A thrilling slate of bowl games on Saturday gave college football fans everything they could hope for. Between two exciting College Football Playoff semifinal matchups and a pair of marquee programs putting on stellar showings, players from across the country stood out with MVP performances.
The action kicked off with an explosive Cotton Bowl between No. 17 Memphis and No. 10 Penn State. While the Tigers displayed some firepower, remarkable performances by Penn State sophomores Journey Brown and Micah Parsons led the Nittany Lions to victory.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame put on a show in a dominant performance in the Camping World Bowl with linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah leading the way in a decisive 33-9 victory.
Of course, the Playoff semifinals stole the show with the top four teams battling it out for spots in the national championship game. LSU’s offense put on a record performance as it rolled over the Sooners in the Peach Bowl. Meanwhile, the Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes provided a thrilling fight to the finish.
On a day with plenty of scoring and big plays, here are the standout players from Saturday’s college football bowl games.
Journey Brown, running back, Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State saw an opportunity to dominate on Saturday with its rushing attack. The Nittany Lions controlled the line of scrimmage and with gaps to run through, Brown tore the Tigers defense to shreds in the Cotton Bowl.
The redshirt sophomore put his talent on display early with his incredible 32-yard touchdown run. He kept humiliating Memphis defenders, running over defensive backs and eluding tackles throughout the game. Brown finished with an absurd 202 rushing yards on only 16 carries with two touchdowns and certainly earned Offensive MVP honors in the Cotton Bowl win.
Micah Parsons, outside linebacker, Penn State Nittany Lions
Bowl games provide a national audience the chance to watch players they often don’t see during the regular season. Parsons entered Saturday’s game as an unheralded linebacker nationally, but that’s about to change after this jaw-dropping performance.
The sophomore linebacker had his big moment in the Cotton Bowl. He showed his athleticism and instincts to get to the football quickly and finished with 13 solo tackles. That wasn’t his greatest contribution either. Parsons lived in Memphis’ backfield, racking up three tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. This is the moment that everyone will remember when they watch Parsons become one of the best linebackers in college football next season.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, outside linebacker, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
As Parsons was putting on a defensive clinic in the Cotton Bowl, Notre Dame’s sophomore linebacker put on a defensive masterpiece in the Camping World Bowl. While he didn’t rack up as many tackles, the 6-foot-1 linebacker put on an even more impressive pass rush display.
Owusu-Koramoah had 5.5 sacks with one forced fumble the season. He nearly beat those numbers against Iowa State by ripping through the offensive line like a cyclone. He recorded four tackles for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He earned MVP honors and could become one of the hottest names discussed in draft circles next year.
Joe Burrow, quarterback, LSU Tigers
Everyone expected Burrow and LSU’s offense to perform well in this game and win. In a season where we’ve been consistently amazed by the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner, he found a way to leave everyone with their jaws on the floor by halftime.
It didn’t take long to realize this would be a historic performance. He threw for 166 yards in the first quarter with as many incompletions (three) as touchdown passes. Burrow then raised his play even higher in the second quarter, completing 10-of-13 passes for 237 yards and four touchdowns. A seven-touchdown performance in one half of a CFP Semifinal game and eight total touchdowns in three quarters. We might never see something like this again.
Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, LSU Tigers
It’s not like Jefferson came into this game as an unknown talent. The junior scored 14 touchdowns during the season with 1,207 receiving yards. But Ja’Marr Chase came into the CFP with more recognition, at least until Saturday’s game.
Everything Oklahoma’s defense tried against Jefferson failed. Even when he was covered well, Jefferson made absurd catches like this. He hauled in nine receptions for a CFP record four touchdowns in the first half. As if 186 yards in two quarters wasn’t enough, Jefferson finished with 227 receiving yards on 14 receptions in under four quarters. Clemson’s secondary is going to experience some problems against this receiving corps.
J.K. Dobbins, running back, Ohio State Buckeyes
There’s something about facing great competition that brings the best out of Dobbins. Facing Travis Etienne and the Tigers, Dobbins showed everyone why he might be the best running back in college football.
He showcased his breakaway speed early by torching Clemson’s defense on a 68-yard score. The junior then ran his way into Ohio State’s record books with the single-season rushing record on another monster run. He even played through pain, returning from an ankle injury and delivering more big runs for Ohio State’s offense in the second half. Dobbins finished with 221 scrimmage yards on 24 touches, potentially ending his collegiate career with another standout performance.
Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson Tigers
The star backs in this game had themselves a contest. In this “Anything you can do, I can do better” battle, Ettiene had an answer for each of Dobbins’ big plays. While Clemson’s top back didn’t dominate on the ground, he made a game-changing impact as a receiving back.
The junior is a big reason why Clemson is celebrating tonight. He exploded off a screen in the third quarter and scorched the Buckeyes with a 53-yard touchdown. The Tigers called on him again when it needed its biggest play for the win, and Etienne delivered. The same player who many questioned as a pass-catcher made the two biggest plays in the passing game to send his team to the national championship.