January 1st bowl games might not always have the best match-ups, but with non-stop football and big name schools playing, it’s one of the greatest days of football every year. There are six games on New Years Day and three of them are Big Ten/SEC match-ups. The game of the day though is Michigan State against Stanford in the Rose Bowl and people are all sorts of jacked up about it. Before we talk about those two, let’s get into the other action.
Gator Bowl, Wednesday, January 1st at 12pm
Nebraska (8-4) vs #23 Georgia (8-4)
-Spread and Total– Georgia -9, Over/Under 60.5
-Nebraska’s Key Players–
Ameer Abdullah, RB, is the leader of the Cornhuskers’ offense and is easily their MVP. Abdullah has run for 1,568 yards averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He has scored 10 TDs this season and is great out of the backfield catching 26 passes on the season. Georgia has given up 24 TDs on the ground this season. They have given up two rushing TDs in a game 9 different times this season, so I really expect Abdullah to continue on his great season.
-Georgia’s Key Players-
Todd Gurley, RB, is THE guy when it comes to Georgia football. He’s a similar back in some ways to Abdullah, but is a better runner overall. He’s a bigger back, but still has the speed needed to break away on big runs. Gurley only ran for 903 yards this season, but averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Since coming back from his injury in mid October, Gurley has 6 rushing TDs and 4 receiving TDs (5 games). In those games he has been a huge PPR threat-catching 25 passes in those games. With Aaron Murray out for this game, Gurley is going to be heavily relied upon.
Hutson Mason, QB, has only played in three games this season, but is the starter now with Murray out. Mason had a very good game against Georgia Tech throwing for 299 yards and 2 TDs. The Nebraska defense is tough against the pass (16 TDs to 13 INTs this season), so I like Mason only if he is very cheap. He should be able to throw for 250 yards and 2 TDs just because Gurley is a great option in the passing game and will be used that way.
-Nebraska’s Outlook– Nebraska has had a tough season mainly because of one big injury. Taylor Martinez only played in 4 games this season, so it’s understandable to see the Cornhusker’s struggle on offense. Nebraska has had an up and down season and is 3-2 in their last five games. They have struggled against the best teams on their schedule with their best wins being at Penn State and Michigan.
Bo Pelini is on the hot seat and needs a win big time in this game. In his bowl career, he is 3-3 with three consecutive losses. Last season Georgia beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl 45-31.
-Georgia’s Outlook– Georgia lost their star QB in the game against Kentucky, but have a capable backup in Hutson Mason. Mason led them to a win over rival Georgia Tech in the last game of the season. As long as UGA has Todd Gurley running the ball, they won’t be worried about their offense. They are 4-1 in their last five games including a heart-breaking loss to Auburn. The Bulldogs have big wins over South Carolina and LSU on the season.
Mark Richt has had a very successful bowl career with an 8-4 record including last season’s win over Nebraska.
-Prediction– The loss of Aaron Murray does hurt their offense no matter what they think, but I think Mason will be able to hand off the ball to Gurley very well in this game. Gurley is going to lead the way while Abdullah does the same for Nebraska. In the end, I think that Nebraska hasn’t beaten enough good teams for me to feel confident in them in the Gator Bowl. Georgia was one play away from beating Auburn who is not in the National Championship. This game should easily hit the over of 60.5 and I think that Georgia does enough to win by 14 like they did last season.
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Wednesday, January 1st at 12pm
UNLV (7-5) vs North Texas (8-4)
-Spread and Total– North Texas -6.5, Over/under 60
-UNLV’s Key Players–
Tim Cornett, RB, has run for 1,200 yards in two straight seasons, but this season he more than doubled his TD production. He scored 15 times for the Rebels this season and has a catch in ten straight games. Cornett has been the product of some very big games as we’ve seen with his games against Air Force (220 yards and 4 TDs), New Mexico (179 yards and 3 TDs), and Hawaii (162 yards and 2 TDs).
Devante Davis, WR, is probably the best NFL prospect on this UNLV team. He has a 6’3 210lb frame that can’t be ignored and he has 1,194 yards and 14 TDs on the season. In his last game (SDSU), Davis had a monster day scoring 4 times and put up 171 yards. Davis is a high upside play with 12 of his 14 TDs coming in four games. Davis could easily get you 35 fantasy points.
-North Texas’ Key Players–
Brandin Byrd, RB, is really the only player on this North Texas team that is worthy of usage this bowl season. He has had some very average games this season, but did end up over 1,000 rushing yards on 5.6 yards per carry. In two of his last three games, Byrd put up over 200 rushing yards and at least 2 TDs. He scored 12 times this season.
-UNLV’s Outlook– The Rebels are playing pretty good football right now, but are underdogs in this game. They have won two straight games, but just two of their last four games. Against their toughest opponents, they didn’t win one game. They lost to Fresno State, Minnesota, and Arizona this season in three games that weren’t close. The Rebels played very well in their last game against SDSU (who beat Buffalo in their bowl game), so there is reason to think this Rebels team could pull off the upset.
This is the first bowl game for UNLV since 2000 and have a 3-0 record overall in bowl games. Coach Bobby Hauck has never coached in a bowl game, but did make seven straight appearances in the postseason with Montana. His career record with UNLV is 13-37 with this season being his first winning season as the Rebels head coach.
-North Texas’ Outlook– The Mean Green have been very good since middle October, winning 6 of their last 7 games. Their one loss was to a 7 win UTSA at home just before Thanksgiving. Like UNLV, North Texas has struggled against most of their toughest opponents with losses to UGA, Ohio, and Tulane, but did win at home against Rice and Ball State.
Head coach Dan McCarney is the former Iowa State head coach who has yet to make a bowl game with the Mean Green. With a win against UNLV, he would have won as many games this season (9) as he has had with North Texas before this season (2 seasons).
-Prediction– There is a reason North Texas is the favorite in this game and I think it’s because of their top 10 ranked scoring defense. They have played better than UNLV as of late, and have better wins than the Rebels. UNLV has the best two offensive players on the field, but going up against a tough defense I think they won’t be able to do enough. North Texas averages 31.5 points per game, so their offense is no slouch.
North Texas -6.5
Capital One Bowl, Wednesday, January 1st at 1pm
#19 Wisconsin (9-3) vs #8 South Carolina (10-2)
-Spread and Total– Wisconsin -1, Over/under 51
-Wisconsin’s Key Players–
James White, RB, is the main back in the two-headed monster that is the Badgers’ backfield. Although the averaged less than 18 carries per game, White still recorded at least 1 rushing TD in 10 of 12 games. White is also dynamic out of the backfield by way of the passing game catching at least 2 passes in every game since their first game. He added 2 TDs through the air this season. The guy is a force to reckon with in this run it right at you offense.
Jared Abbrederis, WR, is really the only receiving threat for the Badgers, but he still manages to be a solid fantasy option. His 73/1,051/7 is pretty dang good considering he gets most of the coverage rolled his way. Amazingly, he had a game this season against Indiana where caught zero passes, but had 3 rushes for 86 yards and 2 TDs. It’s games like those that show how dynamic this receiver can be.
-South Carolina’s Key Players–
Mike Davis, RB, used to be one of the most consistent running backs in the SEC, but recently has stalled a little bit. He had a 7-game TD streak to start the season, but didn’t have one until four games later. Like White, Davis is a great pass catcher recording 10 catches in one game against Missouri. He won’t be able to dominate on the ground, but it’s the PPR nature of his game that should help him hit value in his bowl game.
-Wisconsin’s Outlook– Wisconsin had the 6th best scoring defense this season, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. The competition faced by Wisconsin wasn’t the best and they gave up 30+ points this season to Arizona State, Ohio State, and most recently Penn State in their last game. In each of those games they lost by seven or less. The Badgers have won 6 of their last 7 games.
Gary Anderson has taken over as head coach for the Badgers after having some good years with Utah State. He went 1-1 with them in bowl games, but has yet to coach a bowl game with Wisconsin seeing as this is his first year with the team.
-South Carolina’s Outlook-Like the Badgers, South Carolina has a great scoring defense giving up only 20 points per game which is impressive in the SEC. The Gamecocks have won five straight games including impressive wins over Missouri and Clemson.
Steve Spurrier is a well-known coach who enjoys trolling the NCAA. He has coached for Duke, Florida, and now South Carolina in his career and has 218 wins (76 with South Carolina). He is 3-4 with South Carolina in bowl games, but has an overall record of 9-10.
-Prediction– Wisconsin’s last loss to Penn State was puzzling as they were the much better team. Melvin Gordon has struggled lately and will be needed big time against a great South Carolina defense. On the other side of the field, the Gamecocks will need big games from their RB, Mike Davis, and Connor Shaw to pull out the win. With many parts of the game being even, I’m going to go with the better QB in this one who is Connor Shaw.
South Carolina +1
Outback Bowl, Wednesday, January 1st at 1pm
Iowa (8-4) vs #14 LSU (9-3)
-Spread and Total– LSU -7.5, Over/under 49
-Iowa’s Key Players–
Mark Weisman, RB, is really the only fantasy relevant player on the Hawkeyes, and even then he’s a risky one. There were games in the middle of this season where he was pretty non-existent. From the beginning of October to November 9th, Weismann didn’t run for over 60 yards. He had a very unimpressive five game stretch, but does have 4 TDs in his last three games.
-LSU’s Key Players–
Jeremy Hill, RB, has been splitting some carries with the backup RBs, but he’s still been getting 13+ plus carries in every game since mid September. He’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry and has 14 TDs on the season. There will be a heavy dosage of running in this game due to Zach Mettenberger being out for the season. Hill will get at least 15 carries.
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., WRs, might be two of the best WRs in the SEC. Together, they have over 130 catches, 2,200 yards, and 18 TDs. With Mettenberger hurt, there’s no telling who their new QB will target the most, but we do know that both of these guys have amazing talents. My best guess is to pick the cheaper of the two WRs when it comes to DFS.
-Iowa’s Outlook– Like many of the teams on New Years Day, Iowa has a top 20 scoring defense in the NCAA. They give up less than 19 points per game while scoring an average of 27 on offense. Iowa has won three straight, but had a tough team with the best teams in the Big Ten. They lost to MSU, Ohio State, and Wisconsin this season with their best wins being against Minnesota and Nebraska.
Kirk Ferentz has won 108 games with Iowa and six of them were in bowl games. Overall, his record is 6-4 making a bowl game in every season but two since 2001.
-LSU’s Outlook– LSU lost a major piece to their offense when Zach Mettenberger tore his ACL against Arkansas in the last game of their season. The backup QB, Anthony Jennings, did lead LSU to a comeback win in that game with a very impressive 99-yard drive. LSU has won two straight games, but have only won 3 of their last 5 games.
Les Miles is known all around the country for his crazy clock management and trick plays. He has been very successful in his career with an overall record of 122-45 with both Oklahoma State and LSU. In his bowl career, he is just 5-5 though. He has lost his last two bowl games including the National Championship game against Alabama two seasons ago.
-Prediction– LSU comes from the big bad SEC and honestly I’m not about to go against a Tigers team that has more talent across the board than Iowa. Iowa has a good defense, but the teams that they have faced with dynamic players have beaten them. The loss of Mettenberger hurts, but Jennings has the weapons around him to do damage.
Rose Bowl, Wednesday, January 1st
#4 MSU (12-1) vs #5 Stanford (10-2)
-Spread and Total– Stanford -5.5, Over/under 43
-MSU’s Key Players–
Jeremy Langford, RB, started slow in his first five games with four games of 70 yards or less out of five. Now though, he has an eight game streak of 100+ yards against Big Ten teams. He’s been pretty dynamite in those games, scoring 13 TDs during that time. He’s the key to this MSU offense and has been the workhorse for them over that eight game stretch. 21+ carries in each of those games is impressive.
-Stanford’s Key Players–
Tyler Gaffney, RB, has been the same kind of player for Stanford that Langford has been for Michigan State. He has 306 carries in 12 games this season, averaging 25.5 carries per game. He has a TD in each of his last nine games (15 total). He has been the guy Stanford has looked to the most when the Cardinal offense faces a tough team.
Ty Montgomery, WR, is a special receivers who has tremendous speed. He is a PR threat as well as a big play receiver. In his last three games, Montgomery has 7 TDs (5 receiving and 2 rushing). Against MSU, Stanford will have to pound the run with Montgomery, but also throw the ball successfully. You can also expect a reverse or two to go along with some WR screens in this Rose Bowl.
-MSU’s Outlook– This is the first Rose Bowl for the Spartans since 1988, so they are very excited for this game. Spartans’ fans have gone crazy over tickets and will be showing up in huge numbers. MSU lost to Notre Dame in September, but then rattled off 9 straight wins against some good teams like Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and finally Ohio State. Their schedule wasn’t the toughest by any means, but they played well against the top teams in their conference.
Mark D’Antonio is very proud to be the MSU head coach, and they are happy to have him. He has only a 3-4 bowl record, but he has won his last two bowl games with MSU beating UGA and TCU.
-Stanford’s Outlook– Stanford had national championship potential early on this season, but stumbled against two teams they really should have beaten. Both of those games were on the road, but the quality of the opponent (Utah and USC) isn’t close to how good Michigan State is. The Cardinal have some great wins like Arizona State twice, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington early on in the season when they were hot and healthy.
David Shaw has had a very short, but successful few years with Stanford running up 34 wins and just 6 losses. His career bowl record is small going 1-1 so far with a win in the Rose Bowl last season and a loss in the Fiesta Bowl two years back.
-Prediction– This is sure to be one of the best games of the bowl season and with good reason. Stanford and Michigan State have two of the best defenses in all off football with players who are studs on that side of the ball. Stanford has an extra weapon or two on their offense, but face what most people consider the best defense in the country. With such a low total, I’m inclined to take the points and go with Michigan State. I believe the defenses will start slow and get us to that over, but I’m still sticking with Michigan State in this one.
Fiesta Bowl, Wednesday, January 1st at 8:30pm
#15 Central Florida (11-1) vs #6 Baylor (11-1)
-Spread and Total- Baylor -16.5, Over/under 69
-UCF’s Key Players–
Blake Bortles, QB, has a lot riding on this game as he might be trying to turn pro after this game. If he has a big game then his stock would definitely rise. Bortles is a decent running threat scoring 5 rushing TDs on the season, but his passing numbers are what scouts like. He completed 68% of his passes this season with over 3,200 passing yards. His 22:7 TD to INT ratio is pretty solid as well. He has scored at least 2 TDs in each of his last four games and has gone for 3 or more TDs in four games this season.
-Baylor’s Key Players–
Bryce Petty, QB, has decided to come back to Baylor next season and he will be a highly sought after QB in fantasy CFB leagues next season. Petty was the leader of the number one scoring offense in the NCAA. Amazingly, he has at least 2 TDs in every game this season, and has nine games of 3 TDs or more. Those are amazing numbers, but not surprising considering how good this offense is. He threw for 3,844 yards on the season with just 2 INTs.
Antwan Goodley, WR, is Petty’s favorite target, but he only has 67 catches on the season. That seems like an odd number, but he averages 19.7 yards per catch. That number is so high that it makes you think that you’ve read wrong when looking at other top WRs yard per catch numbers. Goodley also scored 13 TDs on the season with eight games of 100+ yards.
Tevin Reese, WR, had his cast taken off of his wrist just before Christmas, so there’s a very high chance of him playing in this game. He was running routes and catching passes before the cast even came off rumor has it, so he really should be ready to go for this game. Before the injury, Reese had 8 TDs in 7 games. He will most likely be extremely cheap on most sites, so make sure to take a look at where his price is set.
-UCF’s Outlook– UCF won the American East and gained the auto bid into a BCS bowl game although most people will say that they have no reason to be in this game. Well, they have a few big wins (at Louisville, at Penn State, and a 3 point loss to South Carolina). They are currently riding an eight game winning streak, but have just barely skated by teams like Temple, South Florida, and SMU recently by 4 points or less. The Golden Knights have the 13th ranked scoring defense (see a theme for New Years Day games and great defenses?) giving up less than 20 points per game.
George O’Leary has won two straight bowl games, but has 4 career bowl wins in 9 games. Last season, he led the Golden Knights to a win over Ball State in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
-Baylor’s Outlook– Baylor had a chance at winning the Big 12, but lost to Oklahoma State on the road just a few weeks before the season ended. Since that loss, Baylor won two straight games (at TCU, vs Texas) to end the season. The Bears should be getting their second best WR back and in the process of playing without Reese, they found solid backup WRs like Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller. Baylor’s offense is extremely deep and talented. The Bears defense is also talented only letting up 21.2 points per game in a high scoring conference.
Art Briles coached at Houston before taking the Baylor job and in those bowl games he wasn’t successful at all. He was 0-4 with the Cougars, but since then is 2-1 with Baylor. He has a two game bowl winning streak right now.
Prediction– The Baylor offense is already a great group of players, but they should be getting another key player back. UCF is better than people think and it’s tough to give up over 2 TDs to a ranked team, but it’s also hard to bet against a team with a good defense and an offense that can score 60 points in a game. I like the Bears to have their way with the Golden Knights and win by 3 TDs.