Bowl season is here, and for those in a college bowl fantasy leagues, the following players are ones to target and to avoid in drafts.
PLAYERS TO START
Thomas Sirk, QB, Duke (vs. Indiana)
Sirk led the Blue Devils in both passing and rushing, even though he missed a game due to injury. He only threw 15 touchdowns to six interceptions, but he faces an Indiana team that has given up more than 37 points and 507 yards per game. Duke should put up plenty of offense in a shootout with the Hoosiers, and as the offense goes through Sirk, this bodes well for him.
Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas (vs. Kansas State)
Allen ended the season on a down note, only throwing for 102 yards and an interception against Missouri. However, the Tigers had a great defense, and the week prior Allen threw for seven touchdowns with no interceptions. Overall, he had a very good year, and Kansas State's defense gave up more than 30 points and 283 yards passing per game. This is not the Missouri defense Allen has to face. It should be a big game for him.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (vs. Nebraska)
Rosen had an up-and-down season, which is to be expected from a true freshman, but overall, he threw for 3,351 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Cornhuskers are only bowling because they needed some 5-7 teams to help fill out the bowl roster. Despite playing a plethora of Big Ten teams that didn't wow through the air, Nebraska gave up 288.2 yards per game passing. With plenty of time to get ready, Rosen should impress in his first bowl outing.
Tyler Ervin, RB, SJSU (vs. Georgia State)
This is not the most exciting of bowl matchups. We have a 5-7 Mountain West team versus a 6-6 Sun Belt team. Nevertheless, Ervin is a good fantasy option. Earlier this year, he rushed for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a game. He was less impressive down the stretch, but overall he finished with 1,469 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing, and he contributes through the passing game, too. Plus, as previously stated, he's running against a 6-6 Sun Belt team that does not have a good defense. Ervin should end his college career with a bang.
Joseph Yearby, RB, Miami (vs. Washington State)
Neither Miami nor Wazzu are good against the run, but Mike Leach's offense is not geared to take advantage of the Hurricanes issue. Yearby, though, has the potential to take advantage of the Cougars' defense that let up almost 200 yards per game on the ground. It's been several weeks since he's run for more than 100 yards in a game, but he had 99 in Miami's regular season finale, and this is a good chance to build on that.
Matt Breida, RB, Georgia Southern (vs. BGSU)
Breida got banged up in Georgia Southern's season finale, but he has until Dec. 23 to get healthy, and he should be fine. Presuming he is healthy, he will be the focal point on the No. 1 rushing offense in the FBS. Bowling Green hasn't faced an offense like this, and its strength comes from its offense. Plus, coach Dino Babers has taken the job at Syracuse, and you never know how a team will handle such changeover. Breida doesn't need any turmoil for BGSU to help him rack up the rushing yards, but it can't hurt.
KaVontae Turpin, WR, TCU (vs. Oregon)
If any game is going to be a shootout, it will probably be this one. The Ducks' defense has given up 36.8 points per game and more than 300 yards passing per game. Now, this is where Josh Doctson would generally be the best option, but a healthy Doctson is an obvious start. Also, Doctson isn't healthy, as he missed the end of the regular season with a wrist injury. Who's the second best option? That would probably be Turpin, as the freshman had 40 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. Somebody is going to have a huge game for the Horned Frogs against Oregon. Turpin is a solid bet.
Richie James, WR, MTSU (vs. WMU)
This is not so much about Western Michigan's defense as it is MTSU's passing game. James caught 100 passes as a freshman for 1,220 yards. The only negative for him is that he only had six touchdowns. That can always change, though, and he does have two games with multiple touchdowns. The Broncos doesn't have a defense good enough to really threaten the Blue Raiders, so James should be as strong as he usually is, which is good for fantasy owners, especially if you happen to be playing in a PPR league.
Shelton Gibson, WR, WVU (vs. Arizona State)
Gibson is a real boom or bust player. He only has 33 catches on the year, but he also has 744 yards and eight touchdowns. In his bowl game, he gets to go up against a defense that would feel at home in the Big 12. The Sun Devils gave up 321.7 yards per game through the air. While Gibson can be frustrating, this is such a favorable matchup he's well worth the risk for the potentially huge payoff.
PLAYERS TO SIT
Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati (vs. SDSU)
Kiel struggled down the stretch a bit, as in his last four games he threw seven touchdowns to six interceptions. Now, he has to head to Hawaii to face the Aztecs. SDSU only gave up 176.8 passing yards per game and 17.2 points per game. It seems unlikely that Kiel will be able to turn things around in this matchup, especially with the added weirdness of playing in Hawaii.
Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston (vs. Florida State)
Ward had a great season, to be sure, and he's the reason that the Cougars are playing in the Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve. However, that success is what got them this matchup with Florida State. While Houston did play Louisville and Vanderbilt, Florida State is a real step up in competition. It's happened on past occasions when "BCS buster" or "Group of Five" teams have gotten into these bigger bowls. Will Ward Jr. get shut down entirely by the Seminoles? Probably not, but his numbers should take a real hit.
Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee (vs. Northwestern)
Dobbs did a lot of damage on the ground, as he rushed for nine touchdowns to go with the 15 touchdowns he threw. He had more games with 100 yards rushing than with 300 yards passing. While the Wildcats are solid against the pass, they let up 192.7 yards per game through the air, but against the run they only let up 117.8 yards, and they only gave up 16.4 points per game. This looks like a real defensive battle on paper, and that doesn't bode well for Dobbs.
Michael Gordon, RB, Arkansas State (vs. Louisiana Tech)
Gordon has back to-back 1,000 yard seasons, and three seasons in a row with double-digit touchdowns. However, a lot of that value came from games against Idaho and Texas State, two bad teams. Louisiana Tech is not that, especially against the run, where they only gave up 114 yards per game. It could be a long day for Gordon.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo (vs. Temple)
Hunt missed time with injury early this season, but he ended the year on a tear, rushing for at least 113 yards over four games in which he also totaled seven touchdowns. Temple's defense is strong, though, and Toledo is another team that has lost their head coach. Hunt should be fine, but you can shoot for higher than fine.
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern (vs. Tennessee)
As mentioned, this matchup should be a real defensive slugfest. Jackson is a good running back, but there are a couple of knocks against him, neither necessarily his fault. One, he only rushed for four touchdowns, which is probably fluky, but is definitely bad. Second, Northwestern was 120th in passing yards per game in the FBS. The Volunteers can focus all their attention on Jackson, and when an SEC defense can do that, it does not usually end well for the running back.
Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech (vs. LSU)
Here is what Grant has going against him. One, LSU's defense is very good and loaded with talent. Their numbers don't jump off the page, but the Tigers play really good teams, so that's part of the reason why. Second, Texas Tech is terrible against the run, and the Tigers have Leonard Fournette. LSU may not try to throw the ball once, and that shortens a game. Now, obviously you could counter that the Red Raiders will need to throw the ball more, which would help Grant. Limited opportunities are limited opportunities, though, and that counts against a defense this talented.
Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State (vs. Alabama)
Burbridge may not be a big name, but he has an excellent year for the Spartans, catching 80 passes for 1,219 yards and seven touchdowns. That's with Connor Cook missing time, mind you. While Alabama's real strength is that it is impossible to run on, and while the secondary has given up some big plays, it still has only given up 184.2 yards per game passing, and 14.4 points per game. Michigan State's offense just isn't dynamic enough to threaten the Crimson Tide, and that includes Burbridge.
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame (vs. Ohio State)
Fuller had a big year, owing, in part, to the fact he managed 13 touchdowns on only 56 receptions. He's clearly talented, of course, but so is Ohio State's defense, which has only ceded 176.2 yards per game through the air and 14 points. They can get after the passer and make DeShone Kizer have to rush his throws. They can cover Fuller well in the secondary, knowing he's the clear top option. This will be one of Fuller's toughest tests of the year.