Cal QB Davis Webb vs. Oregon (Friday) -- Webb injured his hand in a loss to Oregon State two weekends ago, but with a bye week to rest up, all indications are full-speed ahead for Saturday. He will have quite the get-well opponent. Only Bowling Green, New Mexico State and Texas State are surrendering more points on average than the Ducks. Prior to Webb’s injury-addled dud of a performance against the Beavers, he had thrown for at least 300 yards and four touchdowns in each of Cal’s first five games.
North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky vs. Virginia -- Trubisky was drowned out by Hurricane Matthew two weekends ago before rebounding for an efficient performance against a staunch Miami defense. Neither weather, nor Virginia’s defense should cause Trubisky much issue on Saturday. The Cavaliers have surrendered more than 35 points in four of six games this season. Prior to being taken down by an actual hurricane and then being forced to face off with the Miami species of the weather phenomena, Trubisky was working on a three-game streak of 400-plus passing yards and three or more touchdowns.
Washington State QB Luke Falk vs. Arizona State -- No actual hurricane hit Pullman this weekend, but it has been really cold and rainy of late and I had to put on a warm hat this morning. The dismal weather did Falk no favors against UCLA on Saturday. He finished with his worst passing effort of the season, throwing for 261 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. In and of itself, this isn’t a concern. Water falling from the sky has felled many an opponent. But Falk has been dicey of late, even in pristine conditions. He threw just one touchdown pass against Oregon in Week 6. While Mike Leach’s sudden discovery of the run-game could be leaching a few touchdown tosses from Falk, but owners shouldn’t worry, especially against a Sun Devils team surrendering more than 500 yards of offense on average.
Old Dominion QB David Washington vs. Western Kentucky -- Washington saw a string of three consecutive games with multiple touchdown passes snapped in Saturday’s win over UMass. He should be back to his old tricks against Western Kentucky this weekend. The Hilltoppers have had a miserable go of things lately, as Ryan Higgins and Brent Stockstill shredded them to the tune of a combined 888 passing yards in their last two games. On the season, Washington holds a strong 12/2 TD/INT ratio. He isn’t an every week fantasy play, but this is a nice spot for him.
Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight vs. Alabama -- Bama isn’t immune to surrendering big passing days (Chad Kelly threw for 402 yards and three touchdowns vs. the champs, Austin Allen 400 yards and three scores -- plus three picks), but they are just as liable to grind the opposing passer into dust. Look no further than Saturday’s dismantling of Tennessee. The Tide wiped the Vols off the face of the earth in the 49-10 win. Joshua Dobbs threw for 92 yards and an interception in the thorough thrashing. That is Bama. For his part, Knight has been a fantasy hero on multiple occasions this season, most recently against Tennessee (sorry, Vol fans, I know it has been a trying month) two weekends ago, accounting for five total touchdowns. While Knight showed his mettle against Nick Saban in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns while leading Oklahoma to a 45-31 victory, I trust Alabama more than Trevor Knight.
TCU QB Kenny Hill vs. West Virginia -- The Mountaineers are happening. They somehow managed to hold Pat Mahomes and the Red Raiders to just 17 points on Saturday. Granted, at least part of that was due to the fact that Mahomes is dealing with a sprained shoulder. Still, Texas Tech. 17 points. Hill is coming off his worst game of the season, a three-interception debacle against Kansas. He has accounted for more than two touchdowns in just one of his last four games.
Troy QB Brandon Silvers vs. South Alabama -- Hi-ho Silvers has been the picture of consistency in 2016, throwing for at least two (but no more than three!) touchdowns in every one of Troy’s six games. He enters Thursday’s game against South Alabama holding a 14/6 TD/INT ratio. In most match-ups, he would be a serviceable starting play, but the Jaguars aren’t a particularly palatable opponent. Only Michigan and Florida are allowing fewer passing yards than the Jags (142.83 on average).
Syracuse QB Eric Dungey vs. Boston College -- I’ve rode against Dungey a few other times this season, none of which particularly worked out. In what looked like a potential trip-up game against Virginia Tech on Saturday, he finished with over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. So that was a misfire. Let us try again. BC boasts the 11th best defense by S&P+ and is holding the opposition passing game to 149 yards on average. And if Dungey succeeds here, I promise not to put him in this space again (maybe).
Waiver-wire watch: Quarterbacks
Duke QB Daniel Jones -- Jones and the Blue Devils are off on bye this weekend. He has played well of late, tossing seven touchdown passes in his last four games, including two against a tough Louisville defense in his last game and three against Notre Dame several weekends ago.
Texas State QB Tyler Jones -- Jones holds just a 10/8 TD/INT ratio on the season. While that is less than impressive, he has posted several monster games this season (including a four-touchdown demolition of Ohio) and of late, has found success on the ground, rushing for four touchdowns over his last two games.
Michigan State QB Tyler O’Connor -- First, a major caveat: O’Connor did not start against Northwestern on Saturday. He did, however, end up playing the majority of the contest, finishing out with 281 yards passing and a trio of touchdowns. While he has failed to throw for any touchdowns, at all, in two games, O’Connor has thrown for multiple scores in each of Sparty’s other four games.
Running back starts
Northern Illinois RB Joel Bouagnon vs. Buffalo -- If you want to get in the Halloween spirit, take a gander at Buffalo’s box scores against Ball State and Kent State. Those will chill your blood as much as any horror movie. Ball State’s James Gilbert gashed the Bulls for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Kent State QB couldn’t quite reach that yardage mark in Week 6, but 224 yards and four touchdowns is a nice day’s work nonetheless. Bouagnon could use a match-up like this. After scoring 18 touchdowns a year ago, he has found the end zone just once this season and has just one 100-yard game to his name.
Nebraska RB Terrell Newby vs. Purdue -- A perfect storm of a player riding hot and a team crashing into a brick wall. Let us hit the “riding hot” part of the equation before the “crashing into a brick wall” part of it. Newby’s best rushing effort through Nebraska’s first four games was just 69 yards against Northwestern on September 24. Then he realized the stove was just at three and he kicked it up to five. Newby racked up 140 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against Illinois at the beginning of October, then followed that up with 102 and a touchdown in downing Indiana this past weekend. So that is the “riding hot” part of the equation. As for the “crashing into a brick wall” portion of things, that would be Purdue, generally. They canned head coach Darrell Hazell on Sunday after being ripped apart by Iowa on Saturday. The Boilermakers were allowing more than 264 yards rushing on average before Hazell’s dismissal.
Minnesota RB Rodney Smith vs. Rutgers -- I would say that Rutgers has crashed into a brick wall, but that would be underselling the devastation that has been inflicted upon them at times this season. The Scarlet Knights are currently rolling downhill on a four-game losing streak that has included losses of 58-0 to Ohio State and 78-0 to Michigan. They have been across-the-board bad this season, but particularly against the run (263.71 yards). Smith has surpassed 100 yards rushing in two of his last three games, including a stellar 144-yard, two-touchdown performance against Maryland on Saturday.
Georgia Southern RB Matt Breida vs. New Mexico State -- Consider this Breida’s Alamo, his Waterloo, hopefully not his Pickett’s Charge. He has not been posting the numbers of a starting fantasy running back thus far. He hasn’t even been posting the numbers of an ownable fantasy running back thus far. Through six games, Breida’s season-high for rushing yards in a game is 73. He has been held under 63 in four of six games. New Mexico State is a bottom-10 team in terms of rushing defense, though, and Breida has two seasons of more than 1,400 yards on his baseball card.
Running back sits
SMU RB Braeden West vs. Houston -- West burned Temple for 124 yards and a touchdown two weekends ago. Sweet. Fresh off the bye, he will have the joy of dancing with uber-stud freshman DL Ed Oliver and the rest of the Cougars’ suffocating run defense. Houston ranks as the No. 13 team in the country against the run by S&P+ and is surrendering an average of 87.14 yards on the ground.
Iowa RB LeShun Daniels vs. Wisconsin -- Tough piece of scheduling for Wisconsin. They fought their hearts out in losing to Ohio State in overtime on Saturday and now must hit the road to face an Iowa team which just dropped 49 points on Purdue. All of that is well and good, but even in their defeat, the Badgers played a masterful defensive game. It took overtime for the Buckeyes to post their 30 points. In doing so, they became the first team to score more than 20 points on Paul Chryst’s crew this season. Prior to destroying Darrell Hazell’s soul with 156 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, Daniels had been held under 80 yards rushing in three consecutive games.
Texas RB D’Onta Foreman vs. Kansas State -- The Wildcats have held the lead opposing runner to under 100 yards rushing in four of six games this season. Christian McCaffrey’s 126 yards in the season-opener remain the most Bill Snyder’s crew has surrendered in a contest this season. Admittedly, Foreman is a tough young man to bench, as he has surpassed 130 yards on the ground in each of the five contests in which he has played. If you do roll with him on Saturday, just be aware that his upside is likely capped here.
Miami RB Mark Walton vs. Virginia Tech -- Walton’s overall numbers -- 566 yards and eight touchdowns -- look respectable enough, less so on closer examination. He hasn’t cracked 100 yards rushing since he mashed Appalachian State with 130 on September 17 and has not scored a touchdown in either of Miami’s last two games. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, ranks as the 19th best team in the country vs. the road by S&P+ metrics. The Hokies have been equally adept in terms of traditional statistics, surrendering a shade over 113 yards rushing on average.
Waiver-wire watch: Running backs
UConn RB Arkeel Newsome -- Newsome has posted at least 70 yards rushing in three of his last four games and accounted for 162 total yards (plus two scores) against USF over the weekend.
West Virginia RB Rushel Shell III -- Shell is coming off his best performance of the season, a 104-yard, two-touchdown stomping of Texas Tech. He has surpassed 80 yards rushing in three of his five games played in 2016.
Houston RB Dillon Birden -- An interesting one here. Regular starting back Duke Catalon has missed three straight games due to a concussion and Birden is starting to put up numbers. He has now scored in four consecutive contests. In each of his last two, he has received double-digit carries. Against Tulsa on Saturday, he turned in 82 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Wide receiver starts
Marshall WR Michael Clark vs. Charlotte -- Clark holds a modest enough 22-431-4 receiving line on the season, but the allure comes in his recent work. 316 of those 431 yards have come over his last three games, including standout performances against Pitt (four catches for 147 yards and a touchdown) and North Texas (eight catches for 122 yards). There is a bit of a boomy-busty aspect to the wideout -- that showing against North Texas was his only one with more than four catches this season -- but Charlotte offers little resistance against the pass, ranking fourth-worst in the country.
Florida International WR Thomas Owens vs. Louisiana Tech -- The Golden Panthers opened the season by tripping out to an 0-4 record. Owens was unable to play out of the black hole, catching just five passes for 71 yards in that space. Matters have turned around for both team and player of late, as FIU is on a three-game winning streak and Owens is coming off back-to-back showings of strength. He seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns against UTEP two weekends ago and followed that up with an 11-catch, 148-yard tormenting of UNC Charlotte. Saturday’s upcoming contest with the Bulldogs holds the potential for a high-scoring affair. Louisiana Tech’s offense is all of the fire, their defense less so. They are allowing just over 293 yards passing on average. This could be a fun little shootout.
Alabama WR ArDarius Stewart vs. Texas A&M -- In theory, the Aggies have the pieces for a dominant defense, but they aren’t quite that. They have held only Prairie View A&M and Auburn to fewer than 24 points this season. On a per-average basis, the Aggies are also surrendering 278.17 passing yards, a mark that is just barely, like decimal point difference barely, better than Texas’ much maligned squad. Either Stewart or Calvin Ridley would be a fine starting option against the Aggies. Stewart earns the call here due to his consistency. Outside of time missed due to a knee injury, he has been phenomenal this season, with at least 90 yards receiving in three of four contests at full health. He was unable to reach that mark against Tennessee on Saturday, but still ended with eight catches. Ridley has two huge games to his name in 2016 (9-129-1 vs. Western Kentucky, 11-174-2 vs non-directional Kentucky) and a whole lot of nothing surrounding them. The lows have been sink-your-fantasy-team lows. He has been held under 15 yards receiving in three contests.
Arizona State WR Tim White vs. Washington State -- White is working on a string of four consecutive games of at least five catches and at least 80 yards. For PPR purposes, he is a dependable one, having caught fewer than six balls just two times in seven games. The Cougars are susceptible to the pass (278.17 yards), to a much greater degree than they are to the run (104.50). Just about the only downside with White is that he is still searching for his first touchdown catch of the 2016 campaign. He finished with eight scores a year ago.
Wide receiver sits
Northern Illinois WR Kenny Golladay vs. Buffalo -- Golladay owns a nifty 50-733-6 receiving line for the season as a whole. He opened with touchdown catches in four of his first five games, but has not found the end zone in either of his last two. While Buffalo boasts an almost non-existent run defense, they actually sit comfortably above the likes of Boston College and Ohio State in terms of aerial yardage allowed, surrendering just over 148 yards on average.
Penn State WR Chris Godwin vs. Ohio State -- Both Ohio State and Penn State rank in the top 15 in pass defense, leading us to a potential defensive chess match, here. Though Godwin has come on of late, having logged games of 117 and 97 yards in two of his last three contests, he had best be left to the sidelines for this one. The Buckeyes have not allowed more than 24 points in a game this season.
Utah WR Tim Patrick vs. UCLA -- The Bruins did yeoman’s work in limiting Washington State’s prolific receiving game on Saturday, holding standout wideout Gabe Marks to six catches for 36 yards. Patrick, meanwhile, has missed the last two games due to injury. He is hopeful he can give it a go, here, but it isn’t an advisable fantasy play even if he is able to suit up. UCLA sits at a disappointing 3-4 on the season, but their defense has been phenomenal even as their offense has searched for an identity. After surrendering 31 points to Texas A&M in the season-opener, they have not allowed another opponent to crack the 30-point barrier.
Miami WR Stacy Coley vs. Virginia Tech -- Coley has been relatively consistent with his touchdown grabs (four in six games), but outside of those scores, he hasn’t offered fantasy owners much this season. He followed up one of his best games of the year (seven catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns vs. Florida State) with an out-and-out stinker this past weekend, catching just two passes for 12 yards against North Carolina. Coley has three games this season with at least 75 yards receiving and three with fewer than 40. He will trend toward the latter against a Virginia Tech defense surrendering just a shade over 177 yards passing on the year.
Waiver-wire watch: Wide receivers
Michigan State WR R.J. Shelton -- We touched on Tyler O’Connor’s work earlier. Now let’s check in with one of his buddies. Shelton hauled in seven passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern on Saturday. He also logged a 7-141-1 receiving line against Indiana two weekends ago.
UCLA WR Darren Andrews -- As has been the case with most parties associated with the UCLA passing game this season, Andrews has turned in his share of duds with four games of fewer than 45 yards receiving. Not so against Washington State on Saturday, as he finished with eight catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns in that one. Andrews has now posted 100-plus yards in two of his last three games.
Syracuse WR Brisly Estime -- Estime has largely been a non-factor in Syracuse’s high-powered attack this season, but put forth an 8-131-1 receiving effort against Virginia Tech on Saturday.