DraftKings College Football: Dec. 18 Bowl Main Slate

DraftKings College Football: Dec. 18 Bowl Main Slate

This article is part of our DraftKings College Football series.

Slate Overview

It's the first big bowl slate of the season Saturday after Friday's two-game appetizer. We've got five games on the DraftKings main slate with a quintet of fun, interesting matchups featuring some great storylines. Malik Willis will have one more shot to showcase his talents before heading to the NFL, Jake Haener is set to return after flirting with the transfer portal, and Utah State has the chance to end the season with a Power 5 win after already winning the Mountain West Championship. 

Fortunately, this slate isn't riddled with injuries and opt-outs so most of these teams will be at full strength. 

In terms of the in-game matchups to target, Eastern Michigan and Marshall have the weakest run defenses on the slate, so that leaves the run games for Liberty and Louisiana as appealing options. None of the pass defenses are bad necessarily, but Oregon State and BYU are bringing up the rear in that regard. That might be of more importance when examining Utah State's offense as UAB is unlikely to change philosophy and go air-raid mode against the Cougs. 

Below you'll find our suite of DFS tools and info to help you build your best lineups for this slate, along with matchup info and position-by-position analysis.

DFS Tools

Matchup Info

Position-by-Position Breakdown


Malik Willis, Liberty ($8,700) vs. Eastern Michigan

This is likely Malik Willis' last collegiate game before he heads to the NFL and he's going to put on a show. Not only is Willis the best player playing in this game, he gets an extremely favorable matchup against Eastern Michigan. Liberty checks in as the second-heaviest favorite on the slate and has the second-highest implied total. Eastern Michigan has the highest YPA allowed (7.6) along with the worst run defense on the slate (197 YPG, 5.0 YPC). That bodes well for Willis as he projects to have explosive per-attempt production through the air and he'll have easy sledding when he tucks it and runs. He'll be chalky so perhaps it's not advisable to go 100% Willis in your GPP lineups, but you also run the risk of falling behind the field if you don't get your fades right. 

Logan Bonner, Utah State ($7,700) vs. Oregon State

Utah State is punching up a weight class as it gets set to face a PAC-12 opponent, and though the Aggies are touchdown underdogs, there's a way for Bonner to still produce. Bonner just shredded San Diego State for 318 yards and four touchdowns and Oregon State's pass defense isn't much better, ranking 87th while the Aztecs check in at 90th. 

Some of the concern in playing Bonner earlier in the season was Utah State's usage of mobile backup Andrew Peasley. However, Peasley has been dealing with a "significant" injury and was unavailable against the Aztecs. It should be the Bonner show for all four quarters against a shaky Oregon State secondary.

Others to Consider: 

Jake Haener, Fresno State ($7,900) vs. UTEP; Jaren Hall, BYU ($7,300) vs. UAB

Running Back

B.J. Baylor, Oregon State ($6,700) vs. Utah State

Oregon State is one of the most run-heavy teams in the nation, ranking 20th in run play rate, and Baylor is the engine of that rushing attack. Baylor led the PAC-12 in rushing (1,258 yards, 104.8/G) and added 13 rushing scores while holding a 48 percent share of the Beavers' rushing attempts. He had at least 18 attempts in eight of 12 games and now gets to face a mediocre Utah State run defense that allowed 163 rushing yards per game. The fact that he's below $7K and third among running backs on this slate in terms of salary only strengthens the case to roster Baylor. 

Montrell Johnson, Louisiana-Lafayette ($4,000) vs. Marshall

Chris Smith's absence due to a knee injury makes Louisiana's backfield situation much easier to solve. Smith led the team in carries and yards while Johnson and Emani Bailey each saw a healthy dose of work behind him. With Smith out of the picture, Johnson and Bailey stand to take on the bulk of the rushing work Saturday.

Both are strong plays and there's a good case for Bailey as well given that he was the most explosive of the Louisiana rushers with a 6.45 YPC mark over 85 carries. He's a full $1,200 higher than Johnson, though, and Johnson has more rushes by a wide margin and a team-high 11 touchdowns. Louisiana will be able to run on Marshall regardless as the Herd has the second-worst run defense on the slate, but Johnson's volume and touchdown upside at a discount give him my stamp of approval.

Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State ($6,100) vs. UTEP

UTEP is overmatched in this one as 11.5-point underdogs against Fresno State. While Fresno will likely let quarterback Jake Haener make a statement in this one, eventually things will turn to Rivers and the ground game. Rivers has a 41 percent share of the Bulldogs' rushes this season and his PPR appeal makes him a particularly strong play Saturday with his 34 catches for 364 yards in 11 games. This could be Rivers' last game as one of the greatest backs in program history and he's in position to punctuate his collegiate career against an inferior opponent. 

Wide Receiver

Deven Thompkins, Utah State ($7,500) vs. Oregon State

If you're going with Bonner at QB or S-Flex, Thompkins has to be on your radar. The nation's third-leading receiver averaged 7.4 catches for 122 yards per game this season and found the end zone nine times. There's a reason he's the highest salaried receiver on the slate and there's good reason to lean into it. Utah State will likely be in a catch-up script as seven-point underdogs and going pass-heavy plays into the Aggies' hands as Oregon State is shaky in the secondary. 

If you want to pivot off Thompkins but still get Utah State passing game exposure, Derek Wright ($5,700) has come on strong of late with 10 targets in two of his last three games and has 11 touchdowns on the year. Brandon Bowling ($6,100) is viable as well with nine scores on the year and 73 total targets. Over 65 percent of the team's targets flow through Thompkins, Wright and Bowling.

Jacob Cowing, UTEP ($6,400) vs. Fresno State

As mentioned, UTEP is a heavy underdog against Fresno State, so a catch-up script will be in effect for the Miners most of the game Saturday. Fresno State has one of the better pass defenses on the slate, allowing 215 passing yards per game, but UTEP will be putting the ball in the air 30+ times Saturday and Cowing could very well push for 30 percent of those targets. 

Cowing checks in at a discount, likely in part because UTEP has the lowest implied total on the board, but his volume and explosiveness (12.7 YPT) shouldn't be ignored on this slate.

Puka Nacua, BYU ($4,900) vs. UAB

BYU is banged up at receiver heading into Saturday with Neil Pau'u unlikely to play. While Gunner Romney will likely fill the lead role, some increased targets for Nacua could be in the offing. Nacua, a former highly-rated recruit, found his footing at BYU this year and delivered. He caught 42 of 62 targets for 796 yards and six touchdowns. That's a strong catch rate to go with elite explosiveness. 

UAB is much tougher against the run than it is against the pass, so that could persuade BYU to try the Blazers more through the air. With a good matchup and a clear path to targets, Nacua is a strong sub-$5K play Saturday. 

Trea Shropshire, UAB ($4,600) vs. BYU

Speaking of elite explosiveness, Shropshire leads the slate in YPT (14.5) among receivers with at least 20 targets. UAB ranks 12th in run play rate and DeWayne McBride is set to be a full-go Saturday, so we're not expecting huge volume from Shropshire. What we are betting on, though, is for Shropshire to be the primary target when UAB goes to the air and for him to deliver on his big-play potential. Shropshire averages 27 yards per reception. We only need a couple of those to land in order for him to return value at $4,600. 

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. John McKechnie plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: Fanduel: mckech3; DraftKings: mckech3.
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John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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