TaxSlayer Gator Bowl 11 a.m. EST on ESPN

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Wake Forest vs. Rutgers

This bowl game means a lot to Rutgers. They replaced Texas A&M – who couldn’t play due to Covid ravaging their team. On short notice, the Rutger Scarlet Knights have to face Wake Forest, a team that scores fast and often. It has the potential to be an ugly game, but there are a few names to keep an eye on. 

Wake Forest is led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Hartman, one of the most dynamic players in college football. Despite the departure of Kenneth Walker, the Demon Deacon offense was explosive, and the team made the ACC title game. Hartman makes it all tick. He tossed the rock for nearly 4,000 yards and 36 scores, adding another 11 scores on the ground. Hartman did have 14 picks and isn’t as dynamic of a runner as some – but defenses need to be mindful of his rushing ability. Next season, he will be a first-round pick in college fantasy and is a tremendous C2C asset. The NFL is taking notice, but he will need to work on consistency and cutting down turnovers.

Half of the dynamic receiving duo, redshirt junior Jaquarri Roberson, is skipping the bowl and entering the NFL Draft. He should be a later pick, on the third day, and is a solid possession receiver. The other half, 6’5” redshirt sophomore A.T. Perry, is playing, and he is D-Y-N-A-M-I-C. Perry will likely be a first few-round pick in college fantasy next season. He had 61 grabs for 1,166 yards and scored 14 times this season. Perry is incredibly dangerous after the catch. Minus Roberson, that number could increase, and Perry may challenge for the Biletnikoff Award in 2022. 

Rutgers will try to control the clock and grind the game to a halt. I’m not excited about any of the current starters, redshirt junior RB Isaih Pacheco is a decent spot start in C2C, but that’s about it. The team has had a few good recruiting classes, including freshman QB Gavin Wimsatt, and the team could be on the verge of turning the corner. 

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl 2:00 p.m.  EST on CBS

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Washington State vs. Central Michigan

Miami had to bow out of this game, and the Chippewas are filling in after their bowl was canceled. The matchup with Washington State could be an entertaining game to watch, and both teams can score and feature some fun players. 

Washington State finished the season strong; after firing head coach Nick Rolovich, they won six of their final eight. Star RB Max Borghi isn’t playing and has entered the draft. So has their offensive tackle Abraham Lucas. They may struggle to slow down Central’s pass rush, and their run defense is also good. 

The Cougars will need sophomore QB Jayden De Laura to lead the team and limit mistakes. He has gotten better and is a solid C2C QB with a possible NFL future – but needs to take steps to improve. The veteran receiver duo of Calvin Jackson Jr. and Travell Harris will be a challenge for Central Michigan’s pass defense. The Washington State offense won’t push downfield, but they will be happy to take 6-8 yard passes all day and score. 

The Chips, Mount Pleasant STAND UP, will move the ball, and it revolves around the nation’s leading rusher – redshirt freshman Lew Nichols III. He rushed for 1,708 yards and 15 scores, catching 38 passes for another 300 yards. Nichols has excellent size at 5’10” and 220 yards and could work his way into NFL talk with another stellar season. He’s already in consideration for the first overall pick in college fantasy and is a first-round lock. Nichols is money and feasts on MAC defenses – I don’t see Washington State slowing him either. 

Quarterback Daniel Richardson slings the ball to Kalil Pimpleton, Dallas Dixon, and JaCorey Sullivan. All are solid C2C assets, but I can’t see any carving a huge role in the NFL. Pimpleton is one of the most dangerous punt returners in the nation, returning two for scores this season, and I like him to land somewhere in the NFL. More as a returner and slot guy who can make some splash plays, probably not a starter, though. 

CFP: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN

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#4 Cincinnati vs. #1 Alabama

Ooh, baby… it’s finally here! I can’t wait for the playoffs, and the first matchup pins the first Group of Five school to make the playoffs versus the team in the playoffs nearly every season. The Bearcats have reached this spot by going unbeaten and defeating Notre Dame but haven’t had a particularly strong schedule. The Crimson Tide has had an interesting journey. They’ve been tested but thumped Georgia in the SEC Title Game to reach this point. 

The QBs in this game are the ones I am most interested in. Veteran senior QB Desmond Ridder leads Cincinnati. There is a likelihood that Ridder could have his name called on the first but more likely, the second day of the NFL Draft. Ridder takes care of the ball and can make most throws, and has the mobility to extend plays. He doesn’t lead his receivers to get smacked and has good ball placement. His defense recognition is not good, and Alabama will test that. Ridder is a good athlete with a strong arm, has started for three full seasons, and isn’t going to let the game get the most of him. 

On the other side, sophomore Heisman-winner Bryce Young has been one of the most impressive players in college football. He threw for 4,322 yards, 43 scores, and only four interceptions. Young has the mobility to run but doesn’t often, and his legs help him extend plays. He can make any throw and puts the ball where his receivers have a chance to run after the catch. Young will likely be the first player drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft and a very early pick in C2C and college fantasy next year. 

I give a slight edge in RB to Cincinnati and Jerome Ford, but Bama’s Brian Robinson Jr. is as steady as they get. Ford is explosive and a bit more dangerous, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 19 TDs this season. Robinson rushed for just over 1,000 yards and scored 14 times on the ground. Both contribute in the receiving game, too, and both can be workhorse backs. Ford has a brighter NFL future, but Robinson will also hang around the league as a backup who can fill in when needed. 

Courtesy of Barbara J. Perenic / Dispatch

If you want a glaring positional advantage, it is Alabama’s WR room. Cincinnati has some guys who contribute, but none that will see the green grass of the NFL. On the other hand, Alabama can nearly fill an entire NFL roster’s WR corps. Jameson Williams went from buried on the Ohio State depth chart to likely first-round draft pick with a 1,445 yards and 15 TDs season. One of Cincy’s strengths is future first-round CB Sauce Gardner, but he hasn’t covered anyone like Williams. John Metchie will miss the game due to an injury, but they have a slew of players who could step in. Slade Bolden has been solid as a WR3, but Ja’Corey Brooks, JoJo Earle, and Agiye Hall – all freshmen – could contribute on the biggest stage they have seen so far. 

Each team also has a solid TE prospect. Alabama’s Jahleel Billingsley had an up-and-down year but is athletic and could find more success in the NFL. Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle is a veteran presence and solid TE who can block and catch passes. He isn’t overwhelming athletically but should also land on an NFL roster. 

CFP: Capital One Orange Bowl 7:30 p.m. EST on FOX

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#3 Georgia vs. #2 Michigan

This is the game I am most excited about of all the bowl games scheduled. It’s a massive test for Michigan, and Georgia is looking to get that terrible taste of losing to Alabama again out of its mouth. Both teams will look to control the ball and let their defenses shine. Based on talent, this Georgia team could walk over Michigan, but Michigan is playing exceptional football and will test the Bulldogs any way they can. 

I honestly don’t see an edge in the QB battle, and I don’t love either of the QBs as C2C or NFL prospects. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett has been solid, taken care of the ball, and can pass when needed. He hasn’t been relied on but makes good choices with the ball and doesn’t hinder the offense. If J.T. Daniels were playing, the edge would go to Georgia easily. And he may play. It’s not totally clear.

Michigan rolls out junior Cade McNamara, and I could say the same about him as I did with Bennett. He takes care of the ball and can push it downfield but hasn’t shown the ability to be relied on. The Wolverines like to sprinkle in a few plays with freshman J.J. McCarthy, and the future is bright for him. He’s mobile and has a live arm, and I would love to see him more. 

Hassan Haskins Courtesy of USA Today

Some may disagree, but I give the edge to Michigan at the RB position. The talent for Georgia is there, though. Michigan’s duo of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum has been ridiculously effective. Haskins will head to the NFL after bowls, and he has rushed for 1,288 yards and 20 scores. He’s powerful and has good short-area quickness. Haskins is decisive and rarely losses yards. I love his decisiveness, and he’s able to catch passes as well. Corum is the lightning in the duo, explosive as heck and dangerous in space. He rushed for over 900 yards, 11 scores, and caught 22 passes. He averaged over six yards per touch, and I love his potential for next year and then in the NFL. Seeing what both backs can muster against Georgia’s defensive line, almost all headed to the NFL is one of the keys in the game. 

Georgia is Running Back U, and they have the horses but don’t rely on one. Zamir White was the #1 RB in the 2018 recruiting class, but injuries have hampered him. At times, he showcases his skills and looks like he could be a special back, but we haven’t seen it consistently. Next season, James Cook will be in the NFL; he’s a smooth pass-catching back and a solid runner when asked. Kendall Milton, a freshman, will take over the reins next season.

The WR corps for each team is interesting, but Georgia has a distinct advantage. Junior George PIckens could be the most talented offensive player on either side of the field. He’s only caught three passes since returning from a preseason injury. I could see him having a monstrous game and being a difference-maker. Sophomore Jermaine Burton should also be playing on Sundays and will be more than the Wolverines’ corners can handle if they focus on throwing to him. 

Michigan’s WRs aren’t liabilities, but none will present enormous challenges versus Georgia. I like Roman Wilson, Cornelius Johnson, and Andrel Anthony, yet all three aren’t consistently dominant or focused on. Anthony could be the trio’s most dangerous and should be given the ball in space as much as possible.  

Finally, Michigan has a history of producing TEs who can block and are solid pass catchers. But Georgia’s leading receiver is their freshman, TE Brock Bowers. He can be the best TE in college if he isn’t already. Bowers caught 47 passes for 791 yards and 11 scores when everyone expected Darnell Washington or Arik Gilbert to be the man for Georgia. Bowers is complete and only going to get better – he has overall TE1 upside for the next level.

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