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
Colorado State QB K.J. Carta-Samuels at San Jose State -- Carta-Samuels has been more hot and cold than a faulty motel shower this season, with rather majestic highs -- 537 passing yards, five touchdowns against Hawaii in the opener; 389 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns against Arkansas in Week 2 -- tempered by frustrating lows -- fewer than 220 passing yards against Colorado, Florida and Illinois State. This will be a feast week for the Washington transfer as he faces off with the third-worst passing defense in the FBS on a per-game average. This season, the Spartans have allowed at least 300 yards passing to every starting quarterback they have faced, with a pair of signal-callers hitting for at least 400 yards in a four-game sample.
Memphis QB Brady White vs. UConn -- One slot above San Jose State on that pass-defense average, the UConn Huskies, who have surrendered multiple passing touchdowns in every game this season, with three of the five signal-callers they’ve faced putting up at least 300 yards through the air. For his part, White has a pair of five-touchdown showings on the year, and has thrown for at least two touchdowns in every contest this season outside of a Week 2 loss to Navy.
Washington State RB James Williams at Oregon State -- As a traditional runner, Williams offers a limited fantasy value, having been held to fewer than 55 yards rushing in every game this season outside of the opener (and even in that win over Wyoming, he managed just a modest 82 yards on the ground). Traditional carries are not HC Mike Leach’s jam, though, and Williams has more/less made up the difference as a pass-catcher for the Pirate. He’s actually recorded more receiving yards (205) than rushing yards (204) on the campaign. For those working in PPR formats, the upperclassman has been good for 28 catches in five games. While we love Williams as a PPR performer in this spot, we’d take him for a spin even in non-PPR formats given just how bad the Beavers have been against the run this year. Especially of late. Arizona’s J.J. Taylor went off for 284 yards and a pair of scores two weekends ago, with OSU somehow failing to pass under that absurdly high limbo bar versus Arizona State on Saturday -- Eno Benjamin went wild with 314 yards rushing in that contest.
UNLV RB Lexington Thomas vs. New Mexico -- Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor shredded New Mexico like a slab of barbeque pork in Week 2 -- he went off for 253 yards and three touchdowns -- but the Lobos have proven futile against the run beyond just that one game. Incarnate Word’s Ra’Quanne Dickens likewise posted 100-plus yards versus New Mexico, while New Mexico State’s Jason Huntley and Liberty’s Frankie Hickson hit for 67 and 65 yards, respectively. You can expeCT Thomas for an output more on par with that of Dickens and (in a perfect world) Taylor. The UNLV standout topped 120 yards rushing in each of his first three games this season before being slowed for 82 by Arkansas State prior to heading into the bye week. He’s found the end zone at least once in all four of the Rebels’ games this season.
Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin at Virginia Tech -- Arrows pointing to the stars for Notre Dame’s offense, which had failed to top 25 points in any of Brandon Wimbush’s three starts to boot up the campaign. In the last two games -- which were helmed by the more throwing-able Ian Book -- the Irish have scored a combined 94 points versus Wake Forest and Stanford. The win over the Demon Deacons was impressive. The win over a strong Cardinal outfit on Saturday was nothing short of eye-opening. In that contest, Boykin logged his second 100-yard performance of the season, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and a score. Look for him to build off this strong showing as he and Book continue to cultivate their budding connection. This Week 6 showdown in Blacksburg will offer the perfect opportunity for additional fun, as Virginia Tech has been all over the map (but mostly bad) against opposing wideouts. In Week 2, they allowed William & Mary’s DeVonte Dedmon and Nick Muse to both top 90 yards receiving (Dedmon also caught a touchdown), and they proved even more charitable in their Week 4 upset loss to Old Dominion, when Travis Fulgham dropped 9-188-1 and Jonathan Duhart 9-142-3. We like Boykin much, much more than receiving teammate Chase Claypool, but Claypool could be worth a gamble in this matchup as well.
Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf vs. Louisiana-Monroe -- Don’t be scared off by LSU’s lockdown of Metcalf on Saturday. He managed just three catches for 37 yards in that contest, but the Rebs’ offensive standouts were always going to make for gamble plays against the Tigers. Prior to Saturday’s letdown, Metcalf had notched at least 80 yards receiving and one touchdown in each of the previous four contests. Expect a return to those kinds of good times upcoming versus Monroe, with the Warhawks allowing an opposing receiver to top 145 yards twice in five games. The only team which failed to field a wideout with at least 70 yards versus Monroe this season has been Texas A&M, something which can be chalked up largely to a lopsided scoreboard. All of your Ole Miss fantasy entities should be considered strong plays this coming weekend.
Ohio WR/RB Papi White at Kent State -- The Golden Flashes have been flash-fried on repeat by opposing wideouts this season. After ably handling Illinois’ passing game in the opener -- no surprise there -- they have allowed a 100-yard receiver in each of their next four games. That futility took on the broken grandeur of a natural disaster versus Ball State on Saturday, with Riley Neal hooking up with a fellow Riley (Riley Miller) on a 11-208-1 receiving line. Ohio comes to town, now, with White searching for his third 100-yard game of the campaign. He opened with showings of 154 yards receiving and 131 yards receiving against Howard and Virginia before falling back down to two catches for 23 yards against Cincinnati in Week 3. White turned in a rebound 6-84-2 receiving line against UMass on Saturday.
Proceed with caution
Florida State QB Deondre Francois at Miami -- The 3-2 Seminoles have been one of the more disappointing teams on the FBS landscape this season, but we love the kind of effort we’ve seen from Francois even as his patchwork offensive line has near-constantly put him under duress. He’s fresh off his best game of the season, having just thrown for 294 yards and four touchdowns in a comeback win over Louisville on Saturday. That was his third game of at least two touchdown passes in five contests. If any of this seems intriguing to you, consider holding off for a week. No program in the country is allowing fewer passing yards per game than the Hurricanes, who are surrendering a scant 138.8 yards on average. They’ve yet to allow more than 225 aerial yards in a contest and have held four of five signal-callers to fewer than 170 yards passing. FSU will be off on bye after this in-state showdown, with Francois having a much more palatable home matchup against Wake Forest when Florida State reemerges.
Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson at Central Michigan -- Jackson had been absolutely rolling prior to this weekend’s blowout loss to Army, having thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of his first four games. The Black Knights put an end to that streak over the weekend, limiting Jackson to 10-of-24 passing for 152 yards and a touchdown. As tough as it would be to bench him upcoming given his previous success, CMU has done a sharp job defending the pass this year, most notably in locking down Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke for 185 yards and a pick on Saturday. They’re surrendering just 149 passing yards per game on average. Buffalo’s offense will be the best they’ve played this season, but we’re willing to fade Jackson for at least one game, here, given his issues on Saturday.
Northwestern RB John Moten at Michigan State -- Moten was the hot biscuit on the waiver wire after starting Wildcats back Jeremy Larkin announced his surprise retirement a week ago. The seldom used backup came out against Michigan about how you might expect on Saturday, rushing for just 36 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Don’t expect much improvement with a trip to East Lansing on the docket for the coming weekend. Somewhat remarkably, Mark Dantonio’s team has not allowed an opposing runner to top 35 yards rushing in any of their four games this season. Northwestern will have softer matchups after this one -- against Nebraska and Rutgers -- in which Moten could potentially be a play, but avoid, here.
Stanford RB Bryce Love vs. Utah -- Sigh, here we go again. Love exited with an ankle injury during Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, this after sitting out against UC Davis due to injury two games prior. What particularly gives us pause, here, is that we saw the dynamic back fight through ankle issues for much of last season, It’s not yet clear whether Love will play against the Utes on Saturday, nor how effective he even might be should he suit up. And should he suit up, Kyle Whittingham’s crew will be ready. Outside of a 143-yard implosion surrendered to UW’s Myles Gaskin, no runner has put up even more than 65 yard rushing against Utah this season. Love is more than capable of a Gaskin-type performance when right. There’s far too much uncertainty -- against a staunch opponent -- for us to feel comfortable with Love this week. He has one game of 100 yards rushing on the year.
Clemson WR Tee Higgins at Wake Forest -- Boy oh boy we would have loved this matchup under ideal circumstances, as Wake Forest ranks 108th in the country against the pass on a per-game average and Higgins would have been a prime play. Then star freshman QB Trevor Lawrence was knocked out with a potential concussion against Syracuse on Saturday, which pushed recent third-stringer Chase Brice into the fire. The Tigers did ultimately scrape by with a win, but Higgins finished with just four catches for 53 yards. We can’t in good conscious recommend Higgins in what would be Brice’s first start of the season, even against this Demon Deacons defense. If Lawrence is cleared from concussion protocol by the weekend, Higgins would gain serious starting intrigue. Those who own shares in the talented Clemson wideout should keep tabs on Lawrence’s status during the upcoming practice week.
Oregon State WRs Isaiah Hodgins and Trevon Bradford vs. Washington State -- We find both Hodgins and Bradford to be underrated fantasy assets, but the passing offense in Corvallis is simply too inconsistent for us to seriously consider either target against a solid defense. Wazzu possesses just that, and probably better. This season, they have allowed receiving touchdowns in just two of five games (three each to Eastern Washington and USC). With the Beavers leaning hard on breakout sensation RB Jermar Jefferson, the opportunities even in the best of circumstances are somewhat a dart throw for Hodgins and Bradford.
Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch vs. Clemson -- Dortch is an exceedingly difficult sit, to be sure, as he’s working on a stellar 45-555-5 receiving line through five games and is fresh off his best game of the campaign, a virtuoso 11-catch, 163-yard, four-touchdown dissection of Rice. The Owls don’t offer nearly the kind of resistance Clemson will, though, and against the best defense he’s faced to date -- Notre Dame -- Dortch was limited to six catches for 56 yards. Steer clear against Dexter Lawrence and company unless you’re in a crunch.