Most important players in this week’s bowl games

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College football providing mid-week games

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Christmastime feasts are rapidly approaching, but college football is again providing a tasty appetizer with mid-week games leading toward the holiday.

From Tuesday to Thursday, each evening features one matchup. Then on Friday, a couple of afternoon kickoffs take the college football world into the weekend.

Since the five games feature nine Group of Five schools plus BYU, you might not be familiar with the players. Worry no more.

Throw on some comfy clothes, grab a snack and keep a watchful eye on these players.

They’ll have the biggest impact on this week’s results.


Marcus Childers, QB, Northern Illinois

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The Boca Raton Bowl should be a low-scoring affair. UAB and Northern Illinois rank ninth and 26th, respectively, in points allowed per game. While UAB has a strictly average offense, NIU’s is extremely inefficient. Only Rutgers, UTSA and Central Michigan — which combined to finish 5-33 — tallied fewer yards per snap. This is a big moment for Marcus Childers, who tallied 358 yards and four touchdowns in the MAC title game. That outburst is an outlier in his career, so Childers faces the pressure of repeating that performance against a terrific defense.


Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio

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After losing at Stanford to begin 2018, San Diego State earned six straight wins. However, five were one-possession victories, and that proved unsustainable. SDSU’s defense couldn’t brace the team forever. Ohio’s season has an opposite summary. Nathan Rourke thrived after a slow start, accounting for 35 touchdowns and helping the Bobcats finish with the nation’s ninth-most efficient offense. SDSU doesn’t have the firepower to match Ohio in the Frisco Bowl unless the potential record-setting Rourke commits a few turnovers or uncharacteristically falters in the red zone.


Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall

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Marshall’s offense typically goes as Tyre Brady does. A transfer from Miami, he leads the Thundering Herd in every major receiving category with 66 catches, 914 yards and nine touchdowns. His splits, though, are dramatic. In Marshall’s eight wins, Brady has averaged 98.8 yards and tallied all nine of his scores. In four losses, he’s reeled in a total of 12 passes for just 124 yards. South Florida, which awaits in the Gasparilla Bowl, has a tolerable secondary but struggled mightily overall in November. USF probably won’t keep up if Brady has a productive day.


James Morgan, QB, Florida International

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Florida International rattled off an eight-win campaign behind an efficient year from James Morgan. His performances basically tell the story of each result, too. The junior quarterback managed seven yards attempt or less in five games, and FIU went 1-4. Otherwise, the Panthers were a perfect 7-0. How will Morgan fare against Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl? The Rockets have given up plenty of passing yards this season, but that’s also a product of four recent blowout wins. Morgan’s efficiency must appear right away so FIU isn’t playing from behind.


LeVante Bellamy, RB, Western Michigan

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During the second half of the season, BYU surrendered only 18.6 points per game. The Cougars were already solid in that category yet tightened down the stretch. Put simply, Western Michigan has a small margin for error in the Potato Bowl. LeVante Bellamy needs to hold a significant role because the Broncos lost starting quarterback Jon Wassink to injury late in the regular season. Bellamy isn’t often explosive, but he’s a steady producer with seven games of 100-plus yards from scrimmage. If BYU shuts him down, this matchup might not be close.


Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

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Despite excellence on defense, BYU is 6-6. Nothing contributed more to those issues than an inconsistent scoring attack, which is 94th nationally in points per game. On the bright side, Zach Wilson took control of the offense in mid-October and guided the Cougars to their only three showings of 35-plus points all year. WMU, meanwhile, ranks 95th in the country with 5.96 yards allowed per snap and ceded 42-plus points in all five losses. The Broncos can be picked apart, but that burden falls squarely on Wilson since the running game is mediocre at best.


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