In this article I give six recommended plays for the slate of five Football Bowl Subdivision bowl games on Saturday, Dec. 19th. Within the six recommendations, three are “Paying Up” plays (top-six salaries at their positions) and three are “Digging Deep” plays (non-top-six salaries at their positions).
The data in this piece is taken from DraftKings, Sports Reference and VegasInsider.com.
Dec. 19 BOWL GAME SLATE: 2 PM ET
Paying Up: Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech): $7,300
2015 has been a revival season for the redshirt senior graduate transfer. A disappointment at Florida for most of his career, Driskel has flourished in Louisiana Tech’s offense, aided by the presence of a strong running game. Of all the active quarterbacks in the slate, Driskel is both the most expensive and the second-most productive, so he’s not cheap, but in this slate of limited options he is worth the expense. In a game with a slate-high over/under of 68 points, Louisiana Tech is a two-point favorite over Arkansas State and has the slate’s second-highest implied team total with 35 points. In what should be a fast-paced high-scoring contest, Driskel is likely to have plenty of opportunities to produce as both a passer and a runner. Additionally, the Bulldogs should have something of a home field advantage given that they are playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. In Louisiana Tech’s nine games with final point totals comparable to the implied total for this game, Driskel averaged 38.6 pass attempts for 312.2 yards and two touchdowns and eight rush attempts for 23.9 yards and 0.4 touchdowns per game. He exceeded 300 yards passing six times and had multiple touchdowns in seven games.
Prediction: In the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Driskel: 300 passing yards, rushing for 25 yards, and scoring three touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Nick Arbuckle (Georgia State) – $5,900
None of the quarterbacks in this slate is elite, but Arbuckle is the facilitator in a fairly productive Georgia State passing offense that has four of the slate’s top-13 receivers on a points-per-game basis. Although San Jose State has been very effective at shutting down opposing quarterbacks this year, in the Mountain West the Spartans have been able to avoid good passing quarterbacks, so Arbuckle’s matchup with SJ St. probably isn’t as bad as it seems. Plus, since Arbuckle is the slate’s most productive active quarterback and only the eighth-most expensive player at the position, he is rosterable at a significant discount. Arbuckle is not a consistent (or good) runner, but he does lead the Panthers with six touchdowns rushing, and because the Panthers lack a consistent running game Arbuckle should be throwing throughout the contest. In only one game all year has Arbuckle failed to score multiple touchdowns, and he has failed to surpass 300 yards passing in only two games. Georgia State is a 2.5-point favorite over San Jose State and has a respectable implied team total of 29.25 points. Finally, with this game being played in Orlando, the Panthers should have a strong home field advantage over the west coast Spartans.
Prediction: In the AutoNation Cure Bowl, Arbuckle: at least 300 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for an additional touchdown.
Paying Up: Joe Williams (Utah): $7,600
I am recommending that you pay up for a guy who is starting only his third game at Utah — but Williams is worth it. Filling in for stud starting RB Devontae Booker, who is recovering from a knee injury he suffered against Arizona in Week 11, Williams has been a true workhorse. In Williams’ two games as the starter, he has averaged an outlandish 30 carries and two receptions for 169.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. In each of his starts he has surpassed 120 yards rushing. And Williams’ production is likely not the result of small sample size, since this year Booker was averaging 157.7 yards per game before his injury, and last year, at ASA College in Brooklyn, Williams was a junior college superstar, averaging 190 yards per game as a first-year transfer from Connecticut. Utah is a 2.5-point favorite over in-state rival Brigham Young and has an implied team total of 27 points. With little competition for carries, Williams should touch the ball at least 20 times in what will likely be a close and highly physical contest, and Williams is a good receiver, so even if Utah trails in the game he shouldn’t be highly impacted by negative game script.
Prediction: In the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Williams: 100 yards, catching a couple of passes, and scoring a touchdown.
Digging Deep: Jared Baker (Arizona) – $4,800
Starting RB Nick Wilson has officially been ruled out, so backup RB Jared Baker is expected to see the bulk of the running back work for the Wildcats this weekend, just as he has in the three full games and most of three other games Wilson has missed in the second half of the season as he has dealt with knee injuries. As the slate’s 10th-most productive and expensive running back, Baker is priced appropriately according to his production over the entire season, but given that he has been Arizona’s lead back for only a limited time Baker also has the potential to be a great value at his price. Arizona is an eight-point favorite over New Mexico and has a slate-high implied team total of 36.5 points. Arizona scores the 19th-most points in the FBS, UNM gives up 194.3 yards and 1.5 touchdowns rushing per game, and Baker should benefit from advantageous game script and receive steady touches throughout the game. Excluding the two games that Arizona lost by at least 15 points, in the second half of the season Baker as the lead back has averaged 15 carries and two receptions for 110.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game.
Prediction: In the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Baker: 80 yards, 2 receptions, and a touchdown.
Paying Up: Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech): $6,700
Taylor is the slate’s most productive and expensive wide receiver. He’s not cheap, but he has been the clear lead receiver for the Bulldogs for two straight years, so you are probably getting what you pay for when you roster him. On the season he has an 89-1,133-8 stat line, and is one of only two receivers in this slate already to cross the 1,000-yard threshold. In the game with the slate’s highest over/under, Louisiana Tech is a two-point favorite over Arkansas State and has an implied team total of 35 points. In what is expected to be a fast-paced high-scoring shootout, Taylor should be targeted often. In the nine games this season in which the Bulldogs scored within 15 points of their implied team total, Taylor averaged 8.9 receptions for 116.1 yards, 0.8 touchdowns, and 27.2 fantasy points per game. In six of those nine games, Taylor scored a touchdown. In the other three, he averaged 9.3 receptions for 108.7 yards.
Prediction: In the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Taylor: seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Digging Deep: Keith Rucker (Georgia State): $3,600
As has been my habit in previous weeks, I am going with a productive tight end as my “Digging Deep” recommendation at the receiver position. I’ve had great success with it in the past and believe in this week’s selection, Keith Rucker. Despite being a tight end and sharing receiving work with three top-10 wide receivers in this slate, Rucker is an impressive player and, as is usually the case, severely discounted. Although he is actually the 13th-most productive receiver in the slate, Rucker is rosterable at only the 24th-highest salary at the position, making him one of the best value plays this weekend. Having played in 10 games this year and built like a move tight end, Rucker is second on the team in touchdowns and third in receptions. With an implied team total of 29.25 points, Georgia State is only a 2.5-point favorite over San Jose State, and so Rucker should have opportunities throughout the game to contribute as a receiver.
Prediction: In the AutoNation Cure Bowl, Rucker: five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.