Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
It appeared a few weeks ago as if Freeman would have a minimal role in the Florida State offense. Although he led the Seminoles with 579 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in 2011, Freeman had just 23 carries in the first three games, and then he went three games without a single carry. Chris Thompson and James Wilder appeared to be the top two runners for Florida State, with Freeman no higher than third in the rotation. But Thompson suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Miami on Saturday, and Wilder has just 20 carries the last four weeks. Freeman had 70 yards and two scores on 10 carries Saturday, and he could be the leader from here in what should remain a very strong running game.
Wes Brown, RB, Maryland
Averaging 2.2 yards per carry, Justus Pickett has proven an abysmal running back, and other than Brown, the only other Terrapin to surpass 70 yards as a rusher is actually a quarterback (Devin Burns). That means there's no remotely legitimate competition for Brown in the Maryland backfield, and the high-ranking recruit has recently shown the ability to capitalize. He has a team-leading 271 yards (4.7 YPC) on the ground, as well as two touchdowns, in large part due to Saturday's game against North Carolina State. Brown ran for 121 yards and a score on 25 carries, and he'll be expected to carry the load with quarterback Perry Hills out for the year.
Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State
Lunt entered this year as a true freshman starting quarterback, but a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15 allowed J.W. Walsh to swoop in and lay claim to the starting spot. By any fair measure Walsh greatly outdid Lunt, but a season-ending injury for Walsh on Saturday makes it a moot point - Lunt will be reinstalled as starter for Oklahoma State. In a reliable scheme with a dominant running game, Lunt should be in position to produce, even if he isn't as good of a fantasy option as the dual-threat Walsh.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
As the technical third running back for the moment for Baylor, Seastrunk is only a deep-league and Big 12-only league bench stash. But there's reason to expect Seastrunk to rightfully rise to the top of that rotation in the next couple weeks. Besides the fact that he's more talented than Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin - players who are pretty clearly ahead of Seastrunk on the depth chart merely due to veteran respect - Seastrunk stands to gain ground because Baylor has alternated its carry distribution, and if the door opens even a sliver for Seastrunk, he has the ability to break through. After playing as the workhorse for the first month of the year, Salubi saw just nine carries (46 yards) against Texas on Saturday, while Seastrunk took seven carries for 56 yards. Seastrunk has matched or exceeded his season high in carries three weeks in a row, and with each one it's becoming more obvious that he needs the ball more.
Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse
Injury and the emergence of fellow wideout Marcus Sales caused Lemon to start the year slowly despite a strong finish to the 2011 season, but the senior is starting to hit full stride again. In the past month he has 25 catches for 364 yards and a touchdown, putting his numbers more in line with the 30-catch, 560-yard, three-touchdown showing he had in the final four weeks of last year. He should stay hot against a sinking South Florida squad.
Rushel Shell, RB, Pittsburgh
Coach Paul Chryst has just about completed the transformation of the Pittsburgh offense into a credible imitation of the Wisconsin offenses he engineered in recent seasons, specifically the abundance of running back production. Star runner Ray Graham is doing what was generally expected, running for 513 yards (4.5 YPC) and five touchdowns while catching 18 passes for 173 yards and a score, but Shell is posting bigger numbers as a true freshman than the vast majority could have expected. After a 35-yard, one-touchdown game against Buffalo on Saturday, Shell is up to 362 yards and three touchdowns on the year, with 331 of those yards and all the touchdowns coming the last five weeks. He's a starting running back option in Big East-only leagues.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Abdullah did a great job earlier this year as he filled in for Rex Burkhead, who missed time with an MCL sprain. With the backfield to himself against UCLA and Arkansas State, Abdullah burned up the field to the tune of 286 yards and four touchdowns rushing, proving he's without a doubt up to the task of shouldering the Cornhuskers running game. After Burkhead aggravated that MCL issue against Northwestern on Saturday, it looks like Abdullah is about to post some more big numbers. He's a must-own in most formats.
James White, RB, Wisconsin
Even with Montee Ball hogging the ball, taking 53 carries between games against Purdue and Illinois the last two weeks, White has posted big numbers himself, reminding everyone that he's too good to be wasting away on the bench. White was somehow a forgotten man during the first month, receiving just 31 carries in the first five games despite running for 1,052 yards (6.7 YPC) and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2010. But with 299 yards (9.7 YPC) and four touchdowns in the last two weeks, White won't be going anywhere anytime soon. He's worth owning in most formats until he cools off.
Crawford Jones, QB, Houston
David Piland (concussion) appears closer to doubtful than probable for Saturday's game against UTEP, leaving Jones as the likely starter for the Cougars. Given Piland's poor season (10 touchdowns and nine interceptions), it's certainly possible that Jones could earn the starting role for the rest of the season if he shows well enough. He completed 17-of-33 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against a tough SMU defense Saturday, so there's reason to hope for big numbers from Jones against UTEP.
Taylor McHargue, QB, Rice
His passing numbers are quite ugly and his rushing stats can be a bit up and down, but McHargue should have one of his better days against Southern Mississippi this week. The Golden Eagles can't get a single thing going on offense, leaving their defense exhausted due to the constant three-and-outs and turnovers. Southern Mississippi is allows 39 points per game, as well giving up 1,454 yards (5.0 YPC) and 20 touchdowns on the ground. McHargue's appeal as a fantasy option is due to his running, so he should be especially good this week.
Riley Nelson, QB, BYU
Nelson appeared to lose his starting quarterback role to Taysom Hill not long ago, but a season-ending injury to Hill put Nelson back in control of the BYU offense. His numbers have been rough - he has just eight touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions and averages just 6.3 yards per pass, but that's largely due to playing against three tough defenses in Boise State, Oregon State and Notre Dame. Look for Nelson to look a bit better against the more manageable Georgia Tech defense.
Bronson Hill, RB, Eastern Michigan
This one's a red alert: Hill is tearing it up about as much as anyone in the country the last three weeks, and although he's still a new face, it looks like he's here to stay as a star at Eastern Michigan. His numbers have been sheer lunacy, as over the last three weeks he has 538 yards on 58 carries (9.3 YPC) and six touchdowns on the ground, and that's not even mentioning his five catches for 78 yards and a seventh touchdown. With a strictly MAC schedule from here, Hill might be a must-start for the rest of the season.
Zurlon Tipton, RB, Central Michigan
Tipton generally hasn't been a high-upside player this year, running for more than 100 yards just twice, but he has quietly been very consistent for Central Michigan through seven games. After running for 126 yards (7.4 YPC) and a touchdown against Ball State on Saturday, Tipton is up to 628 rushing yards (6.3 YPC) and seven touchdowns. adding 12 receptions for 131 yards and an eighth touchdown. He faces an Akron defense this week that has allowed 1,815 yards (5.0 YPC) and 13 touchdowns on the ground through eight games.
Chris Nwoke, RB, Colorado State
If Nwoke was dropped in your league due to his ankle injury and his poor numbers since then, now is a good time to add him. He's had a bye week to get over his ankle aggravation, and even if he doesn't play against Hawaii's vulnerable run defense this week, Nwoke likely will be back in time to play against Wyoming the following week. Like Hawaii, Wyoming is having a tough time stopping the run this year, allowing 11 touchdowns in seven games, as well as 4.7 yards per carry.
Adam Dingwell, QB, San Diego State
Ryan Katz is out for the rest of the year due to a fractured ankle, leaving Dingwell to take over what has been a very efficient San Diego State offense. The team averages 38.3 points per game, and the quarterback is often called upon to run the ball, which helps inflate fantasy value. Dingwell did a very nice job in place of Katz against Nevada on Saturday, completing 14-of-23 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns in a high-pressure road game.
Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Although it has been roughly just two weeks since Mannion initially sat out with a torn meniscus, the emerging star is already healthy enough to start, and he'll do just that against Washington on Saturday. Mannion had 1,358 yards (8.0 YPC), seven touchdowns and four interceptions in four games before suffering the injury. With an elite wideout duo of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks to throw to, Mannion should hit the ground running even if his knee is a bit rusty.
Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
It's true that Kelly was downright disastrous against Oregon on Saturday, completing just 10-of-18 passes for 93 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, but if he was dropped in your league then you should definitely add him. Kelly still has 1,693 yards (9.3 YPA), 15 touchdowns and four interceptions as a passer, so he's clearly still cut out for the task most weeks. He just didn't play well against a very good defense Saturday.
Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt
Instability in the Vanderbilt offense has combined with a tough schedule to make Stacy a big disappointment for fantasy owners so far this year, but he's set to bounce back and finish this year strong. Now that South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are off Vanderbilt's schedule, they'll have to only face Massachusetts, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wake Forest - all very manageable defenses. Stacy's 169-yard game against Auburn is just the start.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper came out of nowhere this year to decisively establish himself as the top wide receiver at Alabama, and despite the team's extreme run-heavy tendencies, Cooper has somehow made himself a viable fantasy option in plenty of scenarios. He has 28 catches for 425 yards and five touchdowns on the year, including 23 catches and four touchdowns over the last four games. With Mississippi State shutting down the run, Alabama might look to Cooper through the air Saturday.
Jake Medlock, QB, Florida International
After returning from injury two weeks ago, Medlock quickly demonstrated that he's over the broken foot that cost him nearly a month. In the two games since he has 696 yards, five touchdowns and an interception as a passer, showing top-notch passing potential despite the fact that his foot is still limiting his running skills a bit. Even against a tought Western Kentucky defense, Medlock should hold his own this week.
Je'Ron Hamm, WR, Louisiana-Monroe
Monroe's spread offense really distributes the ball to a lot of targets, but the last month or so Hamm has distinguished himself a bit from the rest of the pack. Although he has just 29 catches for 493 yards and three touchdowns through seven games, in the last four weeks Hamm has 15 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns. He's a flex option in Sun Belt-only leagues.
David Fales, QB, San Jose State
After burning UTSA for 279 yards and three touchdowns on just 26 pass attempts Saturday, Fales is up to 2,146 yards (8.9 YPA), 15 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first year as San Jose State's starting quarterback. With Noel Grigsby, Ryan Otten, Chandler Jones and Jabari Carr around, he also has an excellent group of pass catchers. With Texas State, Idaho and New Mexico State up next, Fales should stay hot for the next three weeks, providing starting fantasy production in most or all formats.
Ray Holley, RB, Louisiana Tech
As expected, Louisiana Tech crushed Idaho on Saturday. It wasn't quite expected, though, to be by a score like 70-28. Idaho folded quickly, in any case, and Holley unfortunately had an abbreviated role as the garbage time runner in the matchup - indeed, by the time Holley had logged his 11 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown, the game had moved beyond normal garbage time, a garbage time so intense that it was to consist of third-string players rather than the mere backups like Holley, who serves behind starter Kenneth Dixon. Louisiana Tech should in any case put a beating on New Mexico State this week, but presumably not as bad of one as the one Idaho received, which will hopefully result in more carries for Holley and less for the third-stringers.