College football’s regular season may be over, but teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision have one more opportunity to gain national exposure and build momentum for the 2014 season.
Several former local stars will showcase their skills in front of a national television audience this bowl season.
Thomas, ’horns go Duck hunting
The Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 will provide Texas defensive back Duke Thomas with the conclusion to a tumultuous season.
The Longhorns face No. 10 Oregon at the Alamodome at 5:45 p.m.
Thomas, a former Copperas Cove Bulldawg, finished the season with three interceptions, five pass breakups and 47 tackles in 12 games, but speculation about the future of Longhorns coach Mack Brown began after early season losses to BYU and Ole Miss.
Thomas and the defense also had to adjust to a new defensive coordinator as Manny Diaz was reassigned within the athletic department and replaced with Greg Robinson after BYU rushed for more than 500 yards in a 40-20 loss.
The Longhorn secondary will have to deal with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and the high powered Ducks offense. Mariota has thrown for 3,412 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Ducks offense that averages more than 48 points per game.
Freshman offensive lineman Darius James and redshirt freshman Camrhon Hughes, both Harker Heights products, are also listed on the UT roster.
Cobb comes back to Texas
Minnesota Golden Gopher star David Cobb returns to his home state when Minnesota takes on the Syracuse Orange (6-6) in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Cobb, a former Ellison Eagle, had a breakout season in 2013, leading Minnesota (8-4) in rushing with 1,149 yards and seven touchdowns.
Minnesota looks to rebound from a rivalry loss to No. 19 Wisconsin followed by another loss to eventual Big 10 champion No. 4 Michigan State.
Cobb and the Minnesota offense face an Orange defense that is ranked 59th nationally and allowed 26 points per game.
Mays goes on Holiday
Former Shoemaker standout Derrick Mays will play his final game as a Texas Tech Red Raider on Dec. 30 against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Mays played in eight games this season, accumulating 11 tackles, including one for loss.
The Red Raiders (7-5) face a Sun Devils (10-3) pass attack that is ranked 28th nationally and throws for more than 276 yards per game. Arizona State hosted the Pac 12 Championship Game before losing to Stanford 38-14.
Tech is looking to finish its first season under head coach Kliff Kingsbury on a high note after losing five consecutive Big 12 games. Tech’s last win came Oct. 19 at West Virginia.
Braswell, Houston defense face Vandy
Eric Braswell looks to wreak havoc for the Vanderbilt offensive line when the Cougars and the Commodores go head-to-head in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 4.
The former Shoemaker Grey Wolf helped Houston’s defense (8-4) finish 16th nationally allowing 20.2 points per game.
Braswell finished the season with 19 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Vanderbilt (8-4) comes into the game riding a four-game win streak.
Bulldawgs lead Mean Green
Former Copperas Cove standouts Brandin Byrd and Brelan Chancellor hope the North Texas offense will be flying against the UNLV Rebels in the Heart of Texas Bowl in Dallas on Jan. 1.
The Mean Green (8-4) and Rebels (7-5) play at the Cotton Bowl, one of the most hallowed grounds in college football history.
Byrd, a senior running back, led the team in rushing with 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground while Chancellor caught 47 passes for a team-leading 718 yards and scored four times.
North Texas also has former Harker Heights Knight Brendan Campbell listed on its roster.
Smith, Ohio try to sink Pirates offense
Ohio redshirt junior defensive lineman Kendrick Smith and the Bobcats defense will have an early bowl showcase when they play the East Carolina Pirates in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl on Dec. 23 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Smith, a former Heights standout, had 17 tackles and two sacks in 10 games.
The Pirates (9-3) should give the Bobcats (7-5) plenty of chances to get to quarterback Shane Carden.
East Carolina is ranked 10th nationally in passing offense with 331 yards per game and 11th in scoring offense with 40 points per game.
Carden has thrown for 3,866 yards and 32 touchdowns this season.
Fiesta, Armed Forces Bowl has local ties
Baylor running back Johnny Jefferson, a former Shoemaker standout, and Navy safety Kyle Battle, a former Belton standout, are listed on the team’s rosters, but haven’t had playing time this season.
Jefferson and the Bears (11-1) face Central Florida (11-1) in the Fiesta Bowl while Battle and the Midshipmen (7-4) play Middle Tennessee (8-4) in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Baylor is coming off its best season in program history winning the Big 12 championship and making its first Bowl Championship Series appearance.
Navy will finish the regular season with its annual rivalry game against Army, then faces Middle Tennessee. The Midshipmen look to win their 13th straight against Army and have a three-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s game.