Moving up the Leaderboard in College Fantasy Football

Caleb Couturie FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Well, it was my best week yet. Not by much, only three points actually, but it was enough to vault me to the very top (No. 1, baby!) of the Fans of Oregon Ducks group. Out of 2,658 people, through four weeks, I’m the cream of the crop. Out of the millions of people that play ESPN’s College Football Challenge, I’m 114th. I’m hoping after next week I’ll crack the Top 100. Fingers crossed. Anyway, here’s what I learned after my fourth week. 

  • As nice of a thought as dark horses are, it’s really hard to choose the right ones. My picks of QB Drew Hare and RB Steven Lakalaka of Northern Illinois and Hawaii, totally backfired. It started with Hare barely amassing any yards on the ground, as well as me underestimating the Arkansas defense. As for Lakalaka, he cracked the 100-yard mark but failed to find the endzone. The two scored 16 and 12 points, respectively, but if I had gone with different picks at those two positions this week could’ve been astoundingly good.
  • Speaking of points, FishDuck’s Editor-in-Chief Dano Dunn pointed out to me that I’ve never actually shown what the scoring system is over at ESPN. Here is the secretive, elusive scoring system! (Cue dramatic music courtesy of John Williams.)
scoring system cff

The ESPN College Football Challenge scoring system.

If I’m feeling Jay Ajayi of Boise State, take Jay Ajayi. I’ve taken him twice in four weeks and he’s combined for 81 points those two times. In the two weeks where I didn’t take him, he’s combined for 17.

Amari Cooper of Alabama is that good. He still commands roughly 60% of his team’s targets. That’s all. 

  • Just because a defense holds an offense to limited scoring, that doesn’t mean they’re going to do well in fantasyland. Sacks, interceptions, fumbles, and touchdowns are crucial to a solid fantasy defense.
  • Last but not least, just because a good player is playing a tough team that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play him. Connor Halliday and Dak Prescott of Washington State and Mississippi State, respectively, were two players I wanted to take but had tough match ups. They both finished as top 10 fantasy performers, so what do I know? 

This week, I head into a fantasy week stacked full of byes, including our beloved Ducks. It’s going to be tough to field a team that I feel fully confident in, but I think that could play to my advantage. I’m looking to climb further up the leaderboard, and if I can manage one more week like last week, I’m going to be in a good position to do so. Without further ado, here they are (drumroll please), my Week 5 picks.

Quarterback 1: Tyler Jones, Texas State Bobcats

To some I could see how this may seem like a risky, or even dark horse-like pick, but the closer you look at Jones and this Week 5 matchup, the more you’ve got to like him. Jones is only a sophomore at Texas State, but he and the Bobcats put up a strong fight against Illinois last week and almost pulled off the upset.

That being said, this offense is completely based around Jones. His work fantasy output this week was 27, and that’s because the sophomore is a serious threat with both his arm and his legs. He’s thrown for nine touchdowns through three games, but he’s also averaging 14 carries per game and he’s got two rushing touchdowns on the season, as well.

Texas State plays Tulsa this week, who just lost badly to Florida Atlantic. Kind of a sleeper pick here, but I have a lot more confidence in this pick than I did in the Drew Hare one last week.

Halliday carved up the Ducks defense, and should do just fine against Utah.

Halliday torched the Ducks defense, and should do just fine against Utah.

 Quarterback 2: Connor Halliday, Washington State Cougars

Scared to take Halliday here, because the one week I did take him he had his lowest scoring output by roughly 15 points, but here he is. I was skeptical to take Halliday last week against Oregon because I feared Oregon’s defense would be too much for him, but boy, did he prove me wrong.

He heads into another tough matchup this week against Utah, who’s coming off a huge win against Michigan, but really it’s hard to argue with a guy that gets a chance to throw the ball 63 times in a single game.

Halliday may not be able to score with his legs, but he’s averaging four touchdowns a game and he’s thrown for more 500 yards in a game twice already this young season. I’m just waiting for this pick to blow up in my face, but I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that it won’t. 

Running Back 1: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska Cornhuskers

This guy just has a nose for the endzone. Forget the fact that he exploded for 230 yards and two touchdowns this past week, and look at his season as a whole. He’s scored a touchdown every game this season, and Nebraska completely runs their offense through him.

They play Illinois this week, the team Texas State and Jones almost beat. I have no doubt Nebraska will be able to handle their business this week, and I don’t expect the game plan to be any different. Give the ball to Abdullah and watch him run, run, run. (Side note: Abdullah is averaging close to 25 carries per game. You can’t stop him all game long, and in Illinois’s case, I doubt they can stop him at all. 

Running Back 2: Tevin Coleman, Indiana Hoosiers

It was really hard not to take Todd Gurley of Georgia, Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, or Ajayi here, but I liked Coleman the best mainly because I think he has the highest chance to see reps the whole game. All three of those players I listed above play powderpuff teams this week, and especially with Gordon and Gurley, it’d be hard to imagine them getting reps much past half time.

Indiana plays Maryland this week, which should be a pretty even matchup. Syracuse pummeled Maryland on the ground last week, racking up 370 yards rushing. More importantly though, they didn’t have Tevin Coleman. Against Mizzou, a tough SEC defense, Coleman managed 130 yards on the ground and a touchdown. He’s Indiana’s most talented offensive player by far, and in a close game against Maryland’s weak run D, I could see him getting 25-30, maybe even 35 reps. Scary thought, but this could be his best week yet.

Wide Receiver 1: Nelson Spruce, Colorado Buffaloes

This guy and Amari Cooper (sadly on a bye) are the definition of consistency at the wide receiver position. Spruce has seven touchdowns through four games, and at least one touchdown in every game so far. Last week against Hawaii, Spruce set season highs with 172 yards and 13 receptions. This week, Colorado plays Cal, a team that a group of pop-warner kids could put up huge numbers through the air against. If there were ever a week where I would expect Spruce to absolutely explode, the Cal week would be it. 

Wide Receiver 2: Matt Miller, Boise State Broncos

Not only am I not taking Ajayi, but I’m making the bold prediction that it will be Miller who has the biggest week out of all Bronco players. It’s true that Ajayi is by far the best weapon in that offense, but Miller is the No. 1 target for QB Grant Hedrick and is also a huge downfield threat.

Miller is explosive, and could break off a huge gain at any time. His lowest yardage output was 74, and against an Air Force defense that just gave up 48 points to Georgia State, I doubt it will be hard for Miller and BSU to score. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Air Force is so focused on Ajayi that they forget about Miller. Oh, right. I almost forgot. He can do this.

Defense: Ole Miss Rebels

Talk about consistency! The Rebs have racked up 20, 18 and 17 points through the first three games as a fantasy defense. I took this defense in Week 2 and I regret not taking them more often. The truth of it is, Ole Miss is just a very good football team. Bo Wallace leads a strong offense, and with a defense that tackles the ball exceptionally well, doesn’t leave guys open and loves to turn their opponent over, Ole Miss could turn some heads come playoff time.

This defense has given up a total of 31 points through three weeks, and has eight picks. A ratio of 3.9:1 of points allowed to interceptions is remarkable, but then again this defense really does look like something special. I need a D that will put up numbers, not just zeroes, and this is the one that can do just that. Especially in their matchup against a young Memphis team. 

Place Kickers: Texas A&M Aggies

The Aggies head into a shootout this week against Arkansas, and I expect them to be kicking a lot. Not just extra points, too, because Arkansas is a tougher defense than any of the teams they’ve played so far outside of South Carolina, and might actually hold Kenny Hill and this dynamic offense to some field goals. 

Bringing Back the Dark Horses!

QB: Joe Licata, Buffalo Bulls

QB: Tanner McEvoy, Wisconsin Badgers

RB: Kareem Hunt, Toledo Rockets

RB: Duke Johnson, Miami Hurricanes

WR: River Cracraft, Washington State Cougars

WR: Curry Sexton, Kansas State Wildcats 

This week is truly make or break for me, as I hope to ascend the ranks into ESPN’s elite. As always, leave your comments below if you think I’m making a terrible mistake.

Top Photo by Gary Bleedlove

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