Week 3 Starts and Sits
Quarterbacks to start
Baylor QB Seth Russell vs. Rice -- The Bears scored 40 points against SMU on Saturday, but it wasn’t one of Russell’s better showings. He completed 26-of-47 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the win. But oh boy, does he have a juicy match-up in a road date with Rice on Friday. Last season, the Owls ranked 101st in the FBS in passing yards allowed and 108th in scoring defense. Western Kentucky’s Mike White shredded them for 517 yards and three touchdowns in their 2016 season-opener.
TCU QB Kenny Hill vs. Iowa State -- Sticking in the Big 12, this is as much about banking on Iowa State to continue their slow-moving trainwreck of a season as it is as banking on Trill. The Cyclones have been thoroughly embarrassed through two games, losing to Northern Iowa in Week 1 and being run off the field altogether in a sad panda 42-3 defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. In the latter contest, Iowa QB C.J. Beathard threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Hill is coming off a 377-yard passing, 93-yard rushing, three-total touchdown performance against Arkansas on a national stage.
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts vs. Ole Miss -- Starting a freshman quarterback in mid-September against an archrival -- one who has pulled off back-to-back victories in the series -- might outwardly seem like a sketchy proposition, but Hurts carries intriguing upside here. Nick Saban raged against Lane Kiffin at the end of Saturday’s comfortable 38-10 win over Western Kentucky and publicly called out his team on Monday, tossing around words like “complacent.” That in and of itself is a formula for a focused Bama team on Saturday. Armchair psychology aside, Hurts has already accounted for five total touchdowns in essentially one-and-a-half games and we already saw FSU redshirt freshman Deondre Francois light the Rebs’ secondary on fire.
Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong vs. Oregon -- The Ducks have surrendered a combined 54 points to UC Davis and Virginia -- neither of whom fields the kind of offensive talent at Armstrong’s disposal. He threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another against Wyoming on Saturday. Starting the Cornhusker gunslinger carries a risk (he threw for two or fewer touchdowns in seven games last season), but this is a game that could see both Armstrong and Oregon QB Dakota Prukop launch for huge numbers.
Quarterback to sit
Auburn QB Sean White vs. Texas A&M -- White is now officially officially officially Auburn’s starting quarterback and responded to his official official official status by completing 17-of-23 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against Arkansas State. Texas A&M is not Arkansas State. Just ask UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who was almost completely flummoxed by the Aggies in the season-opener. I’m not completely out on White for the season, though. He ranked as Rivals’ No. 111 prospect for 2014 and posted three games of at least 250 yards passing after taking over for Jeremy Johnson last autumn. It’s just difficult to determine whether he will ever truly be able to capitalize on his offensive skill-set under a coaching staff that admitted to misusing his talents.
Miami QB Brad Kaaya vs. Appalachian State -- Kaaya failed to throw for a touchdown in Saturday’s win over FAU and was picked off twice. The performance was a puzzling and disappointing one, who needs a strong season to stay in the conversation as a potential top 10 pick come the draft in the spring. The Mountaineers completely locked down Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs in the season-opener, then notched an easy win over Old Dominion.
Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald vs. LSU -- South Carolina would tell you to start Fitz post haste, as he crushed them to the tune of 19-of-29 passing for 178 yards and two touchdowns and an impressive rushing tally of 195 yards on Saturday. LSU technically plays in the same conference as South Carolina, but they might as well reside on another planet. For all of the Tigers’ offensive problems, their defense has allowed a total of 29 points against Wisconsin and Jacksonville State. Not exactly Baylor and Texas Tech on offense, but impressive nonetheless. Fitzgerald is a worthwhile waiver-wire pickup, but keep him on the bench for this one.
UCLA QB Josh Rosen vs. BYU -- One touchdown and three picks against Texas A&M, fair enough. 267 yards and just one touchdown against UNLV, odd. It isn’t like Rosen wasn’t throwing the ball on Saturday, either. He attempted 38 passes in the game. BYU isn’t the opponent to get right against. The Cougs allowed 20 points to Utah in this weekend’s Holy War, and that was a step down from the 16 surrendered to Arizona the week before.
Waiver Wire Watch: Quarterbacks
Arkansas QB Austin Allen -- Allen was all kinds of awesome in Saturday’s thrilling win over TCU, throwing for three touchdowns, scoring the game-winner on a one-yard rush and catching a two-point conversion just for fun. He has a 5/2 TD/INT ratio on the season.
Michigan QB Wilton Speight -- Maybe it is just Jim Harbaugh feeling more comfortable as Wolverines head coach or maybe it is the fact that Speight has had two years in his system, but college football’s wild man has unleashed his quarterback. Speight threw the ball 37 times against UCF on Saturday and now holds a 7/1 TD/INT ratio on the season.
Florida QB Luke Del Rio -- Last time out, Del Rio mashed Kentucky with his boot heel in throwing for 320 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Interested parties who see him on the waiver wire can expect a strong performance against North Texas on Saturday.
Running backs to start
Texas RB D’onta Foreman vs. Cal -- Foreman sat out Saturday’s win over UTEP with a groin injury. He is expected to play against the Golden Bears this coming weekend, though, and goody for him. Cal has been a bottom five rush defense this season, getting sliced up in Sydney by Hawaii RB Diocemy Saint Juste at the end of August and following that with an outright disastrous performance against San Diego State, allowing 281 yards rushing to Donnel Pumphrey. Foreman rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame in the opener. So long as he is healthy on Saturday, he is going to run wild.
Notre Dame RB Josh Adams vs. Michigan State -- If you are starting Adams, you can expect a ride. For better, for worse, a ride. Because of his elite speed, he can single-handedly turn a week for his owners, as was evidenced in Saturday’s win over Nevada. Adams saw just 10 carries in that one. He rushed for 106 yards anyway. This is essentially a time share with Tarean Folston, but Adams is the one with the upside. The Spartans allowed 80 yards rushing to Furman’s Darius Morehead in the opener.
Miami RB Mark Walton vs. Appalachian State -- While steering away from Brad Kaaya is recommended, the same cannot be said for the running backs. The combo of Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby has been one of the best in the country. Walton opened against Florida A&M with 115 rushing yards, then topped that a week later with 155 against FAU. Timeshares are the bane of fantasy, but to this point, Walton and Yearby have both been fantasy horses. Yearby has racked up 226 yards (8.4 YPC) and scored three touchdowns while Walton has rushed for 271 yards (8.5 YPC) and five touchdowns. Appy State has allowed an average of 142 yards rushing in games against Tennessee and Old Dominion.
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley vs. Temple -- Army cooked the Owls for 329 total rushing yards in the season opener, something Stony Brook (predictably) was not able to do this past weekend. Barkley could cause them issues. Penn State’s offense looked drab and uninteresting against Kent State in Week 1 and Barkley still finished with 105 yards rushing. This weekend, they showed legitimate spark to spar with Pittsburgh after the Panthers temporarily stunned them with a flurry of early touchdowns. The Nittany Lions ultimately fell 42-39. Barkley managed a modest 85 yards rushing (4.3 YPC) in the tight loss, but he also scored four rushing touchdowns and logged one more as a receiver.
Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb vs. Georgia Tech -- Webb rolls into this weekend’s showdown with the Yellow Jackets on fire. He started to smolder against South Carolina in the opener with 97 yards rushing, then came out and went full Human Torch on Middle Tennessee State with 211 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 29 carries. A showdown with the Yellow Jackets serves as a perfect storm for Webb, who will benefit from the kinds of ugly, defensive scrum that seems imminent here.
Running backs to sit
Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough vs. Ole Miss -- At a certain point, you have to see it to believe it. Thus is the case with Scarbrough, who has been almost nonexistent through two games. After receiving 11 carries against USC in Week 1 (he rushed for 36 yards on those touches), he was afforded just five carries versus Western Kentucky on Saturday. Scarbrough was a five-star recruit, but he is acting as a fantasy anchor to this point.
Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage vs. UTSA -- Yes, sit the guy who just scored eight touchdowns. Do it. Do it. Do it. Ballage’s performance against Texas Tech was nothing short of a masterpiece, but the overall voltage can make it easy to overlook the fact that he received a mere 13 carries, this after receiving 10 in the season-opener. Unlike at Notre Dame, where Josh Adams and Tarean Folston are both receiving similar workloads (21 and 27 total carries, respectively), Demario Richard is far out-touching Ballage, holding a 49-23 edge. At the very least, don’t just rotely plunk Ballage into your lineup because of his Sportscenter highlights.
Iowa State RB Mike Warren vs. TCU -- Perhaps Warren is just hanging out in the Upside Down. A paranormal explanation is as good as any for his mysterious disappearance this season. Through two games, he has received 19 carries and spun them into 58 yards (3.1 YPC). The Horned Frogs’ defense has proven vulnerable in back-to-back games, but even that is not enough for Warren to earn true consideration to start for fantasy purposes. If anything, TCU’s offensive attack will probably lead to more throws from Cyclones’ QB Joel Lanning, not more carries for Warren.
Oklahoma running backs vs. Ohio State -- Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon tend to be strong bets to start for fantasy purposes (particularly when Perine is right), but the pair is in a strange place right now. Mixon at least rushed for 117 against UL-Monroe over the weekend. Perine has yet to rush for more than 60 yards in a game. While some of this is mere circumstance -- Perine was hampered by a shoulder injury in the season-opener -- we saw hiccups from the junior last year, too, particularly early in the season. Ohio State has allowed an average of 62 yards rushing through two games.
Waiver Wire Watch: Running Backs
Alabama RB B.J. Emmons -- Deep, deep sleeper here. Emmons isn’t the lead back (that would probably be Damien Harris), but he has impressed in limited action. Against Western Kentucky on Saturday, he rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on just six carries.
Florida RB Lamical Perine -- Intrigue abounds after Perine received 17 carries and rushed for 105 yards (6.2 YPC) against Kentucky on Saturday. HC Jim McElwain was talking up the true freshman in August.
Louisiana Tech RB Jarred Craft -- Craft isn’t Kenneth Dixon, but rushed for a respectable 68 yards (5.7 YPC) against Arkansas in the opener, then bumped that up to 95 yards against South Carolina State. He will get a crack at Texas Tech next, so if nothing else, he is worth owning for at least one week.
Wide receivers to start
Louisville WR Jamari Staples vs. Florida State -- Staples and the Cardinals are coming into this game at light speed. The wideout is fresh off a magnificent five-catch, 136-yard performance against Syracuse. He receives an added bonus in that Seminoles star safety Derwin James will miss the game after undergoing surgery to repair torn cartilage. While Staples has caught just nine passes for the season, he is averaging 24.3 yards per reception.
Cal WR Chad Hansen vs. Texas -- Hansen tortured Hawaii to the tune of a 14-160-2 receiving line in the season-opener against Hawaii. At that point, he was floating around on most waiver wires. He followed that fine performance against the Warriors with an even more impressive 14-190-1 line against San Diego State this past weekend. He has worked himself into the conversation as an every-week fantasy starter.
Louisiana Tech WR Trent Taylor vs. Texas Tech -- Taylor should be starting most weeks (if not every week), but that goes doubly so playing against Tech’s watery defense. For the season, he has caught 19 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. A large chunk of that statistical production came in last weekend’s drubbing of South Carolina State. Taylor hauled in 11 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns in that one.
Iowa State WR Allen Lazard vs. TCU -- Nobody would blame you if you just said, “Yeah, I’m done with starting Iowa State players,” but this is a fine spot for Lazard against the Horned Frogs. Unlike the aforementioned Mike Warren, Lazard has showed up for the 2016 season. He has logged 100-plus receiving yards against both Northern Iowa and Iowa. That he was able to nab seven catches for 111 yards against the Hawkeyes is particularly impressive given the Cyclones’ unexpected lack of a running game this season.
Wide receivers to sit
Georgia WR Isaiah McKenzie vs. Missouri -- McKenzie opened the season with a nice six-catch, 122-yard performance against North Carolina. He dropped off to just two catches for 61 yards against Nicholls. With the Bulldogs’ quarterbacking situation still in flux, there is just too much variance here to make this a safe play, particularly against a Missouri defense that remains respectable, if not dominant.
Mississippi State WR Fred Ross vs. LSU -- Ross caught a school-record 88 passes for 1,007 yards and five touchdowns last season, but he has suffered without the Dak Attack leading the way. This season, the big wideout has caught just 12 passes for 90 yards in two games.
Michigan WR Jehu Chesson vs. Colorado -- Chesson closed last season with 100 yards receiving in three of his last four games. Those were the only three games for the 2015 campaign in which he surpassed the century mark. Unfortunately, that hot finish has not led to a hot start for 2016. Chesson has yet to catch a touchdown and has logged just seven catches for 127 yards combined against Hawaii and UCF.
Clemson WR Artavis Scott vs. South Carolina State -- Mike Williams is worth a start here, but wait on Scott until Clemson’s offense has sorted itself out. He has logged 10 catches for 101 yards through two games. Slight positives, though: Seven of those catches and 71 of those yards came in Saturday’s tight win over Troy. He was a vacuum last season, catching 93 passes for 901 yards.
Waiver Wire Watch: Wide Reciever
UConn WR Noel Thomas -- Last season, Thomas caught 54 passes for 719 yards and three touchdowns. He is on his way to surpassing those numbers over the course of the 2016 campaign. In two games, he is working to a 20-186-1 receiving line. He is fresh off making 11 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown against Navy.
Washington State WR Tavares Martin Jr. -- Martin does have Gabe Marks to contend with in the catch department, but that didn’t bother him against Boise State. He racked up 12 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s loss to the Broncos.
Texas Tech WR Cameron Batson -- A year ago, Batson caught a mere 29 passes. He is already almost halfway to that total through three games. The bulk of that production came over the weekend, when he burned Arizona State for a 9-148-1 receiving line.