As the leaves begin to change, and Octoberfest replaces Summer Ale as my tailgating refreshment of choice, the sense of dread that the college football regular season is half over begins to cause great personal distress. Sure last weekend saw Texas vs. Oklahoma, Mizzou vs. Okie State, LSU vs. Florida and countless other matchups with huge ramifications, both from a fantasy and rankings perspective. But as I returned from a great tailgate and game in Chicago to watch two of those great matchups on the tube, I couldn't help but feel like I do as I near each birthday: that I just want to stop time for a little bit as the fun is just whizzing by too quickly.
Thankfully Monday rolls around and another week's worth of action captures my attention, all is right with the world again, and the countdown to another week of college football begins. With this we college fantasy fanatics begin to look toward some classic shootouts just a few days away.
Can the 12th man contain the Red Raiders? How will the Clemson offense respond to a change in leadership? Will watching the Zac Robinson and Robert Griffin duel be as much fun as I anticipate? How many passes will Chase Daniel and Colt McCoy combine to throw? And why the hell aren't games like UTEP vs. Tulsa and Houston vs. SMU shown on television more often?
Note: You have no idea how difficult it was to not include Case Keenum on the start list. However I resisted the urge to include the fantasy stud on the list, as it would be easier than Sunday morning. Keep in mind that Keenum's Cougars are playing SMU for heaven's sake! SMU!
Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP
Vittatoe has accounted for ten touchdowns in his last three outings, and this week he will see a Tulsa defense that ranks near the bottom in most defensive categories. The Golden Hurricane are allowing about 268 yards passing per game, and the UTEP quarterback is likely dreaming of another huge performance. The Tulsa offense is explosive and they'll score a bunch, and their defense will be left on the field for a very long time.
Austin Davis, Southern Miss
First the bad: Austin Davis has yet to surpass the three-touchdown mark in any game this season. Now the good: Austin Davis has thrown for more than 200 yards in five of his six games this season. Now the really good: Davis gets to travel to Rice, where he'll take on an Owls' squad that had two weeks to think about what horrible things Tulsa did to them. Rice's defense will be improved this week, but not enough to contain the talented Austin Davis.
Diondre Borel, Utah State
Now I'm just getting crazy. Borel, the Aggies' sophomore quarterback, has only accounted for three scores in one game this year. His team stinks. And there is very little chance that any of you have him on your squad. Then why am I including young Mr. Borel on the start list?
I'm trying to get in touch with my statistical side. The Nevada defense has given up over 2000 passing yards in only six games. They're giving up over thirty points per game. And fantasy owners get desperate at this time of year. Maybe you've fallen to 100 points out? Maybe you're sitting at 2-5 and in dire need of a win. If you're looking for a spark, then I have a nice feeling about Diondre Borel.
Joe Ganz, Nebraska
He's playing pretty well, and he's giving his Cornhuskers a chance to outscore every team they play. Iowa State's defense, allowing an average of 28 points per game, fits right in with the other Big XII defensive squads. Ganz's owners should look for 300 and 3.
Mark Sanchez, Southern Cal
I feel a little guilty about this one. Just a little guilty. Sanchez is coming off a lackluster, three interception performance against Arizona State. Now the USC quarterback will look to make amends, with his squad's national title hopes still alive and kicking. He may have to do it in a shortened game thanks to an anticipated blowout, but he'll get it done.
Josh Freeman, Kansas State
I was looking for one QB1 to include on the sit list, and I've decided the one on our list to sit this week is.Josh Freeman. Not only has Josh Freeman run for at least two scores in at least five games, but he ran for four scores just last week. Now he gets to face a Colorado defense that doesn't strike fear in hearts of opposing quarterbacks. So why sit the Kansas State quarterback this week?
Because he killed me last year and I hold a grudge. And I think that there's no flakier offensive unit than the Wildcats.
Max Hall, BYU
Yep, the Max Hall. Heisman trophy candidate. Leader of the powerhouse BYU offensive unit.
This week we spoke of the TCU defense, and how it was looking like the unit we loved at the beginning of the 2007 season. Those Horned Frogs are raising a little hell, and this week's game with the Cougars has slugfest written all over it. Many owners, including yours truly, have been disappointed with Harvey Unga. This week Unga will not blow up, but he's going to be part of a ground battle. BYU will look to display their ability to grind one out, and this will not be conducive to Hall's numbers.
Inoke Funaki, Hawaii
Five touchdowns in the last two games show a quarterback that is maturing, and an offense that is getting better. The Warriors' momentum will slow this week, and not just because Boise has only allowed four passing touchdowns, but because Bronco Stadium is also one tough place to play.
Note on Western Michigan vs. Central Michigan
In my younger days as a fantasy guru, a sort of Saturday soothsayer if you will, I would be all over a classic shootout between the Broncos' Tim Hiller and Dan LeFevour of the Chips. I'd see two gunslingers in a MAC conference that doesn't play a lick of defense.but as a jaded veteran of these types of matchups, I'm going to avoid this game.
I know we've ranked all participants in this tilt rather highly. Still I can't help but see two motivated defenses in this rivalry and I'm simply going to quote a little Alice in Chains and say I stay away.
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
In only one game has Hunter seen fewer than 21 carries, and this was in the blowout over Missouri State, where the OSU running star still scored twice. He was impressive in the win over Missouri last week, and now he gets to see a mediocre defense. If Kendall Hunter sees 21 carries against the Bears and we're looking at another 150 +2 performance.
Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern
Northwestern's senior back quietly put up over 180 yards of total offense in the last week's loss to Michigan State, and in doing so he answered some injury questions that existed heading into the week. Now he welcomes the Boilermakers to town, and on paper this game looks like it'll be a shootout. But each offense has been underwhelming at times, and this game has 21-18 written all over it. Northwestern's recipe will likely include a nice helping of Sutton, and Purdue will have trouble containing him.
Rodney Stewart, Colorado
The "other" freshman back for the Buffs has shown a knack for finding paydirt. This week he'll get his chances against Kansas State.
James Davis, Clemson
I'm looking for Clemson to show a little life following the shakeup at the top. With C.J Spiller likely out and an inexperienced freshman taking snaps, look for the Tigers to lean on James Davis. I'm well aware that the Yellow Jackets are allowing an impressive 3.1 yards per carry. I'm also aware that college football is a game won with emotion, and the Clemson Tigers will take the field with a chip on their shoulder.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
It's becoming clear that the term workhorse isn't only reserved for freight train running backs that look to dish out punishment. Javon Ringer is one such workhorse, and while Jacquizz Rodgers hasn't seen the same number of carries as the Michigan State back, he certainly falls into the workhorse category.
Since his season-opening performance against Stanford Rodgers has averaged over 26 carries per game. The scary part is that he's getting better with each week. The really scary part is that he gets the poor, poor Washington Huskies this week.
Evan Royster, Penn State
Never thought I'd see the day that Michigan would be a 24-point dog, however this is the case as the Wolverines travel to Happy Valley. Many are expecting a beatdown, and while it's easy to see many expect a 48-14 style drubbing, I think this game is going to be much closer.
The expected strength of the Michigan team was its defense, and at times this unit has been unimpressive. But it's also got some talent, and I would assume some pride. They have two very nice young corners in Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko. So what does this have to do with Evan Royster and his spot on my start list?
Penn State will not score at will. Evan Royster will not spend his second half sitting on his helmet. The Lions will have to grind this one out for a while, and Royster will see his touches and scoring chances.
Javon Ringer, Michigan State
I realize it's moot to discuss Ringer's likely struggles against the Ohio State defense, because I'd likely recommend starting him to about 90% of owners. He's scored 14 times, and you can bet he'll see the ball 25 times. This alone makes him one to start.
The OSU defense should be able to hold Ringer down, and they should be able to do it without putting extra men in the box. The key to Ringer's success will come down to, per usual, his ability to break a big play or two. If this big play happens, then look for Ringer to make it in the passing game.
Derrick Washington, Missouri
Washington has emerged as a top national breakout story, and his Tigers will be looking to make amends for the loss to the underrated Oklahoma State squad. Still, I cannot ignore that the Longhorns are allowing a minuscule 1.9 yards per carry, and they trail only TCU and Alabama in total defense.
Mizzou may stun the number one squad, but it won't come from a great running performance.
Sam McGuffie, Michigan
I'll admit I was wrong on Sam McGuffie. I saw Michael Shaw emerging as Michigan's freshman go-to back, and I envisioned a move to the slot for McGuffie. The undersized speedster from Texas has been impressive, but now is the time where he really begins to feel the pain of Big Ten defenses.
Michigan is 2-4, and they haven't a seen a defense anywhere near as physical as the one they'll encounter in Happy Valley. And when McGuffie looks to bounce runs outside they'll be defenders in place to hammer him. The Wolverines may hang around, but it won't be on account of McGuffie's legs.
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
When you think of hotbeds for college fantasy receivers it's likely that the Oklahoma State Cowboys aren't among the first schools to pop into your head. With recent years turned in by the Woods boys and Adarius Bowman, it's clear that we should start to consider Stillwater a place to turn for fantasy stalwarts, and Dez Bryant is currently in the midst of one of the greatest seasons Stillwater or even the Big Twelve has seeen.
Even in a lackluster 7-47 performance last week Bryant showed his toughness, taking some jarring hits. He'll likely rebound from a 3.13 fantasy output by getting back into the 20-point neighborhood that he's hung in for the majority of the season. I'm a little concerned about including teammates on the start list, but I have faith that the Baylor defense will not let me down.
Jeremy Childs, Boise State
After working through some off-season difficulties and some lackluster starts, it appears that Jeremy Childs is ready to make some noise. Boise welcomes Hawaii to the smurf turf, and they'll be without fellow wide receiver Titus Young, who takes his turn on the suspended list. Look for Jeremy Childs to break out in a big way this week.
Marko Mitchell, Nevada
Arrelious Benn, Illinois
I'm not sure there's a more impressive receiver in the country than the Illini's Benn, and he just seems due for a bust out, three score performance. Last week he caught 12 balls for 181 yards, but he was held out of the end zone. This changes against another Indiana team who sees their own season on the brink. The Hoosiers' pass defense is in the bottom third nationwide, and Benn will prove too difficult to stop.
Darius Passmore, Marshall
UAB has the worst pass defense in the country. Yep, worse than every other division one program. Yes, they've played Tulsa and Houston, however when you're giving up over 300 yards passing per game, and you've allowed 17 touchdown passes in seven games, there is a clear weakness. And Marshall's Darius Passmore will look to exploit the hell out of this weakness.
Jamarko Simmons, Western Michigan
As mentioned above, I have a hard time seeing this game as a 35-31 shootout. I know that in the past two weeks Simmons has caught 18 balls for 190 yards and two scores, and he's already matched his six scores from a season ago. And I also know that the Central pass defense has struggled, even considering they've played Georgia and Purdue. But I still think if there's one WR1 who will struggle it'll be this Bronco.
Stephen Williams, Toledo
If there's ever been a test for a letdown theory, then this is it. Fresh off their win in Michigan Stadium the Rockets get to face Northern Illinois. Now over the years Northern Illinois has been a damn good team, but they don't have winged helmets, 110,00+ fans don't watch them play, and this annual game with Toledo is just another MAC contest. Add to this the Saturday night parties and bar brawls (man I miss college) in Toledo following last week's win, and I think the Rockets will show up flatter than my beloved potato pancakes.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
Two weeks without a catch, and the Demon Deacons on tap. Avoid this young man.
Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
Oh Gronk, what happened last week? You were emerging as a late-season contender to James Casey's throne, and then you put up 2 fantasy points last week. You're better than that Gronk. Take it out on Cal big guy.
Mark Hafner, Houston
SMU is going to see Mark Hafner, go to June Jones, and wonder just what is this tight end thing, and why does it keep catching so many passes.
Brandon Myers, Iowa
I know he's a little banged up, but with Moeaki's injury issues, Myers becomes one to roll the dice with.
Kickers & Defenses
Rather than continue rambling on, I'm going to once again point you towards our player rankings.
Good luck with the playoff push boys and girls!