TCU QB Kenny Hill vs. Texas Tech -- Hill’s last two games have been fantasy non-starters, as the former Aggie managed a mere 354 yards passing with a 2/4 TD/INT ratio combined in contests against Kansas and West Virginia. He has also rushed for just 44 yards over his last four games. The Red Raiders offer such porous defense, though, surrendering at least 40 points in five of seven games. They have coughed up more than 60 points twice and are fresh off allowing seven touchdown passes to Baker Mayfield. If Hill can't come through here, we might have to officially strip him of the nickname Trill.
USC QB Sam Darnold vs. Cal (Thursday) -- Oregon true frosh gunslinger Justin Herbert tossed six touchdown passes in a double-overtime loss to the Golden Bears over the weekend, but even setting aside Cal’s threadbare defense, Darnold has turned himself into a legitimate fantasy starter. In four games since taking over for Max Browne, he has posted an 11/1 TD/INT ratio. That number shines even brighter considering that Darnold did not throw a touchdown pass in his starting debut against Utah.
Boise State QB Brett Rypien vs. Wyoming -- For all the world, it looked like the Broncos were in implosion mode in their almost-loss win over BYU last time out. Rypien threw a pair of pick-sixes in that one, but also compiled 442 yards passing and three touchdowns as BSU pulled out the one-point win. He has fired off nine scoring tosses in his last three games. Wyoming ranks as the seventh-worst team in the country in terms of passing yardage allowed, yielding a shade over 298 yards through the air on average.
Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens vs. Marshall -- LSU stifled Mullens and company two weekends ago, limiting the quarterback to a season-low 161 yards passing. He did not throw for a touchdown in that 45-10 defeat. With a bye week to lick his statistical wounds, Mullens will have a far easier opponent in Marshall on Saturday. The Thundering Herd are plummeting downhill with losses in five of their last six games and are allowing more than 36 points on average. Mullens had thrown for at least three touchdowns in three straight contests before he ran into LSU.
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph vs. West Virginia -- Benching Big 12 quarterbacks can be a painful proposition, simply because seemingly any game in the conference could just randomly burst into offensive flame at any moment. Except not so much in contests involving West Virginia. The Mountaineers have allowed more than 17 points in just two of six games this season and held their last two quarterbacking combatants -- Kenny Hill and Pat Mahomes -- to a combined 453 passing yards with a combined 2/2 TD/INT ratio. Rudolph has been incredibly hot and cold over his last four games, with two games of one or none touchdowns and two of three or more.
Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly vs. Auburn -- The Rebs have housed off-the-charts watchability this season, winning and losing in a variety of entertaining ways, from a second-half collapse against Florida State to an almost comeback against Alabama to a final drive fumble against Arkansas. Somewhat obscured in all of this fun is the fact that Kelly has suffered a noticeable statistical drop-off in his last three games. He opened the season compiling a 12/4 TD/INT ratio. In the three games since (vs. Memphis, Arkansas and LSU) he has thrown three touchdown passes against four interceptions. Auburn, meanwhile, has not allowed more than 14 points in any of their last four games and is fresh off a 56-3 smashing of Arkansas.
Akron QB Thomas Woodson vs. Buffalo -- When Boston College’s Patrick Towles threw for 234 yards against the Bulls on October 1, it stood as a season-high for yardage allowed in a game this season. As of October 25, that number still stands as the most that Buffalo has surrendered in a contest. Woodson just returned to action after a three-game absence due to an injury. In his comeback, he threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns against Ball State. He should be a playable option in cushier matchups moving forward. This just isn’t one of them.
Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. vs. UCF -- After rushing for at least one touchdown in four of Houston’s first five games, Ward has failed to hit the end zone running in either of his last two. The passing was not there against Tulsa or SMU, either. He went touchdown pass-less vs. the former and threw for just 241 yards against the latter. Central Florida, meanwhile, has not given up more than 30 points since Week 2. The Cougars need to show a little bounce before I feel confident trusting Ward as a lock starting option again.
Waiver-wire watch: Quarterbacks
UCLA QB Mike Fafaul -- UCLA is off on bye this weekend and Josh Rosen could potentially return from his shoulder injury two weekends from now, when the Bruins face Colorado. That isn’t a given, though, particularly as news has surfaced that Rosen is dealing with a nerve issue in his bum wing. Fafaul is worth a flier on the chance Rosen is clipped once more. In his two starts this season, Fafaul has attempted 110 passes for 722 yards and an 8/6 TD/INT ratio.
Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson -- Thorson isn’t a recommended start against Ohio State this weekend, but after the Wildcats endure the two-step of the Buckeyes and Badgers, they close out the season with contests against Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois. Thorson is a playable option in all of those match-ups.
Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel -- Weird season for Kiel, who has served as a third-stringer at times, but he drew the start against East Carolina last time out (his first of the season) and completed 23-of-40 passes for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Running back starts
Arizona State RB Demario Richard vs. Oregon -- The Sun Devils jumped out to a 4-0 start on the season, but they have now lost three of their last four games. Richard has not been able to rise above the devastation, rushing for fewer than 60 yards in each of those three losses. The Ducks just don’t offer any real resistance to anything, though, currently allowing opposing running games to destroy them to an average of more than 248 yards. Oregon surrenders the third-most points in the country on average, trailing only Bowling Green and Texas Tech.
New Mexico RB Tyrone Owens vs. Hawaii -- Sizzling running back meet gasoline-covered run defense. Lead rushers against Hawaii have not gone for fewer than 90 yards on the ground in a game this season. Five of eight games saw Hawaii allow at least 100 yards to the opposition’s No. 1. So that is the “gasoline-covered run defense” portion of things. As for the “sizzling running back” side, Owens is fresh off a 171-yard smashing of UL-Monroe, has scored touchdowns in four straight games and has surpassed 115 yards rushing in three of the last four contests.
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley vs. Purdue -- Barkley has two giant games to his name this season (four touchdowns vs. Pitt, 202 yards rushing vs. Maryland) and a whole lot of forgettable competence surrounding that pair. He has rushed for at least 60 yards in six of seven games, but has only three games of more than 90 yards. Coming off a hard-fought win over Ohio State, the Nittany Lions draw a soft weekend spot against a Boilermaker team that ranks as the eighth-worst outfit in the country in terms of their ground defense (249 yards rushing on average).
Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway vs. Ole Miss -- Regular starting back Kerryon Johnson should be returning from an ankle injury soon (he suited up against Arkansas on Saturday, but did not play), but the Kamryn Pettway train has gathered such a terrifying momentum that fantasy owners are advised to continue rolling with him until he sees a reduction in carries. He rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns against Mississippi State two weekends ago. Then, after a bye to rest up, he rocked Arkansas with 192 yards and two scores. Ole Miss has itself been rocked on the ground of late, surrendering 284 yards to Leonard Fournette on Saturday and 180 to Rawleigh Williams the weekend before that.
Running back sits
Iowa State RB Mike Warren vs. Kansas State -- Even under favorable circumstances, Warren serves as a borderline startable option at best. 328 of his 496 yards came in a three-game stretch against TCU, San Jose State and Baylor. The rest of his season has been one with miss after miss after miss. He has not rushed for more than 60 yards in any of Iowa State’s other four games. And he has scored just three touchdowns. This is not a man to be trusted with the fantasy keys against a Kansas State defense that, on average, has locked down opposing runners better than any team other than Alabama this year.
Georgia RB Nick Chubb vs. Florida -- While the Gators are not immune to an occasional lapse on the ground (Ralph Webb bruised them for 110 yards, Jalen Hurd 95), they remain a strong defensive unit on the whole. The real issue for Chubb here might not even be what Florida does against opposing runners so much as what they do against opposing passers. If they can shut down Jacob Eason -- and to date, the Gators are allowing a paltry 132.83 passing yards, second-best in the country behind Michigan -- Chubb will be facing a myriad of eight- and nine-man fronts. He has had the bye week to rest up his various aches and pains, namely an ankle injury which has hampered him at times, but the stark reality is that Chubb has just two games of more than 100 yards in seven shots.
NC State RB Matt Dayes vs. Boston College -- Pity on this one. Dayes has been all of the money when healthy, rushing for at least 100 yards in five of six and a still-respectable 71 in the outlier. Unfortunately, he took a hard hit against Louisville early in the second quarter on Saturday, one which sidelined him for the majority of the game. Phrases such as “concussion-like symptoms” have floated about the internet since then. Head coach Dave Doeren, himself, revealed that running backs coach Des Kitchings advised holding Dayes out after that second-quarter hit because he “just didn’t feel like [Dayes] was himself.” Boston College boasts a top ten run defense and given the uncertain health situation in play here, this is a wobbly house of cards.
Michigan State RB LJ Scott vs. Michigan -- The Spartans are on a Lost Weekend of a 2016 campaign, now working on a meaty five-game losing streak. Mark Dantonio should have his boys salivating for this game, but the same can be said for Jim Harbaugh, who has had a year to stew on a revenge plot for last season’s trip-up versus Sparty. Don’t get cute with Scott in this one. He is coming off his best rushing effort of the season, dropping 128 yards and a touchdown against Maryland on Saturday, but that was his first 100-yard game since Week 1. Michigan boasts the best run defense in the country. For the curious, Scott does have two potentially playable match-ups on the horizon once he is done being vaporized by Michigan -- the Spartans follow this one up with contests versus Big Ten doormats Illinois and Rutgers.
Waiver-wire watch: Running backs
Cal RB Tre Watson -- Two backs stepped up against Oregon after Vic Enwere was ruled out with a broken foot last week. Khalfani Muhammad (23 carries, 148 yards) and Tre Watson (28 carries for 154 yards). Both backs are worthy of wire consideration, though unfortunately, they do not get to play Oregon again.
Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill -- Hill has scored touchdowns in four consecutive contests, has rushed for more than 120 yards in three of his last four games. He posted a season-high 162 yards rushing against Kansas last time out.
Tulane RB Josh Rounds -- Rounds busted out for a 166 yards and a score against Tulsa in his last game. He has found the end zone in four of seven contests to date.
Wide receiver starts
Oregon WR Charles Nelson vs. Arizona State -- Both Nelson and wideout buddy Darren Carrington have the joy of facing off against the nation’s worst passing defense on Saturday. Carrington was the more palatable target in drafts, but he has not been the more consistent player this season. While the pair offer up very similar yardage and touchdown numbers (369 and three for Nelson, 373 and three for Carrington), Nelson is out-catching Carrington 38-25 and has three games of at least 80 yards receiving this season. Carrington has one, which came in the season-opener against UC Davis when he posted 117 yards on seven catches. Nelson just put up a 7-84-2 line against Cal.
FAU WR Kalib Woods vs. Western Kentucky -- Alas, Woods has yet to truly make the opposition end zone his home, having scored a singular touchdown over the course of seven games. He has done just about everything else right, registering 16 catches for 205 yards over his last two games and holding a 46-596-1 receiving line for the season as a whole. The only teams in the country surrendering more passing yardage on average than Western Kentucky’s 305 are Texas Tech, Rice, Oklahoma and Arizona State. Woods holds his highest value in PPR formats for this match-up, but even in more traditional leagues, he is worth waiver-wire consideration.
Louisville WR James Quick vs. Virginia -- Quick’s best moments in 2016 came early in the season, as he started out the campaign with 360 receiving yards in his first four games. The tap has gone dry over the last three, though, and Quick has picked up a modest 163 in that space. The Cardinals were facing off with Clemson, Duke and NC State in those tilts. This weekend’s date with Virginia will provide a decidedly easier path for Quick to return to his earlier glories. The Cavaliers offer Louisville its cushiest defensive match-up since they played Marshall on September 24.
Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford vs. Pittsburgh -- Remember how Western Kentucky trots out the fifth-worst pass defense in the country? The Pitt Panthers are right behind them in coughing up a smidge over 296 yards on average. Ford’s done middling-respectable work this season, catching at least four passes in each of his six games played while posting at least 80 yards in four of them. He has yet to surpass 117 yards receiving (he actually has two games right at that number), but this is a strong spot for him to potentially put together his best showing of the season.
Wide receiver sits
Georgia WR Isaiah McKenzie vs. Florida -- We already touched briefly on Florida’s pass defense when discussing Nick Chubb and Jacob Eason. Throw McKenzie into that mix of fantasy uncertainty. Actually, calling McKenzie an uncertain fantasy option wouldn’t really be true. Over the last four games, he has established himself as an out-and-out sit until proven otherwise. McKenzie has been held under 30 (!) receiving yards in three of his last four games, with the outlier coming in at a paltry 56 against Vanderbilt last time the Bulldogs took the field. McKenzie opened the season with 305 yards and four touchdowns in his first three games and could well resurface as fantasy relevant in November. It just won’t happen this weekend.
Northwestern WR Austin Carr vs. Ohio State -- Carr has emerged as one of the best waiver-wire scoops of the season, scoring touchdowns in every game since the season-opener and surpassing 100 yards in four of his last five contests. For the season as a whole, he is rolling to a 50-720-9 receiving line. Very, very difficult numbers to sit, yes, but against an already great Ohio State defense which Urban Meyer probably set to DESTROY mode after Saturday’s loss to Penn State, this is a difficult spot. For all of the weird things happening with Ohio State’s offense, they remain a legitimate Playoff contender. No team this season has scored more than 24 points against the Buckeyes.
Florida State WR Travis Rudolph vs. Clemson -- Last time Rudolph took the field, he marked his territory by clocking Wake Forest with 13 catches for 238 yards. Rudolph and the Seminoles have had a bye week to prepare for the Tigers, which is nice, except Clemson is fresh off a bye, too. Rudolph has been held blank in the touchdown tally since Week 2 and I just don’t trust Deondre Francois enough to bank on a strong performance from Rudolph against a staunch Tiger attack. The quarterback has thrown for more than one score in only of FSU’s last five games.
Michigan State WR R.J. Shelton vs. Michigan -- Shelton has probably been Sparty’s most consistent offensive player this season and enters Saturday’s showdown with big brother the owner of a 35-541-4 receiving line. After catching seven passes for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Northwestern two weekends ago, Shelton posted a respectable seven-catch, 89-yard outing in Saturday’s loss to Maryland. The Wolverines might actually rip the hearts out of Spartan quarterbacks Tyler O’Connor and Brian Lewerke and eat them on the field this coming weekend, though, and even if they don’t resort to cannibalism, I think they will be able to shut down the passing game well enough.
Waiver-wire watch: Wide receivers
Purdue WR DeAngelo Yancey -- Purdue might be going through a transitory phase as they move on from Darrell Hazell, but it hasn’t affected Yancey. He has posted six catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games.
Auburn WR Truitt Stanton -- Here is an interesting one for you. Stanton has done little in the receiving game this season (his 45 yards vs. Arkansas on Saturday were a season-high), but his rushing prowess intrigues. Stanton has carried the ball 19 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns in his last three games.
UTSA WR Kerry Thomas Jr. -- Thomas is coming off a season-best 5-89-2 receiving line vs. UTEP and has scored touchdowns in four of six games played this season.