2009 Bowl Primer: Your Fantasy Guide
Maybe it’s the stress that accompanies typical activities of the holiday season: shopping, seeing family that you, with good reason, only see once a year, the work Christmas party, and apologizing to the boss the day after the Christmas party. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that owners, neglecting the truly important stuff of the holiday season, often don’t spend enough time looking at intangibles before making out their bowl game lineups. After all it’s easy to simply stare at the bowl game slate and treat these games just as one would a regular season contest. These players perform for the same teams that have played more than 12 games, so it should be easier to fill out those lineups, right? Wrong.
There is often a six-week gap between player’s final regular season contest and a bowl game. A great deal can happen in six weeks. Studs can begin to wonder what life will be like with a NFL contract. Teams will spend too much time looking back on what happened and not enough on what may happen. Teams that underachieved, and have heard about it for the previous two months, will likely have players more concerned with some time off from football rather than the upcoming opponent.
Thankfully we take all of these factors into account and produce a rambling, often incoherent analysis of this bowl fantasy season. We look at games to avoid, games with questions regarding player motivation, the importance of game location, players to watch and a little bit more. The staff has put the eggnog down and our differences aside. They’ll be no airing of the grievances or feats of strength competitions…just the imparting of more fantasy knowledge.
Fantasy Owners Beware (How did Michigan upset Florida and East Carolina lay a beating on Boise State last bowl season? Simple, it’s all about motivation)
Nevada vs. Maryland
We're putting the over/under on Terps fans in attendance at Bronco Stadium at 100. And this includes family members that players have convinced to come to Boise. Blue turf, weather cold enough to make your Pabst freeze and a WAC foe is hardly a recipe for an inspired performance that would make former Terps like Boomer Esiason and Frank Wycheck proud. How many Maryland players will land in snowy Boise and think they're getting ready to fight a big Russian?
BYU vs. Arizona
BYU is 2-0 in the Las Vegas Bowl the last two years. Why? There just are not many Morman friendly activities in Sin City. Factor in 40-degree temperatures, a whole bunch of Arizona players that aren’t married, and coach Mike Stoops has his work cut out for him as he’ll attempt to keep the Wildcats focused on a bowl game instead of the Las Vegas Strip.
Penn State vs. USC
It was widely speculated that USC was praying hard for an Oregon State win in the Civil War. The Trojans were simply not looking forward to a fourth straight trip to the Rose Bowl, instead hoping for a change of scenery. This could turn out to be a huge factor when Pete Carroll’s boys take on the best team they’ve faced all year. Unlike most Pac-10 teams the Nittany Lions are physical, balanced and have speed in all the right places.
Motivation Could be a Factor
Michigan State vs. Georgia
The Spartans are a team looking for respect. They are reminded daily of the woodshed beatings from Ohio State and Penn State. Georgia is a team that had preseason aspirations of Heisman trophies, SEC championship rings and National Championships. While some see this as a showcase game for future NFL’ers Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford (like Brian McDonald), it could be Javon Ringer that steals the spotlight from a Bulldog team that may try to sleepwalk it's way past a less talented Big Ten foe.
Iowa vs. South Carolina
We initially didn’t have this game on the radar. Heck it is a New Year’s Day bowl game for two mid-level teams, how can they not be motivated? However, after Gamecocks’ safety Emanuel Cook failed to pass a whopping six credit hours worth of classes this fall, the Gamecocks make our dubious list. Yeah we know it is only one player, but this lack of commitment by their top defender and oversight by the coaching staff can’t be ignored. Cook was obviously out-the-door ever since the season started and based on the Gamecocks erratic play this year, he was probably not the only one.
Not Enough to Scare Us Off…But it Should Be
Mississippi vs. Texas Tech
Michael Crabtree has already said he’s “not feeling the Cotton Bowl”. Graham Harrell is coming off a broken hand and both have the NFL on their mind. This could spell disaster for owners of Crabtree and Harrell. With that said, a quick peek at our rankings shows we just “can’t quit” the Texas Tech duo.
Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan
The Chips get to play in Detroit again. Yippee. I’m sure the Owls are equally excited about leaving Boca Raton for the ice and snow in lovely Detroit. Still, as we discuss a bit later with regards to FAU receiver Cortez Gent, we’re hoping the defenses sleepwalk through this one. If they do then Dan LeFevour and Rusty Smith could have a lot of fun.
Location, Location, Location (Not all games are played in beautiful settings with crowds split 50-50)
Navy vs. Wake Forest: Washington D.C.
If this game were held the day before the inauguration then we may have an actual crowd. Alas, it is not, thus they’ll be a bunch of fine people from Navy wondering why Wake Forest fans decided to avoid our nation’s capital less than a week before Christmas.
Hawaii vs. Notre Dame: Hawaii
If you’ve ever stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to watch a Hawaii football game, you’ll know that not only do the Warriors have cool sounding announcers, but strange things often happen on the Island, both in the stands and in the minds of referees.
Georgia Tech vs. LSU: Atlanta, Ga
Rice vs Western Michigan: Houston, Tx
South Florida vs. Memphis: St. Petersburg, Fl
Louisiana Tech vs. Northern Illinois: Shreveport, La
Houston vs. Air Force: Forth Worth, Tx
Vanderbilt vs. Boston College: Nashville, Tn
Buffalo vs. Connecticut: Toronto
Florida vs. Oklahoma: Miami, Fl
North Carolina vs. West Virginia: Charlotte, NC (One of the only pre-January 1 games that will be sold out)
Likely Fantasy Explosions (Look for some huge numbers from these unsung fantasy heroes)
QB Tim Hiller, Western Michigan
All the deserved hype surrounding Chase Clement (52 touchdowns) has overshadowed the junior from Kalamazoo. Hiller’s 2008 saw him throw for over 3500 yards with 35 total touchdowns, good enough for top-15 fantasy quarterback status. And on December 30th Hiller will wing it against a Rice defense that ranks 112 (remember there are 120 D-1 teams) against the pass.
This is one of the bowl games tailor-made for fantasy owners. Only one owner can have a Chase Clement, Sam Bradford or Case Keenum. Many will likely overlook Mr. Hiller, though the potential for a six-score performance deep in the heart of Texas is certainly present.
QB Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State
He’s been overlooked all season, so it should come as no surprise that many will forget about the OSU field general during the bowl portion of 2008. He’s only had two real blow up games this season, with five scores against both Texas A&M and Iowa State. And a track meet with Oregon will likely see Robinson staring at another five score performance.
The Oregon defense is ranked 108th against the pass (or four spots better than Rice) and the Holiday Bowl has been the destination for bowl fans looking for scoreboard shattering shootouts.
QB Mike Teel, Rutgers
Once again, we’re telling you to ride the hot hand. Mike Teel is coming off a 21-26-447-7 performance against Louisville in the regular season finale, and now he faces a North Carolina State squad that has seen its own late-season resurgence. Yet this is also a Wolfpack team that ranks 94th against the pass (psst…this is two spots worse than Louisville).
Teel is one of those seniors who would like to wear a helmet on Sundays, and he still has something to prove. On paper a contest between Rutgers and N.C. State may not look very enticing, but the chance to see a red-hot senior duel with an intriguing redshirt freshman in Russell Wilson should provide some entertainment on December 29th.
RB Gartrell Johnson III, Colorado State
Teams with horrible run defenses often spend their holidays on the couch, watching the teams that ran all over them play in bowl games. Stopping the run is key to winning football games like breathing is key to living. Curiosity getting the best of me, I wondered what is the worst run defense that will be playing in an extra game, and the answer is Fresno State, and this is where Gartrell Johnson III comes into play. The Bulldogs are yielding 5.25 yards per carry, and Johnson III averaged 27 carries in the final two regular season contests. Do the math kiddies.
RB Jake Sharp, Kansas
Minnesota has spent the last couple of months exposing themselves (as a fraud that is) and now this shoddy defense will head down to Glendale to battle a Big XII squad that can post points with the best of them. Look for the Fighting Manginos to score, score, score, and this will include steady doses of Jake Sharp.
In addition to having a real cool soap opera name, Jake Sharp has shown an ability to score in chunks. Kansas will spread em out, and when Reesing isn’t busy tossing touchdowns he’ll be watching Sharp run to daylight.
RB Donald Brown, UConn
Buffalo has given up a whopping 28 touchdowns on the season. Donald Brown has scored 17 times this season. Odds are this game will not be a shootout; odds are Donald Brown will run the ball about 30 times, gain about 160 yards and score exactly 2.5 touchdowns.
WR Cortez Gent, Florida Atlantic
The last time Florida Atlantic traveled to Michigan they were forced to play in a monsoon that prevented any semblance of a passing game during their shutout loss to Michigan State. Things will be different this time.
The climate-controlled conditions at Detroit’s Ford Field will provide the ideal setting, and the Central Michigan Chippewas, ranked 119th against the pass, will provide the ideal opponent.
Rusty Smith hasn’t had the season many expected, but the Motor City Bowl has provided an opportunity for some big numbers over the years. FAU’s top receiver, Cortez Gent, is coming off a 7-108-3 performance in the season finale. Comparable numbers on December 26th aren’t out of the question.
WR Eric Peterman, Northwestern
Okay, maybe I am letting pass defense statistics have too much of an impact. Yes, Missouri is ranked 117th in the nation against the pass. Yes, this is not good. However playing pass defense in the Big XII is harder than watching an NBA game. So maybe the stats don’t tell the whole story.
But most are expecting the Big XII to roll in all bowl games, and I don’t quite see it that way. Will Pat Fitzgerald’s offense be confused with any of the powerhouses in the Southwest? Nope. But Northwestern will move the ball on this defense and Eric Peterman seems a good bet for a couple of scores. Also keep an eye out for the potential return of running back Tyrell Sutton.
WR Mike Wallace, Ole Miss
This game just has Texas Tech defensive letdown written all over it. Even if it is taking place in the home state, there is no way that the Red Raiders can be fired up about the Cotton Bowl, and we've already referenced the Michael Crabtree statement to this effect. Conversely, Ole Miss is downright giddy about having a January 2nd national time slot all their own. Houston Nutt will have over a month to prepare, and his big three offensive stars will be fantasy factors.
Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster and Mike Wallace will be featured against a Texas Tech defense that ranks near the bottom in pass defense. Yes, the Big XII factor must be considered, but this is a Rebel squad that has survived against the disturbingly athletic defenses of the SEC. A defender with Gene Simmons/Paul Stanley makeup will not cause this team concern, nor with the opposing defense as a whole.
TE Chase Coffman, Missouri
Northwestern has not seen a tight end that is close to Chase Coffman. The Wildcats will spend a great deal of bowl practice time scheming to stop the Missouri senior, and he’ll still end the Alamo Bowl with nine catches for 132 yards and two scores.
Who’s that Guy?
(Fantasy stars that that the casual fan doesn’t talk about)
TE James Casey, Rice: December 30. NFL Network. 8:00. Just watch the game.
QB Tim Hiller, Western Michigan: Overshadowed by Nate Davis and Dan LeFevour
WR Austin Collie, BYU: Overshadowed by the entire Big XII
RB Derrick Washington, Missouri: Mizzou is more than Daniel, Coffman and Maclin
WR Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon: It’s not just Johnson and Blount tearing it up on the ground
Eye on 2009
(These guys will be draft day darlings or everyone’s sleeper. Check them out now)
RB John Clay, Wisconsin: Maybe best Badger back in long time. This is saying a great deal
RB Mark Ingram, Alabama: How many times do we have to tell you about this guy?
QB Russell Wilson, N.C. State: A key to the Wolfpack’s resurgence…and a redshirt frosh
RB Darren Evans, Virginia Tech: New great Hokie workhorse
WR Jeremy Avery, Boise State: The heir apparent
If you can only watch one game, make sure it’s…
(A countdown of the top ten games that present fantasy intrigue)
10. Hawaii Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Hawaii
Will the more talented offense put it together on the island?
9. GMAC: Ball State vs. Tulsa
Two dynamic offenses likely playing in lousy weather…what role does Brady Hoke’s departure play?
8. Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia
Is this a running back battle or does Richt turn Stafford loose?
7. Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. Southern Cal
The better offense may be the one that travels 2500 miles.
6. Chick-fil-A Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. LSU
Does LSU spend more time prepping for Georgia Tech’s offense or next season?
5. Alamo Bowl: Northwestern vs. Missouri
Spread em out and wing it. Is Northwestern showing up to shootout with a slingshot?
4. Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Texas
Chris Wells vs. Colt McCoy
3. Insight Bowl: Kansas vs. Minnesota
Yes, Kansas will score at will. And Minnesota can keep up.
2. Holiday Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon
Don’t expect the defenses to make the flight to San Diego.
1. Texas Bowl: Rice vs. Western Michigan
The Julio Cesar Chavez Game: Pound for pound, best fantasy potential of them all.
Final deep thoughts
(Because I need a conclusion)
For some it's a no-brainer. For diehards like us the bowl season represents the culmination of the fantasy season. December 20 begins a 20-day bonanza of college football action and another shot at more college fantasy action.
Others don't take an interest until they've heard about about grandma's hip, Timmy's grades and Uncle Joe's golf swing for the 15th time. They then grab another cold one, duck downstairs and turn on the Emerald Bowl, wishing that they'd joined their buddy's draft. Don't be this guy. Don't spend your life regretting missed opportunities.
Fantasy bowl season is here. If you haven't held that email draft just yet you still have time. This is what eight-hour work days are for.
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