It’s the most wonderful time of the year and no it’s not because of the holiday cheer. It is because of the wonderful slate of bowl games we have been provided to us by the NCAA. There might not always be a team you’ve heard of every night, but there sure seems to be a game to watch when you turn on ESPN.
It is during this time of year that degenerates come out to play and put too much money on players and teams that you’ve only seen in highlight reels during Sports Center. Well, I aim to assist you in your gambling ways and as my gift to you I will be previewing each and every bowl game. No, I’m not talking about some Bleacher Report slideshow with almost as many pictures as words talking about the game. I’m talking about a discussion of players, coaches, teams, previous bowl records, and me playing psychologist.
Because I love all holidays equally I have broken up these previews into many smaller sections for fantasy players who want to get their fix in each week. Think of this as one giant gift for Christmas or many little gifts for those who celebrate Hanukkah. I’m nice like that. Be kind to me though. Due to writing these articles ahead of time, spreads and totals might be a little off.
Without further a due, here is the first installment of my College Football Bowl Pick Em Preview.
New Mexico Bowl- Saturday, December 21st at 2pm
Washington State (6-6) vs Colorado State (7-6)
-Spread and Total– Washington State -3.5, Over/Under 66
-Colorado State Key Fantasy Players–
Kapri Bibbs, RB, is easily the best player on the Rams team as evident by his 28 rushing TDs on the season. He is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and goes up against a Cougars run defense that gives up 185 yards and almost 2 TDs per game. As long as he isn’t severely overpriced then Bibbs is my top player in this first grouping of bowl games.
Garrett Grayson, QB, has been very solid this season throwing for 3,327 yards and 21 TDs. Grayson has been hurt by Bibbs being so dominant as he has 3 passing TDs in 5 games, but only 6 in the other 8 games. Not surprisingly, Grayson threw for 300+ yards in 5 games (4 of those games he had 3 TDs in), so he does have upside, but he is an option at QB only if Bibbs hits a set back with his previous injury, or if you want to play a GPP lineup where you fade Bibbs. Usually the two of them don’t hit value in the same game.
Rashard Higgins, WR, is Grayson’s top target in the Rams passing game. He posted a 64/795/6 stat line this season, but has been very hit or miss this season overall. Higgins caught 6 or more passes in only 7 of 13 games meaning that his TD and yard numbers aren’t high enough to be a reliable option. Like Grayson, Higgins is really only a guy I’d consider if I wanted to fade Bibbs.
-Washington State Key Players–
Connor Halliday, QB, is the key player in Mike Leach’s passing attack. He has posted ridiculous numbers this season in games against Oregon (557/4), Utah (488/4), and California (521/3). Halliday has passed for at least 2 TDs in five straight games (14 TDs to 8 INTs) and should continute that streak against the Rams. CSU posted good numbers against the pass recently, but most of those games were against running teams. I like Halliday if he is at a middle to low range price.
Marcus Mason, RB, is a RB I really like in an offense that doesn’t like to run. As odd as that sounds, it makes sense in PPR leagues. Mason has caught 19 passes in his last 3 games, and has caught at least 6 passes 5 times in his last 8 games. When it comes to his running stats, they really aren’t that bad. With limited carries (32 in last 3 games), Mason has run for 203 yards and 1 TD. Mason is a very nice low to mid range option.
–Colorado State Outlook– While everyone looks at Washington State as a heavily offensive oriented team, Colorado State does a great job with their offensive players as well. CSU is the only team in the NCAA with a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,500-yard rusher. This is the first bowl game for CSU since 2008 meaning not one player on the roster has been to a bowl game. I fully expect the Rams to have that edge that you want from a team in a lesser bowl game.
CSU has won 3 of their last 4 with a tough loss to Utah State in a game where their star RB, Bibbs, couldn’t get going. Bibbs has time to get over his injury with 3 weeks in between games, so he should be 100% against the Cougars.
-Washington State Outlook– Washington State has an even longer drought than CSU as they haven’t been to a bowl game since 2003. Needless to say every player on the roster will be amped up for this game considering it was not even a given they would be playing postseason football because of their 6-6 record. Mike Leach has had some success in bowl games going 5-4 in them while at Texas Tech.
WSU is not playing good football right now, but luckily for them they have 3+ week break to get over their recent struggles. They are 2-4 since middle October, but have faced the toughest schedule in the NCAA.
-Prediction– When these two teams meet on the field on the 21st, I’m expecting a very high scoring game. I’m looking for Kapri Bibbs to have one of the best bowl game performances this postseason and WSU to continue to chuck it around like they always do. In the end, the Cougars inability to stop the run will hurt them and they lose a close one to the Rams.
Las Vegas Bowl- Saturday, December 21st at 3:30pm
#21 Fresno State (11-1) vs USC (9-4)
-Spread and Total– USC -6, Over/Under 62
-Fresno State’s Key Players–
Derek Carr, QB, is the clear #1 player on this team and I’m sure everyone has already heard of him this season. The guy was on a tear this season throwing for 48 TDs and just 7 INTs. Carr has thrown for 4,866 yards on the season as well throwing for 500 yards in two of his last three games. The guy has astonishing numbers, but goes up against a USC defense that hasn’t given up over 300 yards passing in their last seven games. Carr is the clear #1 QB on the board for early bowl games, but his price is likely to be too high to get value out of.
Davante Adams, WR, is Carr’s favorite target and it’s evident by his 122 catches, 1,645 yards, and 23 TDs this season. In his last 8 games Adams’ worst game was a 8/84/1 performance against Nevada. He will be the guy targeted the most, and USC has had performances where WRs loaded up on points. Against Cal, USC gave up 37 catches, 293 yards, and 3 TDs to WRs and against Arizona, USC gave up a robust 28/363/4 to WRs. Adams should have a big day regardless of the outcome of the game.
Isaiah Burse, WR, is likely to be more of a value pick and that is why I have him listed here. He has had huge numbers recently going for 17 and 10 catches in his last two games and if Josh Harper is out for the bowl game then Burse is a great play. He only has 5 TDs this season, but he has three in his last four games. Burse at any mid to low level price would be as close to a must play as it gets for me.
-USC’s Key Players–
Javorius Allen, RB, burst onto the scene in a Friday night football game against Oregon State and has been on top of the world since. Allen has 11 TDs in his last 5 games and is even a PPR threat to go along with his four 120+ yard rushing games. Averaging 3 catches per game is a nice add on for a RB who can also find the end zone. The RB situation is sticky in Los Angeles though as Tre Madden and Silas Redd could be back from injury. If Allen is the lone RB then I find him to be a great play.
Marquise Lee, WR, is a very intriguing player to me for one big reason. Lee is draft eligible and there are rumors that he will be headed to the draft. Because of that, I can see his stats in this game being more like his sophomore year rather than this year. He has had 6 catches in each of his last two games and there will be no question of whether or not he is healthy going into this game with the long lay off.
-Fresno State’s Outlook– Fresno State is the #1 passing offense in the NCAA and sports the fifth best scoring attack overall as well. Coach DeRuyter has a 1-1 bowl record beating Northwestern when he was the interim head coach for Texas A&M in 2011. Last season his Fresno State Bulldgos lost to SMU in the Hawaii Bowl. Fresno State was a 9-3 team going into that game and lost to 7-6 SMU.
The interesting thing about this Fresno State team is that it has one major pro and con when it comes to their motivation. If Fresno State would have won their game against San Jose State then they would be in a BCS bowl game. Instead, they are in a lesser bowl game, but facing a big time team like USC.
-USC’s Outlook– USC has had controversy after controversy this season with the firing of Lane Kiffin and then the departure of Ed Orgeron once Steve Sarkisian was hired. In this game, Sarkisian will be overlooking the game, but not coaching. Instead, offensive coordinator, Clay Helton, will be the interim head coach. Those kinds of coaching whirlwinds can’t be beneficial.
USC had trouble with passing attacks this season including losses to Arizona State, UCLA, and Washington State (not because they passed so successfully though). The Trojans really only have two impressive wins on the season: Arizona and Stanford both at home.
-Prediction– USC has had a lot to deal with this season and there is reason to believe that the main reason USC was so successful with Orgeron as head coach was because they hated Kiffin so much. Well, Orgeron is gone now along with a few other assistant coaches. The motivation seems to be all at the hands of Fresno State as they want to take down the usual national powerhouse USC. Fresno State should be able to pass just enough to take down a USC team that never plays this early in bowl season. I think that will lead to a Fresno State home crowd feeling and a win for the Bulldogs.
-Fresno State +6
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl- Saturday, December 21st at 5:30pm
Buffalo (8-4) vs San Diego State (7-5)
-Spread and Total– Buffalo -2.5, Over/Under 55.5
-Buffalo’s Key Players–
Joe Licata, QB, has had a lot of big games this season, but has recently deferred to his running back. Against Ohio State, Licata did throw for 2 TDs, and also threw for 3 TDs or more against UConn, WMU, and Toledo. Interestingly enough three of those four games were on the road. If priced appropriately I wouldn’t mind Licata as a play, but he won’t carry your team by any means even against a pass defense that has given up 12 passing TDs in their last four games.
Branden Oliver, RB, has a rushing TD in each of his last six games totaling 11 times that he has hit pay dirt during that time. He has been great this season and besides his bad game against BGSU, Oliver had rushed for 100+ yards in 7 straight games. Overall, Oliver has 1,421 rushing yards on the season.
-San Diego State’s Key Players–
Ezell Ruffin, WR, is really the only player I would consider using in DFS CFB. The running back situation is a split carries situation while the QB has put up unspectacular numbers and faces a good pass rush. I do believe Ruffin could provide value if cheap enough. He put up 63 catches for 1,061 yards and 3 TDs on the season. He has struggled in his last four games (16/233/0), but was putting up great games before that. He has four games of at least 6 catches and 100 yards on the season.
-Buffalo’s Outlook– Buffalo had a nice 7 game win streak in the middl of the season, but has stumbled a little bit here down the stretch. They are 1-2 in their last 3 games with their lone win against the winless Miami (OH) Redhawks and losses to Toledo and MAC Champion Bowling Green. I was impressed with Bowling Green against Northern Illinois, so I don’t think too negatively on their recent performances. Jeff Quinn is 1-1 in bowl games acting as interim head coach in each instance.
Buffalo easily will have the most sought after NFL prospect, Khalil Mack, who has been considered as high as a top 15 overall draft pick. He is probably the lead reason why Buffalo allows only 22 points per game. This team has been tested by tough opponents on the road already this season (at Ohio State and Baylor), and shouldn’t be too discouraged by traveling to Idaho for a bowl game.
-SDSU’s Outlook– SDSU comes into the bowl game winning four of their last five games with a solid win against Boise State. Ohio State beat SDSU 42-7 at SDSU while Buffalo lost to Ohio State at OSU 40-20. Those games were back to back games for the Buckeyes (their first two wins of the season). The Aztecs are 8-0-1 all time against MAC teams and have a head coach who has a 1-6 record in bowl games.
-Prediction– It’s hard to go against the team with the best player on the field, so I won’t. Khalil Mack is the all-time NCAA career leader in many stats including tackles for loss and forced fumbles. This should play a big impact in the game (like SMU’s bowl game last season) and I don’t think SDSU has enough on offense or defense to overcome a dominant Mack performance.