Duke’s Mayo Bowl 12/30 @ 11:30AM EST
North Carolina (6-6) vs South Carolina (6-6)
Ranked in the top 15 in the Preseason poll, North Carolina entered the year with high hopes led by potential first-round draft pick Sam Howell at QB. Their season did not go as planned, however. There may not have been a more up-and-down team in the country this year, with UNC losing to teams like 3-9 Georgia Tech and beating the ACC runner-up and a top 25 team in Wake Forest on their way to a disappointing 6-6 finish.
Sam Howell– Howell has said he will play in the bowl game and has not declared for the NFL yet, though many assume he will. Howell has put UNC on his back (and legs) most of this year, accounting for 825 yards and 11 TDs on the ground to go with his 2,851 yards and 23 TDs through the air. We can expect more of the same in what is likely to be his final game.
Josh Downs- Downs torched defenses all year with 98 catches for 1,273 yards and eight TDs and was one of the most consistent college producers at the WR position all year. Howell’s primary target, Downs should continue to produce despite South Carolina being a top 10 pass defense in the country in terms of Pass Yards Allowed per game. The bigger question with Downs will be, can he keep up this production next year with a new QB?
Ty Chandler- Chandler operated as the clear-cut lead back for this year’s UNC rushing attack, cracking 1,000 yards rushing and added 13 rushing TDs to boot. Chandler should lead the backfield again in this one as his final farewell before the 5th year senior declares for the draft. Chandler likely has a future on an NFL roster but is probably just a day-three pick at this point.
Meanwhile, just down south, South Carolina began the year with modest expectations, to say the least, with most sportsbooks having their win total at 3.5. South Carolina overcame the loss of their presumptive starting QB in Luke Doty in practice before the season began and again for the year in October and rallied behind Shane Beamer and grad-assistant turned QB1 Zeb Noland. With wins over Florida and Auburn in the same year for the first time, South Carolina is one of the year’s biggest surprises.
Zaquandre White- The “leading” RB in a frustrating four-headed committee that caused migraines all year, White has already announced he is declaring for the NFL draft and will not play in this game. White was a junior college transfer to South Carolina in 2020 but didn’t see significant work until this year. White is unlikely to be anything more than a late-day-three pick in the NFL draft and is more likely to be a UDFA at this point.
Kevin Harris- After a massive 2020 season that saw him average over 100 yards rushing per game, Harris was one of the biggest disappointments at the RB position this year. Harris was injured throughout fall camp and into the early part of the season, but still played in 11 games this year and only managed more than 70 yards one time this year (128 yards vs. Florida). Harris is expected to return for his senior year in 2022 and will look to recapture the backfield and the magic of 2020.
Marshawn Lloyd- Marshawn Lloyd entered South Carolina last year as a true freshman and turned heads immediately. Unfortunately, his season ended with an ACL tear in fall camp before it even began. Fully healthy entering 2021, there was optimism surrounding Lloyd’s future. However, he failed to establish himself amongst a four-headed RB committee and was third in terms of carries and rush yards. While White is off to the NFL, Lloyd will still have to compete with Harris and true freshman Juju McDowell next year and will need a big year to regain the luster he once had.
Fantasy implications aside, the Duke’s Mayo Bowl (“Duke’s, for all your Mayo needs” – @devydeets) will be must-watch TV, if only to see if the winning coach gets the mayo bath at the end.
TransPerfect Music City Bowl 12/30 @ 3:00 EST
Tennessee (7-5) vs Purdue (8-4)
Coming off a tumultuous offseason full of controversy, a mass exodus of transfers, and a new head coach, expectations in Rocky Top never really fell as far as one would have thought. Most projections had the Volunteers slated for six wins, only one fewer win than they had in 2020. After a rough start being led by transfer Joe Milton, Milton went down with an injury in Week 2. Another transfer QB in Hendon Hooker seemed to right the ship after taking over and had Tennessee’s offense looking potent and dangerous, scoring more than 40 points in five of eight games and beating top 25 Kentucky.
Hendon Hooker– Tennessee’s offense took off when Hooker became the starter. The Virginia Tech transfer is a fantastic fit in Josh Heupel’s potent offense, bringing some added value with his legs as well. Hooker contributed 2,567 yards and 23 TDs through the air and 521 and five TDs on the ground. Hooker has announced he’s returning for another year and should produce another high-end statistical year next year as well.
Jabari Small/Jaylen Wright- With one part of the committee transferring to Louisville next year in Tiyon Evans, Small and Wright will look to battle for the lead role in this one. The winner is likely to enter spring as first on the depth chart. This battle will be one to watch, as Josh Heupel offenses can be very fantasy-friendly for RBs if one can take control of the backfield.
Cedric Tillman– After three years of very limited production, Tillman started this season slow as well. However, once Hooker took over at QB, the redshirt junior became the focal point of the passing attack. Tillman finished the year on a torrid pace. He recorded at least five catches and a TD in each of the last six games, with three 100-yard performances and one 200-yard performance mixed in. With Tillman presumably returning next year and second-leading WR Velus Jones out of eligibility, he represents one of the best values in all of CFF next year.
While Tennessee’s offense carried the load for them, Purdue, on the other hand, can thank the defensive side of the ball for their success this year after holding opponents to 20.5 points per game. With Aidan O’Connell finally able to stay healthy, Purdue’s offense was able to experience a level of stability at the QB position it hadn’t had in the past two years as well. O’Connell and Purdue’s defense carried the Boilermakers to a respectable 8-4 record with an impressive dismantling of two top-5 teams (at the time of the game) in Iowa and Michigan State.
Aidan O’Connell- O’Connell has announced he will be returning for his sixth year in West Lafayette. While this is good news for Milton Wright, the presumptive number one WR on this team for next year, O’Connell is only a volume-dependent fantasy option for college and likely does not have an NFL future.
David Bell- The Biletnikoff Award finalist followed up his stellar first two years with his best yet. Bell amassed 1,286 yards, and six TDs on 93 catches this year. Bell has, however, already announced his plan to enter the NFL draft and skip the Music City Bowl. According to most experts, Bell seems to be on the outside looking in for the first round in this year’s NFL draft. But even early Day 2 draft capital coupled with his excellent production profile should be enough to suggest Bell will be at worst a fantasy-relevant option for the NFL. At best, he’s a low-end WR1.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl 12/30 @ 7:00 EST
#12 Pittsburgh (11-2) vs #10 Michigan State (10-2)
After Clemson’s fall from grace this year, there was a vacancy at the top of the ACC. Enter Pitt, a team returning 73% of their production from a 2020 team that went 6-5 and hadn’t won more than eight games in over a decade. Most sportsbooks projected Pitt for seven wins, in line with their performance from previous years. However, the stars aligned for the Panthers as they proceeded to win the ACC for the first time since joining in 2013.
Kenny Pickett- A fifth-year senior, Pickett is one of the rare instances where returning to school for the 5th year helped his draft stock. Pickett had a stellar year, throwing for 4,316 yards and 42 TDs, more than his previous four years combined. Pickett’s performance this year led him to a third-place finish in the Heisman voting and projected first-round draft capital this spring. Pickett, however, has played his last game for Pitt as he has announced he will not play in the Peach Bowl.
Jordan Addison- Addison was the primary beneficiary of Pickett’s breakout performance. The true Sophomore amassed 1,476 yards and 14 TDs on 93 catches on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award. Addison has a fantastic opportunity to put an even bigger bow on his season against a Michigan State team that allows the most pass yards per game in the country. The biggest question will be whether Addison can do so without Pickett, something that will be worth paying attention to for CFF leagues and the college side of your Campus 2 Canton leagues next year.
Israel Abanikanda– Despite being the leading rusher for Pitt in terms of yards (635) and TDs (7), Abanikanda was stuck in a frustrating three-way committee all year. The other committee members in Vincent Davis and Rodney Hammond Jr are expected to return, potentially causing more headaches next year. However, Pitt will have a new OC next year after Mark Whipple left for Nebraska, so it is worth watching if Abanikanda can earn a more significant role heading into the spring.
Year one for Mel Tucker at Michigan State may not have been successful by most standards at 2-5, but there was a reason for some optimism after beating 13th ranked rival Michigan and 11th ranked Northwestern. However, even the most optimistic Sparty fan didn’t see a 10-2 campaign coming in 2021. Michigan State rode their star transfer RB in Kenneth Walker III and a 15th ranked run defense in terms of yards allowed per game to their best finish since 2015 and will look to take advantage of a short-handed Pitt team.
Kenneth Walker- Bursting onto the scene and surprising everyone except Campus2Canton.com’s own Matthew Bruening, Walker had a dominant year this year. Walker finished second in the country in rushing yards with 1,636 yards and finished sixth in the Heisman voting and won the Doak Walker Award. However, Walker has already announced he will not be playing in the Peach Bowl and has declared for the NFL Draft. Not that Walker needs this game to improve his draft stock, he is already viewed as one of the top backs in this class and will likely be an early second-day pick after his strong 2021.
Jayden Reed- The lesser heralded of the Michigan State breakouts this year, Jayden Reed was quietly the 17th ranked player in the country in All-Purpose yards this year. Reed led the way for Michigan State in receiving, compiling 946 yards and eight TDs on only 53 catches. With Walker out for the Peach Bowl and Pitt not allowing 100-yard rusher all year, Reed will need to be a big part of Michigan State’s game plan in this one. Reed has said he will discuss his future after the bowl game. If he returns to East Lansing, Reed’s role in the offense sans Walker will be telling for his production next year. If Reed elects to declare for the Draft, he’s likely a Day 3 pick at this point in the process.
SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl 12/30 @ 10:30 EST
Wisconsin (8-4) vs Arizona State (8-4)
The 12th ranked team in the preseason polls, Wisconsin struggled to open the season by losing three of their first four games. Now, those three games were all against ranked opponents, and none of the losses to Penn State, Notre Dame, or Michigan can be considered “bad losses.” After losing to Michigan, Wisconsin found their running game again and rode it to seven wins in their last eight games to close the season.
Braelon Allen- Allen started slow this year, which was to be expected after reclassifying into the freshman class for 2021. However, from Week 4 on, Allen only failed to put up 100 yards rushing one time on his way to 1,109 yards and 12 TDs. With hulking size at 6’2″ 238lbs and rare speed for his size, Allen is a physical freak at the age of 18. Allen should continue to dominate the carries for Wisconsin against Arizona State and is on his way to becoming one of the most hyped RBs for college next year.
Expectations were still high for 2021 preseason’s 25th ranked team despite the possible looking sanctions. While it wasn’t always pretty, Arizona State mostly lived to expectations as they finished 8-4. The Sun Devils’ success came behind a top 20 rushing offense and top 35 rushing defense, making the matchup with Wisconsin a strength versus strength fight.
Jayden Daniels- Once seen as one of the rising young stars at the QB position after an excellent true freshman season in 2019, Daniels has yet to take the next step forward in his development. His Yards per Attempt declined almost a full yard this season, and he only managed ten TDs through nine games while throwing nine INTs. Facing the number one rush defense in the country in terms of Rush Yards Allowed per game without their top two RBs from this year in Rachaad White and DeaMonte Trayanum, Daniels will have to step against Wisconsin for Arizona State to have a chance. Daniels has already announced he will be returning to school next year, so his performance in the Las Vegas Bowl will be one to watch with college fantasy implications for 2022.
Daniyel Ngata- The clear third option in the Arizona State backfield all year, the former 4-star prospect will have a massive opportunity ahead of him. With Rachaad White already opting out of this game and DeaMonte Trayanum off to Ohio State to play linebacker, Ngata is the last man standing in the Sun Devils backfield. Ngata faces a challenging task in this vaunted Wisconsin rush defense. But if he shows out well, he could be a massive value heading into the 2022 college fantasy season.