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Position Units: Strong Plays for Week 7

Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett

Bennett covers baseball, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. Before turning to fantasy writing, he worked in scouting/player development for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos. He's also a fan of the ACC.

Week 7 suddenly represents the near mid-point of an elongated season. Conference matchups are in full swing, but we're also at a point where it's a worthwhile experiment to factor in some outliers. Some of the top teams have bye weeks at this juncture, allowing the spotlight to be shared by some units that may not have been featured previously.

RUNNING BACK

Nebraska (at Purdue) -
The Cornhuskers have run the ball 51 and 50 times the last two weeks, totally 335 yards each time. Mix in eight touchdowns over that span, and the nation's eighth-ranked rushing attack is clearly in a zone. It won't matter who's under center for the Huskers against a Boilermakers defense that ranks 88th against the run. Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross and Terrell Newby should have a field day.

Auburn (vs. Western Carolina) -
This matchup should go without saying, but in the midst of conference play, it's worth pointing out the random step-down opponent. Auburn's rushing attack ranks 18th nationally, averaging 242 yards over five games. Led by Tre Mason, it's been held to less than 200 yards just once. Look for Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant to all shine Saturday.

Baylor (at Kansas State) -
Any Bears unit is going to come at a premium, as the Baylor offense is putting up video-game style numbers weekly. Simply put, if you're in a bind for a selection, and anything Baylor related is an option, take it. The Bears rank second nationally in rushing yards per game, posting an insane 347.3 yards through four games. Lache Seastrunk leads a unit that's been bolstered by the presence of freshman Shock Linwood. Baylor has 22 touchdowns on the ground in over four games and should continue by feasting on a Wildcats defense that has allowed 177 yards or more in three of five contests.

Buffalo (at Western Michigan) -
This column placed some faith in Bulls running back Brandon Oliver a week ago against lowly Eastern Michigan. He responded with a 150-yard, two-touchdown performance, easily his best outing of 2013. Oliver has carried 48 times in the last two games after missing Week 3's game against Stony Brook and should enjoy another solid performance against a 122nd-ranked Broncos rush defense that has yet to hold an opponent to less than 180 yards on the ground this season.

Tulsa (at UTEP) -
A normally potent Golden Hurricanes offense has been surprisingly modest in 2013. But something seemed to click in Week 6's win against Rice - Tulsa realized Trey Watts was its best player. The senior running back saw 34 carries, after averaging just 13.5 carries over the team's first four contests. He responded with a season-high 165 yards and two scores and also has 28 receptions through five contests. Mix in a handful of carries from an equally explosive JaTerian Douglas, and line them up against a Miners defense that's allowed the sixth-most rushing yards amongst FBS teams in 2013, and there's great potential.

South Florida (at Connecticut) -
The Bulls will require a little leap of faith here, as star running back Marcus Shaw is questionable to play due to a hamstring injury he sustained last week against Cincinnati. Shaw had been the team's lone bright spot in a downright dreadful season, rushing for at least 94 yards in all contests while averaging 131.13 yards per game through the season's first four contests. Backup Michael Pierre hasn't shown the same burst but was a volume rusher in Shaw's absence last Saturday, and it's possible freshman Darius Tice gets a boost in playing time should Shaw sit out. Either way, the Bulls questionable quarterback play is likely to continue in Week 7 at Connecticut, and the Huskies defense ranks 95th against the run nationally, allowing 192.5 yards per contest.

WIDE RECEIVERS

UNLV (vs. Hawaii) -
Rebels wide receiver Devante Davis is having one of the best seasons that no one is talking about, posting 473 yards and eight touchdowns through five contests. His presence alone makes this unit an intriguing option. Factor in a Hawaii defense that allows 293 yards per game through the air, and there is immediate appeal. Finally, starting quarterback Caleb Herring started the season as a wide receiver, and may still be eligible there. If you can double dip here, why wouldn't you?

Georgia (vs. Missouri) -
Quarterback Aaron Murray is turning in a Heisman-caliber campaign through five games, passing for 1,543 yards and a 14:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He'll enter Saturday's game against a Missouri defense that ranks 115th nationally against the pass, allowing 293.8 yards per game. Murray will also be without backup running back Keith Marshall (ACL), and normal starter Todd Gurley is questionable at best to pay after injuring his ankle two weeks ago. Murray will have to throw and throw early simply based on need, let alone a soft defense.

Troy (at Georgia State) -
The Trojans offense doesn't get a lot of respect nationally, largely due to its defensive shortcomings. But the statistics being put up by coach Larry Blakeney's squad are eye opening. Quarterback Corey Robinson has thrown for 1,539 yards and 12 touchdowns to date, and the Trojans boast one of the nation's top receiving duos in Eric Thomas (31 catches, 480 yards, nine touchdowns,) and Bryan Holmes (27-387-4.) Georgia State has allowed 296 yards or more in three consecutive games, and the Trojans shouldn't have much trouble pushing that mark to four.

North Texas (vs. Middle Tennessee State) -
Formerly known for their vaunted rushing attack, the Mean Green now boast one of the nation's top-ranked passing games. Ranked 30th nationally and led by quarterback Derek Thompson, North Texas averages 287.4 yards through five games. Four receivers have at least 100 yards receiving so far, led by Darnell Smith's 401 yards and three scores. They'll hose a Blue Raiders defense that allows nearly 278 yards weekly and has surrendered 321 yards or more three times.

Washington State (vs. Oregon State) -
The Cougars' passing attack is finally humming under coach Mike Leach. They attempted 67 passes last week against Cal, and just 21 rushes. Quarterback Connor Halliday spread the ball around tremendously, as 12 Washington State players caught passes in route to a 521-yard performance. That sort of depth is what fantasy owners dread when searching for the main beneficiary; and is exactly what players who use units love. Oregon State's pass defense has been markedly better since allowing 448 yards to FCS opponent Washington State in the season opener, but still ranks 94th nationally. Washington State has been held to less than 300 yards passing just once this season and should keep that going against the Beavers on Saturday.

Northern Illinois (vs. Akron) -
It's never a good feeling to select a unit that has one of the most dynamic, dual-threat quarterbacks in charge of getting them the ball, but this seems like a week to take a risk. NIU signal caller Jordan Lynch gashed defenses weekly with both his arm and legs, but against an Akron defense that's woeful against the pass, Lynch should beef up his passing stats in Week 7. The Zips allow 270.8 yards per game through the air and have allowed three of their six opponents to top 300 yards. Lynch is on pace for 2,671 yards passing, considerably down from the 3,138 yards he threw for in 2012. Look for Lynch to hook up with receivers DaRon Brown and Tommylee Lewis early and often.