Bowl games tie a metaphorical bow on the college football season, but they also can serve as landmark moments for a player’s career. The final contest of the campaign allows a final moment to climb the record book at a given school or even nationally.
While it’s theoretically possible for a single-game record to be broken, that’s complete guesswork. Instead, we’re specifically eyeing single-season or career marks that have a realistic chance of being topped this bowl season.
Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, DE, Arkansas State
Depending on who you ask, Ja’Von Rolland-Jones has an opportunity to break the FBS career sack record. Based on the school’s data, he’s collected 43.5 for his career. Other resources say Rolland-Jones has 42. Terrell Suggs currently owns the disputed mark of 44, since the NCAA didn’t officially track the statistic until 2000. Regardless, Rolland-Jones’ 13 sacks in 2017 means the Arkansas State’s single-season mark of 14 is reachable. No matter what happens in the Camellia Bowl, Rolland-Jones has put together a sensational college career.
Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
Rashard Higgins earned first-team AP All-America honors in 2014 when he snagged 96 passes and set a Colorado State record. Michael Gallup garnered second-team recognition this season, but he’s about to trot past Higgins on the receptions chart. Gallup will head to the New Mexico Bowl with 94 catches, which is tied for third-most nationally. Considering he’s nabbed four passes in 23 straight games dating back to 2016, we’re confident a healthy Gallup will eclipse the target.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The dual-threat quarterback is approaching a greater statistical season than his Heisman Trophy-winning 2016 campaign. Yeah, Lamar Jackson is a special player. After amassing 5,114 yards of total offense last season, he’s gathered 4,932 yards this year. Should 129 of the 183 total yards Jackson needs come on the ground, the junior will also break his own single-season rushing mark of 1,571. Mississippi State and its 10th-ranked defense will be a formidable opponent in the TaxSlayer Bowl, but Jackson should attain the first record, at worst.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Prior to 2016, former NFL star Isaac Bruce was the only Memphis receiver ever to have tallied a 1,000-yard campaign. Anthony Miller obliterated that 1,054-yard mark last season, and the senior is poised to eclipse his own record. He’ll arrive at the Liberty Bowl with 1,407 yards, just 27 yards shy of the 1,434 he collected as a junior. The best question probably isn’t if Miller breaks the record; no, it’s how quickly it happens. Plus, with four catches, he’ll edge the previous single-season mark of 95 receptions. Yes, that belongs to Miller, too.
Malik Rosier, QB, Miami
College football is a crazy sport. Malik Rosier can achieve the single-season record for total offense at Miami — a place once considered Quarterback U — yet his job isn’t secure for 2018. That’s a different story for another day, though. Rosier has accumulated 3,344 combined passing and rushing yards while helping Miami reach 10-2, and he needs just 72 yards to eclipse the mark (3,415) set by Stephen Morris in 2012. Wisconsin boasts one of the nation’s premier defenses, but Rosier ought to hit 72 yards by halftime of the Orange Bowl.
Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
Clayton Thorson has quietly put together a memorable career at Northwestern. The junior is locked in a three-way tie at 44 with Brett Basanez and Len Williams on the passing touchdowns list. In addition to possibly moving ahead during the Music City Bowl opposite Kentucky, Thorson has an outside shot at taking the crown for total touchdowns at the program. He’s scored 62 times as a runner or passer, while Zak Kustok accounted for 64. Thorson has four three-score games this season, and Kentucky allows 28.6 points on average. He’s in decent position to leave Nashville owning two more records.
Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
Unlike most players on the list, Josh Adams actually needs to jump two spots on a single-season chart. Vagas Ferguson (1,437 in 1979) and Allen Pinkett (1,394 in 1983) currently sit higher than Adams. Fortunately for the junior, he’s only staring at a 54-yard gap between his 1,386 yards and Ferguson. Granted, LSU won’t make it easy on Adams. The Tigers surrendered just 38 and 55 rushing yards over the last two games, and a healthy Adams failed to gain 54 in two of Notre Dame’s final three games. This storyline only adds to the intrigue of the Citrus Bowl.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
In 2014, a little-known redshirt freshman replaced an injured Braxton Miller and proceeded to secure a place in Ohio State history. J.T. Barrett amassed 3,772 yards of total offense and accounted for 45 touchdowns that season, and he’s poised to increase those targets in the Cotton Bowl. The senior will open the showdown with USC at 3,671 total yards and 45 scores. Just 102 yards and one touchdown would allow Barrett close his fascinating college career with a couple of fresh records.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield already owns the most efficient season in college football history. Last year, he posted a 196.39 rating. En route to the 2017 Heisman Trophy, the senior has registered a 203.76 mark. Additionally, Mayfield holds the career efficiency rating title, narrowly leading former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. Mayfield’s clip of 11.76 yards per attempt is also a tentative record. While there’s no question he’d prefer a win over Georgia in the Rose Bowl, it’s impressive Mayfield could be the most efficient FBS quarterback ever.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Entering the final contest of his college tenure, Mason Rudolph is already Oklahoma State’s career leader in passing yards and touchdowns. The Camping World Bowl will provide a deserved opportunity for Rudolph to claim a couple of single-season records. With two touchdowns a passer or runner, he’ll leap Barry Sanders for the most total scores in a year. Plus, 175 passing yards would lift Rudolph past Brandon Weeden on the single-season passing list. Virginia Tech has a feisty secondary, but Rudolph should accomplish both goals.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
We wouldn’t blame Rudolph for peppering James Washington with targets. The senior is nearing the program’s career receiving mark. Rashaun Woods currently owns the record at 4,414 yards, and Washington will begin the postseason game with 4,346. Again, the Hokies present a tough matchup, but it seems unwise to doubt the Oklahoma State offense. Washington has tallied 90-plus yards 10 times in 2017, and a 69-yard outing is the requirement for the record.
Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Army’s run defense is just vulnerable enough to consider a fifth straight 200-yard performance by Rashaad Penny a possibility. That would tie an FBS record. But even if that doesn’t happen, the senior could eclipse the one-year-old single-season rushing mark at San Diego State. Donnel Pumphrey gathered 2,133 yards last year. Penny will report to the Armed Forces Bowl at 2,027 yards, so it’ll take a 107-yard effort to claim that accolade. Since he’s totaled 107 or more in 10 of SDSU’s 12 season games, Penny’s pursuit of history should be considered likely.
Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida
As if we didn’t already know Quinton Flowers is a USF legend, the Birmingham Bowl offers him a perfect chance to cement that legacy. The senior’s next touchdown through the air will break the school record for career passing scores (67), which he currently shares with Marquel Blackwell. Flowers also needs just 46 rushing yards to top Marlon Mack’s career rushing mark of 3,609. In 11 games this season, Flowers only failed to reach 59 once. His storied USF tenure should end in historic fashion.
Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
During the 2013 campaign, two SMU receivers caught at least 100 passes. Trey Quinn has already passed Darius Joseph (103), and Jeremy Johnson (112) could be next. Quinn, who is playing his first season at the school after transferring from LSU, leads the nation with 106 receptions. The junior has four games of 10-plus catches, so he could smash Johnson’s mark during the DXL Frisco Bowl. Conversely, Quinn nabbed six catches or fewer in half of SMU’s season games, so it’s not quite a formality, either. We’ll call it probable and watch closely.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Christian McCaffrey cruised into Stanford history with a second-place finish in Heisman voting in 2015 while racking up 2,019 rushing yards. This year, Bryce Love was the runner-up to Mayfield for the prestigious award and is rapidly approaching McCaffrey’s total. Despite an ankle injury hampering the final half of the season, Love has scampered for 1,973 yards. The junior expects to be at 100 percent for the Alamo Bowl, per Tim Griffin of DieHards. TCU has a pesky run defense, but Love should gain the 47 yards he needs.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo
An injury kept Diontae Johnson off the field in 2016. He watched teammate Cody Thompson surge to the pinnacle of Toledo’s record book, accumulating 1,269 yards on the season. The roles have basically been reversed, since a broken leg ended Thompson’s campaign after five games. He was on pace to achieve a new target, but Johnson has picked up where his teammate left off. With 13 yards against Appalachian State in the Dollar General Bowl, Johnson will surpass the mark.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Top-tier draft prospects will consider skipping bowl games. But if Josh Rosen declares for the NFL draft and decides to play, only injury could stop the junior from breaking UCLA’s single-season passing yards mark. Heading into the Cactus Bowl, he’s tallied 3,717 yards. The standing target of 3,740, which Brett Hundley registered in 2012, is simply a couple of slants or one deep completion away from falling quickly. No defense is holding somebody who averages 41 pass attempts per game below 24 yards. Get ready for Rosen to earn the record.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Many excellent quarterbacks have traveled through USC, and Sam Darnold is about to stand atop them all. Carson Palmer, who threw for 3,942 yards in his Heisman-winning 2002 season, is within reach. Darnold has collected 3,787 yards this year. Even if the redshirt sophomore repeats his worst performance of the season — 164 yards at Washington State — he’d still clear Palmer’s number by eight yards. Ohio State’s secondary recovered from a poor beginning to the campaign, but it’s probably not going to hold Darnold below the record during the Cotton Bowl.
Olamide Zaccheaus, RB, Virginia
Virginia’s 5-1 start to 2017 allowed the team to sneak into the Military Bowl despite a brutal November slate. Along the way, Olamide Zaccheaus caught at least four passes in every contest. That’s a fitting stat, considering he needs exactly four to set the program’s single-season receptions record. Billy McMullen achieved the current mark of 83 in 2001. Zaccheaus will have an excellent chance to break the career measure next season if he returns, too.
Joey Slye, K, Virginia Tech
Two records could be at stake if Joey Slye lines up for a field goal against Oklahoma State. The senior is currently tied with Carter Warley for the career points mark of 307. So, yes, Slye could set the record after a touchdown. But he’s also all square with Brandon Pace at 58 on the career field goals list. Virginia Tech should have plenty of success moving the ball opposite Oklahoma State, so it’s extremely probable Slye will leave the Camping World Bowl owning both categories.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Officially, the FBS freshman record for rushing yards is 1,925 by Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma in 2004. Yes, Ron Dayne collected more in 1996 for Wisconsin prior to a change in how the NCAA counted statistics, but he probably wouldn’t mind seeing a fellow Badgers star taking over the official mark. Jonathan Taylor will enter the Orange Bowl with 1,847 yards. It’ll be a challenge to reach 79 yards against Miami, which has surrendered just 3.5 yards per carry in 2017. But in games where Taylor didn’t leave early due to injury, he only failed to record 80 yards once.