This article is part of our FanDuel College Football series.
Friday we got the first taste of bowl season. Saturday, though, is when things really kick into gear. There are seven bowls on the slate, though that includes the Celebration Bowl, which is an FCS battle between Jackson State – Deion Sanders' burgeoning juggernaut – and South Carolina State. That game isn't included in the DFS slate, but it should be an interesting watch. Here is a quick rundown of the slate before I get to my picks:
Boca Raton Bowl (11 a.m. ET): Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State
Western Kentucky made it to the Conference USA title game behind their video-game offense, though its offensive coordinator is now off to Texas Tech. Appalachian State played in the Sun Belt title game, but it also lost.
New Mexico Bowl (2:15 p.m. ET): UTEP vs. Fresno State
On paper, this is a mismatch. It's been decades since the Miners won a bowl and they lost four of their last five games. Fresno State is a better team, but head coach Kaleb DeBoer got the Washington gig recently.
Independence Bowl (3:30 p.m. ET): UAB vs. BYU
I cover Conference USA throughout the year – which makes this Saturday a big one for me evidently – so I know that the Blazers were as unremarkable as any 8-4 team in the country. And yet, that defense tends to step up. Enough to shut down BYU's offense? That's the question.
LendingTree Bowl (5:45 p.m. ET): Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty
Both of these teams are 7-5 but they got there in different ways. Liberty lost its last three games of the season, and Malik Willis threw seven picks across those games.
Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl (7:30 p.m. ET): Utah State vs. Oregon State
We have a new contender for oddest bowl game name ever. That being said, it should be a fun game. Utah State went 10-3 and won the Mountain West by trouncing San Diego State 46-13, no mean feat. Oregon State has a strong rushing offense, though.
New Orleans Bowl (9:15 p.m. ET): Louisiana vs. Marshall
Louisiana is 12-1, with its only loss being in the season opener to Texas. While Billy Napier is moving on, co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux was named the new head coach, so the continuity here is less concerning.
DeWayne McBride: UAB's running back got banged up in the season finale against UTEP and was unable to return to the game with an undisclosed injury. He rushed for 1,185 yards and 12 touchdowns and is, fortunately, set to be full-go for this bowl game.
Gunner Romney and Neil Pau'u: Both of BYU's top receivers are dealing with injuries. Romney missed the Cougars' finale against USC with an undisclosed injury, while Pau'u has missed the last two games with a leg issue. Of course, BYU still put up 35 points on USC without them, so the offense won't necessarily grind to a halt.
Deshaun Fenwick: The running back transfer from South Carolina missed Oregon State's last game against Oregon with an undisclosed issue. However, his role was already diminishing before he got injured. Fenwick had racked up single-digit touches for three weeks in a row, so this likely doesn't mean much
Chris Smith: The most notable running back Saturday is Smith, the Ragin' Cajuns' rusher. He's out with a knee injury.
Mitchell Tinsley: Tinsley, formerly a Western Kentucky receiver, has entered the transfer portal. That means his 80 catches for 1,299 yards and 12 touchdowns will be missing.
Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State ($11,500): Western Kentucky ported in Houston Baptist's quarterback in Zappe, top receiver in Jerreth Sterns, and offensive coordinator in Zach Kittley. It went great. Zappe has thrown for 5,545 yards, 56 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He attempted 640 passes and completed 69.2 percent of them. The one snag? Texas Tech hired Kittley, and he's hit the ground running in Lubbock. That being said, the Hilltoppers are going to air the ball out. Zappe has five games with 50 or more passing attempts, including 59 in the Conference USA title game. He has 6,000 passing yards in his sight, and this is his final college football game. I'm not knocking App State's defense. I just think that Western Kentucky will let Zappe throw the ball 70 times if he wants to.
Logan Bonner, Utah State vs. Oregon State ($11,000): Bonner followed Blake Anderson from Arkansas State, and he exploded onto the scene. He doubled his personal best in terms of touchdowns, going from 18 to 36, and he had six games with four passing touchdowns or more. The Beavers are mediocre against the pass, as they ranked 99th in passing yards allowed per game.
Chase Brice, Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky ($9,400): The team with the worst pass defense among the squads in action Saturday? That would be Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers played a lot of shootouts, and they ended up allowing 265.8 passing yards per contest. They play exciting games, which also tends to benefit fantasy players. Brice didn't do much at Clemson, and struggled at Duke, but he emerged with the Mountaineers. He threw for over 3,000 yards with 23 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
B.J. Baylor, Oregon State vs. Utah State ($8,800): Oregon State is here largely on the back on Baylor. He toted the ball 209 times for 1,259 yards and 13 touchdowns. Which seven of those touchdowns came I the first three games, he found the end zone in three of his last four contests. Anything he got more than 13 carries he had at least 80 yards rushing, and I fully expect the Beavers to rely on their top weapon in the bowl game.
Montrell Johnson, Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Marshall ($6,700): With Smith out, Johnson is the clear top back for Louisiana. The true freshman emerged as a promising rusher with 143 carries for 784 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was with him sharing carries with Smith, though. Only one running back with a generic last name still stands, and he's facing a Thundering Herd defense that allowed 199.5 rushing yards per game.
Nate Noel, Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky ($6,500): Like I said, the Hilltoppers play a lot of shootouts. Since they rarely run the ball, I'm going with a Mountaineer back. Noel's only negative is that he only scored four touchdowns, but touchdown scoring can be fickle. He had five games with over 100 yards rushing, and all it takes is one run to find the end zone.
Joshua Mack, Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan ($5,600): The Eagles gave up a whopping 205.3 rushing yards per contest this year, 112th in the FBS. Liberty doesn't have any running back who really emerged from the pack this year, but Mack is the best of the bunch. He had two games with over 90 yards rushing this year, including against Ole Miss.
Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State ($10,000): Sterns slowed down a bit after a hot start, but he still has a staggering 137 catches for 1,718 yards and 14 touchdowns. There were two games all year where he didn't have double-digit targets. One of those was against Tennessee-Martin so he was pulled early, and one was a game in which he caught all seven passes thrown his way. Three times this season Sterns was targeted at least 20 times. I think the bowl game will be the fourth.
Derek Wright, Utah State vs. Oregon State ($8,200): Obviously Deven Thompkins is the name for the Aggies. However, you can't merely grab ever player with massive numbers. You have a salary cap to keep in mind. As such, let's look one rung lower and go with Wright. He was a touchdown machine, finding the end zone 11 times. His 45 catches for 756 yards won't wow you, but he did find the end zone in six of his last seven games.
Thomas Hennigan, Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky ($7,800): Hennigan enters the bowl on a five-game touchdown streak. It would be a surprise if he doesn't make that six. Western Kentucky allowed 29.3 points per game this season. No team playing Saturday was worse than that. I keep predicting a shootout in this matchup, and if that is the case, Hennigan will be a key part of that.
Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State ($7,100): There is always room for more than one receiver to excel when Western Kentucky takes the field. That guy had been Tinsley, but as I mentioned, he entered the transfer portal. Enter Corley. He was a solid possession receiver, as he had 71 catches in 13 games. While Corley lacks the big-play potential of Sterns – he didn't have any 100-yard games – Corley is going to get his targets, and he's going to get his receptions.