This article is part of our FanDuel College Football series.
College football is finally (sort of) here! While the Power Five conferences aren't quite ready to get underway, the group of five has supplied us with some Week 1 contests. For Saturday's opening slate we only get four games, one of which includes an FCS team in Eastern Kentucky. Memphis leads the way with an expected score of 46.5, while Marshall is the biggest favorite over Eastern Kentucky (-24.5).
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Week 1 Plays
Shane Buechele, SMU ($10,700) at Texas State
Buechele generated three games last season with 32-plus fantasy points, displaying an upside that none of the other quarterbacks quite possess. The matchup also works in his favor, as he prepares for a Texas State team that allowed 7.4 yards per attempt and 2.0 touchdowns per game, both good for third or fourth-most on the slate. He does lose his go-to target in James Proche from last season, but Regie Roberson actually finished the campaign with more receiving yards per game and the offense also returns a pair of valuable contributors in Rashee Rice and Kylen Granson. Given the limited tuneup leading up to the conference games, it wouldn't shock me if the coaching staff keeps its starters in the fray longer than a normal conference contest to get as many reps as possible. Either way, Buechele has enough going for him to collect on his value.
Brady White, Memphis ($9,500) vs. Arkansas State
White quarterbacks what has typically been a run-first Memphis squad. However, there is a chance that label won't stick in 2020 given the team's unproven backfield following Kenneth Gainwell's decision to opt out. While White won't have Gainwell at his disposal as a pass-catcher, he does have top target Damonte Coxie back at his disposal. That connection could be key for Memphis this season as it looks for fresh faces to replace the wealth of talent that is unavailable for the 2020 campaign and it could be highlighted Saturday against an Arkansas State defense that surrendered 262.8 passing yards per game last season.
Brady McBride, Texas State ($7,200) vs. SMU
If you're looking to get wild with your plays at quarterback, McBride takes the reins under center for the opener against an SMU defense that was accomodating to opposing quarterbacks last season, surrendering slate-high totals for passing yards per game (288.6), yards per attempt (7.8) and passing touchdowns per contest (2.6). While the Bobcats' passing attack was somewhat anemic under the direction of Tyler Vitt last season, he did top 250 passing yards on three different occasions and the Bobcats' quarterbacks combined for 225 passing yards and a pair of scores against SMU last season. Given the expected flow of the game, he could rack up enough volume to justify usage at his salary.
TJ McDaniel, SMU ($9,300) at Texas State
McDaniel makes even more sense as a game flow option against the Bobcats given that the Mustangs are expected to win by a comfortable margin. The sophomore saw limited action last year but led the team in efficiency when he was handed the rock, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He might be able to add a bit into the passing attack as well, but it's the rushing portion that should be emphasized Saturday. Texas State allowed a slate-high 216.8 rushing yards per contest last season to go along with 4.7 yards per attempt and 2.1 rushing touchdowns per game. At 5-foot-11, 194 pounds, McDaniel has enough size to warrant utilizing his services at any portion of the field.
Jamal Jones, Arkansas State ($6,000) vs. Memphis
Jones didn't quite receive the run that Marcel Murray did last season, but he finds himself listed as a co-starter for the opener against a Tigers team that struggled much more against the run than against the pass last year. Murray is also considered day-to-day as he works his way back from a leg injury, which could open the door to Jones alone atop the depth chart if Murray isn't cleared for the opener. The question is whether or not the Red Wolves can keep it close enough for a long enough time to continue using the running game. If so, Jones could be in a spot to do more than enough to deliver value. If Murray does wind up playing as well, another option in this range to consider would be Sheldon Evans ($6,200), who could see some additional work versus Eastern Kentucky.
Cade Barnard, Army ($5,300) vs. Middle Tennessee
Barnard has gone somewhat under the radar ahead of the Week 1 release, leaving his salary at a much lower spot than where it likely should be. While Artice Hobbs is listed as a starting back alongside Sandon McCoy for Army, it's McCoy and Barnard who are listed as the primary fullbacks, which is where most of the rushing production came from for the Black Knights last season. With McCoy set for one of the primary rushing position, Barnard appears set to take over as the tandem spot in place of the graduated Connor Slomka. McCoy and Slomka combined for 18 rushing touchdowns in 2019 and Saturday may be a good spot for Barnard to take advantage of a Middle Tennessee defense that surrendered nearly five yards per carry a season ago.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Damonte Coxie, Memphis, ($9,400) vs. Arkansas State
Yes, Coxie is the top of the line at wide receiver, and for good reason. Not only is he the top returning target from Memphis a season ago, but the majority of his competition for targets from a season ago is not in the mix for 2020. Coxie's rapport with Brady White should play up against the porous Arkansas State defense that was routinely carved up for 100-yard receiving performances from individual wideouts a season ago. Coxie is the clear favorite to top that threshold in the opener.
Reggie Roberson, SMU ($9,200) at Texas State
As much as I like Coxie, I may give Roberson the slightest of edges in as my favorite wideout of the week. Roberson is the main returning piece in the SMU passing game along with quarterback Shane Buechele and the two hooked up on multiple occasions for big contests. The biggest of them came against Temple, when Buechele tossed four of his six touchdown passes Roberson's way en route to Roberson's season-high 47 fantasy points. With James Proche out of the picture at wideout, there's no reason Roberson can't post big fantasy outings more routinely in 2020.
Dahu Green, Arkansas State ($5,500) at Memphis
Green took the field for meaningful action in only one game last season, snaring five passes for 86 yards against Louisiana-Monroe. He's now listed as a starter for an Arkansas State offense that tallied more than 300 passing yards per game last season under the direction of Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher, who are both in the mix to receive reps again Saturday. With Omar Bayless and Kirk Meritt gone, it could be Green's turn to step into a big role for the Red Wolves and his 6-foot-5 frame suggests he could be a red-zone threat capable of claiming a significant portion of the 29 receiving touchdowns secured between Bayless and Merritt last season.
Danny Gray, SMU ($5,000) at Texas State
A name that flew under the radar when salaries were being posted, Gray has reportedly impressed all camp and is set to start at wideout during Saturday's contest as well. The junior college transfer had offers from Auburn, TCU, Baylor and Florida State, suggesting his pedigree is that of a power-five wideout but elected to stay close to home and attend SMU. He seems a likely candidate to receive looks early and often for SMU and could be set for a role as one of the primary wideouts alongside Reggie Roberson. Given the opponent and the expected explosivity of the offense, there's plenty of reason to like Gray's upside.