In this column, we'll be running through our favorite and least favorite matchups for the upcoming college football fantasy week. This should be viewed as gauge of just how confident we are in a given player against the opposition. While these recommendations can be used to help weigh starts and sits, they should be viewed as contextual information more than a strict, absolute guide.
Proceed with confidence
Penn State QB Trace McSorley at Illinois -- While the Nittany Lions have worked out to a 3-0 record, it’s been a less than spectacular start for McSorley in most aspects. He’s yet to throw for more than 230 yards in a game, has yet to post a three-touchdown game through the air and has completed just 52.3% of his passes for the campaign. We suspected McSorley might struggle for offensive consistency without mastermind Joe Moorhead tugging on the marionette strings, and perhaps that’s some of what we’re seeing here. What’s saved McSorley’s fantasy season -- at least by degrees -- is his work as a runner. He’s topped 50 yards on the ground in two of three contests and has already scored six rushing touchdowns.
Heading to Illinois this weekend, we’re banking on his strongest showing of the campaign. The Illini rank 123rd in the FBS in passing defense, surrendering just over 325 aerial yards a game on average. Most recently, Blake Barnett rocked them for 411 yards passing over the weekend. Adding to the intrigue, QB Woody Barrett of Kent State picked them apart on the ground with 117 yards rushing in Week 1. McSorley isn’t Barrett as a runner, but his willingness to run has been one of his few clear fantasy assets this season. If he doesn’t come through here, we’re going to start to fade him as a starter.
Boston College QB Anthony Brown at Purdue -- Outside of a Week 2 matchup against Holy Cross in which Brown essentially did not play at all (he attempted two passes), the Eagles’ signal-caller has breathed pure fire this year. He opened the campaign throwing for 279 yards and four touchdowns versus UMass, and topped that fine effort with 304 yards and five touchdowns in a beautiful dismantling of Dave Clawson’s Wake Forest defense this past Thursday. Now Brown and company hit the road for a trip to Purdue, where he’ll look to become the latest quarterback to torture the Boilermakers. After mostly keeping Clayton Thorton in check in their opener, they’ve surrendered passing efforts of 312 yards and 375 yards to EMU’s Tyler Wiegers and Missouri’s Drew Lock over the past two weekends.
Western Michigan RB LeVante Bellamy at Georgia State -- The Panthers were pounded into the ground on repeat by Memphis’ Darrell Henderson on Saturday, with Henderson posting 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Broncos’ 59-22 victory. Bellamy should be able to follow with a rollicking effort of his own. Consistency is one of the most desirable traits in a fantasy start for obvious reasons, and that’s Bellamy to a “T” so far. He’s rushed for a total of 268 yards (9.2 YPC) and three touchdowns through three games. Even in his toughest of matchups -- against Michigan in Week 2 -- Bellamy managed to come through with 65 yards. He didn’t hit the end zone in that contest, but has scored in each of his other two games. Bellamy’s main bugaboo throughout his career has been that of injury. He’s an intriguing option in the right matchup when healthy, though. This is the right matchup.
Coastal Carolina RB Marcus Outlow at Louisiana -- No question in our mind that we want to roll with a Chanticleers back in this one. The Ragin’ Cajuns ranked as one of the worst teams in the FBS in defending the run last season, both in terms of traditional statistics (allowed 236.5 yards on average; 122nd in the FBS) and advanced statistics (128th in S&P+). Not much seems to have changed. In their lone game against FBS competition this season (Mississippi State on Saturday), they allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers in Aeris Williams and QB Nick Fitzgerald. Coastal Carolina, meanwhile, has done well to establish several enticing fantasy runners this season in Marcus Outlow and Torrance Marable. While Marable has an edge in the touchdown department right now, up 4-3, Outlow’s the steadier play. He’s received double-digit carries in all three of Coastal Carolina’s games -- his banner performance to date came in a 140-yard smashing of UAB in Week 2 -- something that cannot be said for Marable in a single contest thus far. Both runners are worth starting consideration, here, but we feel more comfortable with Outlow.
Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins vs. Arizona -- The Beavers might not be good this year, but we love how quickly HC Jonathan Smith has gotten this offensive house in order. Even in a blowout loss to Ohio State in Week 1, they still managed 31 points, with RB Artavis Pierce and WR Trevon Bradford both coming through in high style. Bradford’s currently dealing with a shoulder injury which kept him out of Saturday’s narrow loss to Nevada. Hodgins stepped up and then some in his place, catching 14 passes for 200 yards and a pair of scores against the Pack. Now home for the Wildcats, who have yet to allow a 100-yard receiver this year. That may seem ominous, but Southern Utah QB Chris Helbig threw for 270 yards on them over the weekend and they’re not immune to a big passing performance. We like Hodgins to break through on that 100-yard seal. Fantasy owners should make sure to check on the status of Bradford over the course of the practice week, as Hodgins does become at least somewhat more of a diluted start if his receiving teammate can play.
Texas Tech WR Antoine Wesley at Oklahoma State -- We felt strongly that Houston was a better team than Texas Tech entering the weekend. Then Allan Bowman was like, “Yo, here’s 605 passing yards.” The Red Raiders poured metaphorical gasoline on the field and struck the offensive match on Saturday. Thanks to Bowman’s absurd output, Wesley took something of a backseat in the headlines, but his numbers are just as unbelievable. He caught 13 passes for 261 yards. Universe have mercy. At the same time Bowman and Wesley were reprogramming the Matrix, Oklahoma State was in the process of handling Boise State. But while we were also wrong on that one (RIP Broncos’ longshot hopes of crashing the Playoff), BSU still came away with a healthy four players recording at least 50 yards receiving. Brett Rypien passed for 380 yards. Tech comes to Stillwater on an exhilarating offensive high. We like Wesley versus the Cowboys. We like T.J. Vasher, too.
Georgia WR Mecole Hardman at Missouri -- The Bulldogs have not yet been forced to push hard on the offensive gas pedal, but Missouri has enough offensive firepower that we’d expect that UGA will have to show a more complete gameplan in Week 4. Hardman’s been the most consistent receiver in Athens thus far, having caught 12 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns in three games. He’s scored once in each of Georgia’s contests to date, with his sharpest game of the campaign coming against South Carolina in Week 2, when he posted a 6-103-1 receiving line. Solid stuff all the way around. Oh and Missouri might have one of the worst pass defenses in the country. We’re gonna channel our inner LeBron, here, and note that the Tigers allowed not one, not two, but three 100-yard receivers -- Rondale Moore, Brycen Hopkins and Isaac Zico -- in their 40-37 win over Purdue on Saturday.
Proceed with caution
USC QB JT Daniels vs. Washington State -- It’s hard to trust anything that the Trojans have working on offense at this juncture. They managed just three points against Stanford in Week 2, with the Cardinal picking off freshman Daniels twice while holding him to 215 yards passing and zero touchdowns. Against Texas on Saturday, he rebounded to throw for a season-high 322 yards, but again, no touchdown passes (also another pick). All told, he’s tossed just one touchdown against three interceptions. Now, it should be noted that USC has been on the road over the past two weeks, and Daniels figures to feel somewhat more comfortable in the home confines. But at this juncture, there’s simply no way that you can realistically bank on him as a fantasy starter.
Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond at Alabama -- Mond has already carved up one elite defense this season, when he threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson two weekends ago. As much as we’d love to roll with him in Tuscaloosa, though, we just can’t. Alabama has played to form through three weeks defensively, shutting down every passer they’ve faced. Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu took his best swing on Saturday, connecting for a 75-yard touchdown to D.K. Metcalf on the first play of the game, but finished with just 58 more yards through to the end of the game. Mond does have two juicy matchups following this game -- at Arkansas, home against Kentucky -- and should be playable in both matchups. Don’t tempt fate in Week 4 with this one, though. We’d also keep Trayveon Williams on the bench, here.
Georgia RB D’Andre Swift at Missouri -- While we love Georgia’s passing matchups in this one -- see our highlighting of Mecole Hardman above -- we’re less enamored with Swift in this matchup. The high-yardage total Mizzou has allowed in a game this season has been 56 yards, to Wyoming’s Jevon Bigelow in Week 2. Purdue finished with all of 28 yards rushing as a team (granted, due in part to their myriad of success in the passing game) on Saturday. Beyond that, Swift just, well, just hasn’t been all that great thus far. He’s averaging 5.0 YPC with his best showing on the yardage from coming in the form of his 64 yards rushing against South Carolina in Week 2. He has not topped 50 yards on the ground in either of Georgia’s other games (vs. Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee). Against the Blue Raiders over the weekend, it was actually Elijah Holyfield leading the way with 100 yards rushing on eight carries. Swift’s output, there? Four carries for 12 yards. This isn’t a timeshare and Swift should be able to kick things into gear as the season rolls along, but he’s yet to find his groove to any serious degree. Hold off for now.
Florida State RB Cam Akers vs. Northern Illinois -- During summer drafts, we viewed Swift and Akers in much the same light. Both explosive sophomores in prime situations, both darkhorses for Heisman runs, both possessing of the kind of upside you like to aim for with your high picks. Swift has gotten off to a slow start, as previously noted, but at least he’s playing on offense which affords him chances at the end zone (he has scored two touchdowns). Akers, on the other hand, is stuck with a squad which has proven laughably incapable of scoring points this season. They put up 36 points in a near-loss to Samford in Week 2, but have scored 10 points combined against FBS teams in Virginia Tech and Syracuse. Akers, somewhat predictably, is still looking for his first touchdown. He’ll try for paydirt in Week 4 against the Huskies, but NIU has played respectable rushing defense against the respectable rushing attacks of Iowa, Utah and Central Michigan. They held each of the leading rushers in those contests (Toren Young, Zack Moss, Jonathan Ward) to fewer than 100 yards rushing, most notably locking down Moss to the dirge-like tune of 66 yards on the ground.
Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry at Washington -- We know this one might be difficult to pull the benching-trigger on, but that’s just the kind of respect we have for Washington’s secondary, what we view as the best secondary in the country. The Huskies have yet to allow even 55 yards receiving to an individual player this season, with neither the wideouts of Auburn nor Utah (UW’s two FBS opponents thus far) capable of breaking this elite unit. ASU has also had back-to-back exhaustive weeks, first of the exhilarating variety in victory over Michigan State in Week 2, then of the frustrating variety in a loss to San Diego State on Saturday. Harry is a stud, obviously, but we would not be surprised if Arizona State turns in its first true offensive dud of the campaign in Seattle in a few days’ time.
Louisiana Tech WR Teddy Veal at LSU -- Through two games, it has been Adrian Hardy (9-184-1) rather than Veal (7-126-0) who has served as J’Mar Smith’s favorite target, but regardless of which you own, we’d recommend a firm sitting for this coming weekend. Regular readers will know that these kinds of matchups are ones which make us exceedingly nervous. It’s just such a high jump up in competition. Louisiana Tech has played South Alabama and Southern thus far. We don’t view LSU’s secondary as invulnerable -- Jeff Thomas caught five passes for 132 versus the Tigers in Week 1 -- but this is just a tough spot to project points out of for your Tech receivers.
Tulane WR Darnell Mooney at Ohio State -- If you drafted Mooney, you’re probably feeling pretty good right now. He opened the campaign with an eight-catch, 74-yard effort against Wake Forest and has since followed that up with games of 6-111-1 (against Nicholls) and 4-123-2 (against UAB). All of this fun will temporarily halt versus the Buckeyes in Week 4. With OSU HC Urban Meyer now reinstated from his three-game suspension to open the campaign, we’re guessing that the team comes out like a cannonball on fire against the Green Wave. We do think that the Ohio State secondary can get got -- it’s shown cracks at times versus Oregon State and TCU -- but this is probably going to be a thrashing.