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AP photo by John McCoy / Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba runs past Utah cornerback Kenzel Lawler during the Rose Bowl on Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Smith-Njigba had 15 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns to help the Buckeyes rally from 14 points down to win 48-45.

When two of Ohio State's top receivers opted out of the Rose Bowl to focus on their potential NFL future, Jaxon Smith-Njigba responded by delivering one of the great individual performances in bowl history.

Smith-Njigba had 15 receptions for 347 yards to help the Buckeyes rally from a 14-point deficit to beat Utah 48-45 on New Year's Day. He also caught three of C.J. Stroud's six touchdown passes, and their ability to keep the team's passing game thriving even without star receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson made Stroud and Smith-Njigba obvious selections for postseason recognition.

With only Monday's College Football Playoff championship game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia remaining on the Football Bowl Subdivision schedule, The Associated Press is releasing its all-bowl team now as picked by AP staff. Since some teams go with 4-3 defenses and others prefer 3-4 schemes, this team includes includes four defensive linemen and four linebackers.

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (Rose): He threw for a school-record 573 yards to spark the Buckeyes' comeback.

Running back

Jordan Mims, Fresno State (New Mexico): He rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and also caught five passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 31-24 victory over the University of Texas at El Paso.

Brian Robinson, Alabama (Cotton): With 26 carries, the Tuscaloosa native set a program bowl record by rushing for 204 yards in the Crimson Tide's 27-6 semifinal victory over Cincinnati.

Wide receiver

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (Rose): His 347 receiving yards were the most ever in any bowl game involving FBS teams. Teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. deserves credit for catching three touchdown passes as well.

Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky (Boca Raton): Sterns had 13 receptions for 184 yards and caught three of Bailey Zappe's six touchdown passes as the Hilltoppers defeated Appalachian State 59-38.

Broc Thompson, Purdue (Music City): Thompson is going to need offseason surgery on both knees, but he caught seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-45 overtime victory over Tennessee in Nashville. He wasn't the only receiver in this game to produce plenty of highlights. Tennessee's Cedric Tillman had seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns.

Tight end

Jaheim Bell, South Carolina (Duke's Mayo): He had five catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns to help South Carolina beat North Carolina 38-21. This was a big bowl season for tight ends. Purdue's Payne Durham, Coastal Carolina's Isaiah Likely, Notre Dame's Michael Mayer and Georgia State's Aubry Payne also scored two touchdowns each.

Line

Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (Guaranteed Rate): The 6-foot-9, 380-pound left tackle opened up enough running room to help freshmen Mar'Keise Irving and Ky Thomas each run for more than 100 yards as Minnesota beat West Virginia 18-6. Faalele also lined up at fullback and scored the game's first touchdown on a 2-yard run.

Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma (Alamo): A left guard, he played every snap and helped the Sooners gain 564 yards, average 8.1 yards per play and allow no sacks in a 47-32 victory over Oregon.

Evan Neal, Alabama (Cotton): A left tackle, he helped Alabama rush for 301 yards and average 6.4 yards per carry against the Bearcats.

Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (Orange): He started at left tackle in Georgia's 34-11 semifinal victory over Michigan and spent much of the night blocking Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, who didn't post a sack after totaling 14 this season.

Cormac Sampson, Wisconsin (Las Vegas): He took over for the injured Joe Tippmann and made his first career start in a 20-13 triumph over Arizona State. Sampson didn't allow a quarterback pressure and paved the way for Braelon Allen's 159-yard rushing performance. Wisconsin ended the game with a drive lasting nearly 10 minutes.

All-purpose player

Dakereon Joyner, South Carolina (Duke's Mayo): The quarterback-turned-receiver got some work at his original position and completed all nine of his passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. Joyner also had 10 carries for 64 yards.

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AP photo by Matthew Hinton / Baylor linebacker Terrel Bernard celebrates after being named the MVP of the Bears' Sugar Bowl victory against Ole Miss on Saturday in New Orleans.

DEFENSE

Line

Troy Hairston, Central Michigan (Sun): He had 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as Central Michigan outlasted Washington State 24-21.

Nick Heninger, Utah State (Jimmy Kimmel LA): He had five tackles for loss and three sacks in a 24-13 victory over Oregon State.

Jacob Slade, Michigan State (Peach): He made six tackles and was credited with 1.5 of the Spartans' five sacks in a 31-21 victory over Pittsburgh.

Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech (Liberty): He recorded two sacks in a 34-7 rout of Mississippi State and was named the game's defensive MVP.

Linebacker

Terrel Bernard, Baylor (Sugar): He had 17 tackles and two sacks and broke up a pass to lead the Bears to a 21-7 victory over Ole Miss.

Nakobe Dean, Georgia (Orange): He had seven tackles (two for loss), a sack and a forced fumble to lead a dominant performance by Georgia's defense. Michigan didn't score a touchdown until the final five minutes of the game.

Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State (Fiesta): He piled up 11 tackles, picked off a pass and broke up two others as the Cowboys erased a 28-7 deficit in a 37-35 triumph over Notre Dame.

Arik Smith, Army (Armed Forces): Smith was named MVP of the game after collecting 12 tackles and two sacks in a 24-22 triumph over Missouri.

Secondary

Joe Foucha, Arkansas (Outback): He had seven tackles, a sack and an interception in the Razorbacks' 24-10 victory over Penn State.

Mario Goodrich, Clemson (Cheez-It): He forced a fumble and scored on an 18-yard interception return as Clemson beat Iowa State 20-13.

Derion Kendrick, Georgia (Orange): He intercepted two passes and recorded five tackles against the Wolverines to help the Bulldogs, the Southeastern Conference runners-up, secure a rematch with SEC champion Alabama in the national title game.

J.T. Woods, Baylor (Sugar): He had two interceptions, four tackles and a pass breakup against Ole Miss.

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AP photo by Mark Humphrey / Purdue's Mitchell Fineran kicks a 39-yard field goal to beat Tennessee in overtime at the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 in Nashville.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Mitchell Fineran, Purdue (Music City): He was 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts, including the winning kick from 39 yards in overtime. Perfect accuracy gave Fineran the edge over Army's Cole Talley, who made 41-yarder for the win as time expired but also missed a 43-yard attempt.

Punter

Bernardo Rodriguez, North Texas (Frisco Football Classic): Rodriguez averaged 54 yards on his five punts with no touchbacks in a 27-14 loss to Miami (Ohio). He had a 70-yarder and a 66-yarder.

Kickoff returner

Britain Covey, Utah (Rose): Covey scored on a 97-yard return. Old Dominion's LaMareon James, Louisville's Jawar Jordan and Western Michigan's Sean Tyler all scored on 100-yard returns in their bowl games, but Covey gets the nod because he also had a touchdown on offense and totaled three catches for 34 yards.

Punt returner

Tarheeb Still, Maryland (Pinstripe): His 92-yard return opened the scoring in Maryland's 54-10 blowout of Virginia Tech.

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