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Breakout players to watch during bowl season

Jafar Armstrong, Notre Dame's multitalented threat, is finally healthy. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

For decades, bowl games marked a culmination, the last chance in a season to see the Heisman Trophy winner or national defensive player of the year. Matchups were created, at least in part, because of existing stars.

That era is partially over.

The bowl season that kicks off Saturday with five games will feature plenty of nationally known names. The CFP semifinals certainly will, as will the New Year's Six games. But several new factors underscore why bowl games are more about the future than the present or the past. More prominent players are skipping them to save their bodies and start preparing for the NFL draft. Also, the new redshirt rule has allowed teams to hold back promising players who have competed in only three games and use them in bowls without losing the season of eligibility.

When you watch the bowls, keep an eye out for the less obvious names delivering breakout performances. To assist, I surveyed many coaches of bowl teams, as well as my ESPN colleagues, to identify the players who could make a mark on the postseason stage -- kind of like Tua Tagovailoa did in January.

Some players you'll recognize, while others will be new, and not all bowl teams are represented, but remember these names when bowl season kicks off.