lanes, providing stellar pass protection up the middle and -- perhaps most impressively -- showcasing the nimble feet to pull and hit moving defenders downfield. Pouncey's size and agility make him a better fit at guard in the pros, but in a showdown of two of the best senior interior lineman in college football yesterday, Pouncey was more consistently impressive than Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski.
2. QB Andy Dalton, TCU: It wasn't that Dalton put up staggering numbers against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl (15/23 for 219 yards and a TD), but the poise he demonstrated in helping the Horned Frogs to their biggest win ever will not only help secure his place in TCU history, it will unquestionably boost his stock with NFL scouts. With their defense and special teams, TCU knew they could win the game as long as Dalton didn't attempt to win the game on his own. He didn't, playing within himself by making key reads, using his legs to buy time and pick up yardage and taking the occasional shot downfield. In doing so he atoned for the mistakes (three INTs) he made in TCU's loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last year and reassured scouts that he has the mettle to handle the big stage.
1. DL Marcell Dareus, Alabama: There were any number of Crimson Tide players that deserved acknowledgement for their 49-7 thrashing of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl - not the least of which was RB Mark Ingram or WR Julio Jones - but the most dominant 'Bama player on New Years' Day was Dareus. He dominated the Spartans offensive line, easily handling one on one blocks and splitting double-teams, as well on his way to the backfield. Those that didn't watch the game may point out that Dareus had only three tackles (two TFL including a sack) and thus couldn't possibly warrant the top spot. As is often the case with dominant defensive linemen, however, Dareus' penetration and three QB hurries often gave his teammates easy opportunities to pad their own statistics.