The holidays are over, and now, finally, college bowl season really kicks in. Four games today, four tomorrow, three on Thursday, and then we get flooded with fun matchups on Friday and Saturday. Let’s quit talking about it; let’s get down to it!
Camellia Bowl 12/27 @ Noon ESPN
Georgia Southern (6-6) vs. Buffalo (6-6)
Both of these teams had a rough road to getting to bowl eligibility, and this is the first meeting between the two teams. Georgia Southern got here by scoring points, and they can score with the best of them. They averaged 31.4 points a game, 34th in the FBS, and averaged the 16th most yards in the country (465.4). Unfortunately, the defense allowed more points and yards.
Buffalo got here behind a balanced attack, and the days of Buffalo running the ball at ease seem to have passed. They averaged 29 points a game, almost right in the middle of the FBS, and were good at passing and running. The defense allowed more yards and points as well, but they were opportunistic, and the pass defense was solid.
Georgia Southern Eagles
- Kyle VanTrease, QB RS SR – A former Buffalo QB, VanTrease was unlocked when he reached the offense of the Eagles. He was seventh in the NCAA with 3,895 yards and threw for 25 TDs but also 15 INTs. He should be out of eligibility in his sixth season, but who knows anymore? VanTrease pushes the ball, and the Bulls likely won’t be able to keep up. When they allow 283 yards or more, Buffalo is 0-3. VanTrease and the Eagles hit that mark in all but four games.
- Jalen White, RB JR – White is a good college back and benefits from the explosive offense. He rushed for over 900 yards and scored ten TDs on the ground. He also caught 22 passes. White has great size at 6’0” and 217 pounds but is a complementary back in this system.
- Khaleb Hood, WR SR – Hood is small, 5’10” and 175 lbs., but can stretch the field, take the ball out of the backfield, and they scheme ways for him to get the ball. Hood is a key to the Eagles winning and should give Buffalo headaches. He’s eligible to return next year and will be a solid CFF receiver.
- Cole Snyder, QB RS SO – The Bulls haven’t ever asked much from their QBs, and Snyder is able to fit what they need perfectly. He can push the ball some and threw for 2,765 yards with a 17/8 TD/INT ratio.
- Mike Washington, RB SO – A bigger back at 6’2” and 205 lbs., Washington had the first shot to be “the man,” and he’s been okay. He has 600 yards and 7 TDs but only a 4.2 YPC. He also caught 23 passes.
- Ron Cook Jr., RB SR– I like Cook a bit better, but I am not sure he makes this game. He missed the last few weeks of the season. He also rushed for 600 yards and caught 16 passes, and is more explosive.
- Justin Marshall, WR SR – A Louisville transfer, Marshall established himself as a top receiver in the offense, catching 53 passes for 710 yards and reaching the end zone eight times. I love his size (6’3”, 215 lbs.), and he’s a name to keep an eye on here and next season.
- Quian Williams, WR SR – A bit smaller at 6’0” and 185 lbs., Williams was the second-leading receiver with 56 grabs for 643 yards and five scores. I don’t think he has NFL upside or CFF value other than a spot start here and there.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl 12/27 @ 3:15 p.m. ESPN
Memphis (6-6) vs. Utah State (6-6)
Another matchup of teams barely making bowl eligibility, Memphis lost four in a row late in the season but is an explosive offensive team and is favored comfortably in this bowl game. They scored 35.1 points a game, 22nd in the FBS, and the passing game was lethal.
Utah State stumbled late, too, as injuries decimated the squad. They were 2-6 when allowing more than 165 passing yards, which Memphis could double. The offense scored 23.2 points a game, 101st in the FBS, and the defense allowed 30.6 (103rd). The offense was better down the stretch but losing top rusher Calvin Tyler Jr. will hurt immensely.
- Seth Henigan, QB SO – One of the most interesting players in the game, Henigan is a steady presence who has now started two full seasons. He completed 63.7% of his passes for 3,275 yards and 19 TDs with eight INTs. Henigan has decent mobility, adding 313 yards and four scores via his ground game. Is he an NFL asset? Likely not, but with improvement, he’s got some things to like in his game.
- Nobody established themselves as a lead back or a primary receiver. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Thomas was in a place to lead the backfield again after a strong 2021 but couldn’t take over the lead role and will miss this game. Senior Asa Martin was perhaps the most consistent for fantasy, but it wasn’t much. He rushed for nearly 400 yards, seven scores, and added 35 receptions. They have added JR back, Blake Watson from Old Dominion, to push this crew in 2023.
- The receiving corps had JR Jason Ivory (46/586/2), SR Eddie Lewis (36/520/5), and SR Gabriel Rogers (36/431) as the primary targets – none are exciting unless Henigan starts to target one more.
- Caden Prieskorn, TE JR – Keep an eye out for Prieskorn as a CFF tight end in 2022. He caught 46 passes for 593 yards and scored six times. He’s slender, 6’6”, and 215 lbs., so I don’t see him translating to the next level, but I like those numbers for a CFF TE.
Utah State Aggies
- Brian Cobbs, WR RS SR – on this side of the ball, Cobbs is the main option to watch. He’s 6’2” and 210 lbs, a former Maryland Terrapin, and was the most consistent option in the passing game. He caught 70 balls for 844 yards and scored four times. There’s a possible NFL upside, but he’s in his fifth season, so it’s not a huge one.
- The Aggies are missing QBs Logan Booner and Levi Williams, RB Robert Briggs, and WR Kyle Van Leeuwen to injuries. Also, RB John Gentry and WR Xavier Williams are in the portal. It’s not pretty.
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl 12/27 @ 6:45 p.m. ESPN
Coastal Carolina (9-3) vs. East Carolina (7-5)
A Battle of the Carolinas! North vs. South? Nay! We have Coastal vs. East, a way better matchup! Actually, this could be one of the more fun bowls of the season, and each team is fun to watch.
Coastal coasted to nine victories, and head coach Jamey Chadwell decided Liberty is a better job. Coach Tim Beck, former NC State OC, now leads the Chanticleers. Grayson McCall, long-time QB, will also be gone following the bowl game, and he leads the 61st-ranked scoring offense. It will be odd to see this team without Chadwell and McCall.
East Carolina is one of the most fun offenses to watch when it’s clicking. When they score 27 points, they are 7-0. When it’s not, they can get thumped by Houston and Navy. They haven’t turned the ball over in the last six games and average 30.8 points a contest, 46th in FBS. Which Pirates team shows up in Birmingham?
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
- Grayson McCall, QB RS JR – He’s been one of my favorite players the past few seasons, but a transfer could help answer questions if he wants to play at the next level. McCall completed nearly 70% of his passes for the third season in a row and threw 24 TDs against all two INTs. Running the Chanticleers system, McCall has been phenomenal. What would he do running a Power 5 or even an SEC team?
- I thought senior Reese White would be the back-to-own, but redshirt soph CJ Beasley was the better back-to-own. But neither was startable for CFF, they were inconsistent. Beasley rushed for 700 yards and four scores, adding 18 receptions for good measure. White came out with a bang, rushing for 133 yards and scoring three times versus Army. And then nothing after that, almost. Redshirt soph Braydon Bennett should be at full strength next year and could have a clear path to a lead role.
- At wideout, Sam Pinckney is the tall boundary receiver, and he caught 67 passes for 917 yards but only reached paydirt three times. The Chants love to use redshirt freshman Jared Brown in a variety of ways, he’s someone you need to keep an eye on. He had 47 grabs for 782 yards, and 20 carries for 187 more, scoring seven times.
- The team has loved to use TEs in the past, but this year was different. I expected senior Xavier Gravette to have more of a role, but he hasn’t been what I hoped.
East Carolina Pirates
- Holton Ahlers, QB SR – A five-year starter, Ahlers has improved every year and had a stellar 2022 campaign. He threw for 3,408 yards with 23 TDs to five INTs. He rushed for five more scores but isn’t a rushing threat. Ahlers is a solid college QB, and he feeds interesting weapons for CFF value.
- Keaton Mitchell, RB RS SO – One of the best fantasy backs in CFF, Mitchell rushed for 1,325 yards and scored 13 times while also corralling in 25 passes. Mitchell is a set-and-forget back, and he’s got a tough task in the bowl game. Coastal is solid versus the run, but I still expect a strong dose of Mitchell. He’s a top 10 back for CFF next year.
- Isaiah Winstead, WR SR – Another solid CFF asset, Winstead caught 82 passes for 1,013 yards and four scores. He’s definitely a boundary guy who can work down the field, and he’s interesting from an NFL standpoint. Likely need a day one or two guy, but he has a good depth receiver upside.
- CJ Johnson, WR RS JR – I love Johnson as a CFF producer and another who could find himself on NFL rosters. At 6’2” and 222 pounds, he’s got a thicker build, and I love how he runs after the catch. He caught 60 passes for 933 yards and had an octet of TDs.
- Ryan Jones, TE SR -A converted linebacker from Oklahoma, Jones has been a good TE for college and has entered the NFL Draft – opting out of this Carolina battle.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl 12/27 @ 10:15 p.m. ESPN
Wisconsin (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)
If both of these teams were playing at full strength, this would be a really good bowl game. It still could be, don’t get me wrong, but it’s lost a lot of luster due to injuries, opt-outs, and transfers.
Wisconsin has the offensive system and offensive line that seems to churn out 1,000-yard rushers more often than our own PJ creates new leagues. The team has a new coach and a new identity coming behind Luke Fickell. QB Graham Mertz has transferred to Florida, not a huge loss, and stud RB Braelon Allen will not be playing due to an injury. The team is a shell of itself, and I expect them to run a lot against OK State.
Speaking of the Cowboys, they are also dealing with a rash of players not playing. They started off the season 6-1 and looked to be competing for the Big-12 title, and then it all came unraveled. Mike Gundy will have the offense ready, but it’s going to look vastly different. Four-year QB starter Spencer Sanders stunned many by entering the portal. Junior RB Dominic Richardson also departed via the portal. The identity of a Gundy offense still exists, but the players are much different now.
- The new starting QB, senior Chase Wolf, has thrown 31 passes in four seasons. Not that we expect much currently from a Badger signal-caller. That was addressed quickly by Fickell, grabbing former four-star Nick Evers from Oklahoma.
- Chez Mellusi, RB SR – Although Allen is out, Mellusi has filled in admirably when pressed into duty. He’s averaged 4.8 yards a carry over his career and rushed for just over 1,200 yards the past two seasons in Madison. He’s elusive and quick, much different skillset than Allen, and has been able to handle full workloads when needed.
- Fickell will have to be active in recruiting and the portal to address the pass-catchers. The wide receivers – junior Chimere Dike led the team with 44 catches for 653 yards and six scores – but beyond him, it gets barren quickly. The TEs are usually active, but they currently have four injured or in the portal. New offensive coordinator Phil Longo, formerly with Drake Maye and UNC, will bring an up-tempo air-raid offense to Madison. As for now, I wouldn’t expect anything from this group versus the ‘Pokes.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
- Seeing another QB under center is going to be quite odd; Sanders has been a mainstay. Freshman Garret Rangel was the first up when duty called, and he threw for 482 yards with a pair of TDs and a trio of picks. He’s a pocket passer, lacking the mobility the offense was familiar with when Sanders ran this offense. Rangel has a good arm, and Gundy gets the best out of his QBs. Keep an eye on what he does in this game.
- Ollie Gordon, RB FR – Losing Richardson stings, but it may unleash Gordon – which is better for this team, in my opinion. He was a four-star recruit and shined in limited duty – rushing for 263 yards at a 5.3 YPC clip and catching 11 passes too. The Cowboys brought in Sean Tyler via the transfer portal, but I still believe this backfield belongs to Gordon.
- The WR crew features a few good players, but the targets are spread around, and it’s tough to hone in on one for production. Junior Brennan Presley is my favorite of the bunch. He caught 61 passes for 739 yards and scored twice. I like his moves after the catch and think he has a shot to do something at the next level. The best receiver they have hasn’t seen the field much yet, talented freshman Talyn Shettron. He has only two catches, but he’s got big play written all over him.
- The future is bright with Rangel, Gordon, and Shettron – all freshmen – and they are also bringing in De’Zhaun Stribling from Washington State via the portal. I want to see the freshman on the field in this game. Wisconsin’s defense has opt-outs and portal losses, but it’d still be a good test.