These days, the College Football Bowl Season is rather chaotic from a personnel standpoint. Thanks to the inevitable coaching carousel, NFL draftees opting out and the relatively new transfer portal phenomenon, plenty of teams playing in college football bowl games across the country will look very different than they did during the regular season. That being said, there will still be plenty of talent on the football field throughout the 2022 bowl season. This includes the first batch of games taking place this weekend.
Whether you play dynasty fantasy football, are an NFL Draft enthusiast, or are a fan simply looking for compelling talent to watch, these five players are worth keeping an eye on in college football bowl games this weekend.
5 Players to Watch in College Football Bowl Games this Weekend
Jyaire Shorter, WR, North Texas
If North Texas is going to pull off an upset as a double-digit underdog against Boise State in the Frisco Bowl, wideout Jyaire Shorter will have to be involved in the game plan. The Killeen, Texas, native with adequate size (6’2″, 218 lbs) and speed to kill burst onto the college football scene as a freshman thanks to his big-play capabilities. Unfortunately, Shorter was limited to playing in just three games total in 2020 and ’21 due to two separate season-ending injuries.
Statistically, the 2022 campaign has been a modest one for Shorter. However, simply making it through the year healthy was most important. Shorter comes into the Frisco Bowl with 22 receptions for 598 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. He reminded everyone of his talent with a sick TD grab in the Conference USA title game. Knowing that the Mean Green will have to take some shots offensively against a stout Boise State defense, Shorter may have another highlight or two up his sleeve.
Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
At present, NFL Mock Draft Database has a dozen quarterbacks listed higher than Jake Haener on its 2023 NFL Draft Big Board. In fact, one of the players ranked ahead of him (Cameron Ward) will be under center for the opposing team in Saturday’s LA Bowl matchup between Washington State and Fresno State. Haener may not be one of the highly-touted QBs that gets drafted in the First Round next spring, but NFL fans and dynasty fantasy football managers will want to keep him firmly on their radars.
The Bulldogs haven’t lost since their senior quarterback returned from a four-game injury absence. Despite the missed time, Haener still finished the season with 2,616 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Most recently, the Bulldogs avenged a road loss from earlier in the season by beating Boise State in the Mountain West title game. Those who tune in to watch Haener in the LA Bowl are bound to see poise in the pocket, pristine decision making and more arm strength than advertised.
Frank Gore Jr., RB, Southern Miss
NFL and dynasty fantasy football fans are bound to recognize the last name of standout Southern Miss running back, Frank Gore Jr. Although he may not have garnered the same attention coming out of high school as his dad, Gore has made the most of his opportunity with the Golden Eagles. Saturday’s LendingTree Bowl matchup against Rice will be his first chance to show out in the college football postseason. In reality, Southern Miss wouldn’t even have reached bowl eligibility if not for Gore’s heroics.
Gore gashed the Louisiana-Monroe defense for 199 yards rushing and a score to lead the Golden Eagles to victory in the regular-season finale. In doing so, he also surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for the season and moved into the top-10 on the program’s all-time rushing list. Gore received First Team All-SBC honors as an “all-purpose” player. Along with his prowess as an RB, Gore is known to pass from time to time. You best believe Southern Miss will have a wrinkle or two in store for the LendingTree Bowl.
Tanner Mordecai, QB, SMU
Whether or not SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai has a future in the NFL remains to be seen. What we know for certain is that the Waco native has been uber-impressive throughout his college career. As Mordecai has already announced that he will forego his remaining year of eligibility and enter the 2023 NFL Draft, Saturday night’s New Mexico Bowl matchup against BYU will presumably be the chance to watch him lead the prolific Mustangs offense into battle in their college football bowl game this weekend.
SMU ranked tenth in the country in scoring offense at 37.8 points per game this season, and Mordecai was a big reason why. After throwing for over 3,600 yards a year ago, the senior QB followed it up with another 3,306 yards passing and 31 touchdowns. He finished third in the American Atheltic Conference in passing yardage and 18th nationally. Mordecai won’t have star wideout Rashee Rice at his disposal in the bowl game. In some ways, that handicap could perhaps help him improve his NFL Draft stock.
Luke McCaffrey, WR, Rice
Our next 2023 NFL Draft prospect to watch in this weekend’s college football bowl games also bears a name that figures to be widely recognizable amongst the dynasty fantasy football community. Luke McCaffrey, the younger brother of San Francisco 49ers running back Christian, began his college career as a quarterback at Nebraska. Now lining up as a receiver, McCaffrey is in line to get his first taste of the postseason when he and Rice take on Southern Miss in the LendingTree Bowl.
Considering that this was his first year as a receiver, one can’t help but be impressed with McCaffrey’s stats. He compiled 51 receptions for 656 yards and six touchdowns while adding another 137 yards and a score on the ground. While he did miss the final two games of the regular season with an injury, Owls coach Mike Bloomgren expressed optimism that McCaffrey would be available for the team’s bowl game.