All-Bowl Team: Best of the postseason
By J. Darin Darst
SportsLine.com Staff Writer
After watching 28 bowl games in the process of 22 days, including the dreaded Silicon Valley Classic until 3 a.m. ET, it's time to unveil the best performances over that span.
Some of the best players in the nation will be missing -- Matt Leinart, J.J. Arrington, Braylon Edwards and Derrick Johnson -- but others had better games, and meant more to their teams, during the bowl season.
The SportsLine.com All-Bowl Team:
Quarterback: Vince Young, Texas. The quarterback brought a new meaning to "taking the game over" in the Rose Bowl. He single-handedly beat Michigan, rushing for 192 yards and four touchdowns and passing for 180 yards and another score. And his gains weren't the 1-yard quarterback sneak kind either; he scored on runs of 20, 60, 10 and 23 yards.
Running back: Leon Washington, Florida State. The running back got the Gator Bowl started with a 69-yard touchdown run on the first series and from there ended up with 195 yards rushing. With the rest of the offense playing average against West Virginia, Washington carried the Seminoles to victory.
Running back: Marion Barber III, Minnesota. Alabama hadn't allowed a running back to gain 100 yards rushing in a game all season -- until Music City Bowl. Barber ended that trend, rushing for 187 yards on 37 carries and a touchdown in the 20-16 victory.
Wide receiver: Paris Warren, Utah. He caught 15 passes, breaking the Fiesta Bowl record of 11 (Kellen Winslon Jr. in 2003), during Utah's victory over Pittsburgh. Sure Alex Smith likes to throw the little shovel pass regularly, but Warren was turning them into more than just 6-yard gains -- he finished with 198 yards receiving.
Wide receiver: Steve Smith, Southern California. For a player who was out most of the season with a broken leg, he looked 100 percent in the Orange Bowl. He caught a bowl-record three touchdown passes and had seven receptions for 110 yards.
Tight end: Joe Klopfenstein, Colorado. Most tight ends don't make much of an impact, but Klopfenstein did in the Houston Bowl. He had five receptions against UTEP and scored on a 78-yard reception in the fourth quarter to help the Buffaloes win 33-28.
Offensive line: Tyson Stahl, Dennis Ray Phillips, James Rossi, August Roitsch and Sam Brown, Navy. The entire starting offensive line deserves to be recognized after their performance against New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl. They allowed only one sack and were the driving force behind Navy's 269 rushing yards. The line wore down the Lobos with an epic 14 minute, 26-play drive in the fourth quarter, helping Navy win its 10th game.
Defensive line: David Pollack, Georgia. Pollack once again comes up big, this time in his final college game. He forced a crucial fumble during one of his three sacks in the victory over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
Defensive line: Steve Fifita, Utah. Fifita led the way as part of a defense that sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko nine times. Fifita, who was named defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, finished with five tackles, two for a loss, and one sack.
Defensive line: Thomas Carroll, Miami (Fla.). He came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, blocking Florida kicker Matt Leach's 32-yard field goal, setting up Devin Hester to return it for a touchdown. Carroll finished with four tackles and two sacks.
Linebacker: Maurice Lloyd, Connecticut. One of the best defensive performances of the bowl season came in the Motor City Bowl. Lloyd had 12 tackles, three for a loss, and a sack in the 39-10 victory over Toledo.
Linebacker: Tommy Hackenbruck, Utah. Even though Fifita won the defensive MVP, Hackenbruck also had an excellent game. He had 10 tackles and three sacks and caused trouble for Pittsburgh's offense all night.
Linebacker: Abdul Hodge, Iowa. The Hawkeyes' final touchdown of the game will be replayed for years, but Hodge came up with an amazing performance against LSU in the Capital One Bowl. He had 15 tackles -- 10 solo -- and three sacks.
Linebacker: Michael Boley, Southern Mississippi. The linebacker had a big game in his college finale, scoring a touchdown on an interception return and making 5½ tackles to guide Southern Miss over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.
Defensive back: Junior Rosegreen, Auburn. Except for a breakdown toward the end of the Sugar Bowl, Auburn's defensive secondary played great. Rosegreen led the way with five tackles and an interception.
Defensive back: Jason Allen, Tennessee. The Volunteers kept Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal in check, and Allen was a big reason. He had five tackles and a forced fumble to help Tennessee roll in the Cotton Bowl 38-7.
Defensive back: Donte Whitner, Ohio State. The Buckeyes totally shut down Oklahoma State's offense in the Alamo Bowl, and Whitner was a big reason. He had eight tackles, seven of them solo, and didn't allow the Cowboys to score until late in the game.
Defensive back: Nik Moser, Iowa State. The defensive MVP of the Independence Bowl was the leading tackler with 10 stops. Moser was a big reason the Cyclones were able to shut down Miami (Ohio)'s offense, limiting it to 13 points.
Kicker: Mike Nugent, Ohio State. He had a perfect bowl season, hitting all four of his field goals (37, 35, 41 and 37 yards) and in the process becoming the school's all-time leading scorer. While Ohio State's offense was anything but great in the Alamo Bowl, it got close enough to the end zone for Nugent to put points on the board.
Punter: Tom Malone, Southern California. Not only did he average 43.2 yards per punt, but he landed three inside the 20-yard line, forcing Oklahoma into poor field position. Those poor starts proved to be crucial to the Orange Bowl as the Sooners turned the ball over, allowing USC to capitalize on a short field.
Returner: Steve Breaston, Michigan. Among all the highlights in the Rose Bowl, Breaston quietly set a record with 315 all-purpose yards total between his catches and kick returns, breaking the mark of 276 set by O.J. Simpson back in 1969.