This article is part of our DraftKings College Football series.
Welcome to this week's main slate breakdown for DraftKings. What was once a 14-game mega slate is now a more manageable 10-gamer with still plenty of intriguing matchups and high totals.
The USC-Arizona game has some intrigue as the Trojans showed off an electric passing game last week while also getting exposed as far as run defense is concerned. On the other side, we have no 2020 data on Arizona after its game was canceled last week. So this sets up to be maybe the most important game on this entire slate.
Looking elsewhere, we get a fun Group of Five game between a ranked Marshall squad with plenty of talent going up against a struggling Middle Tennessee State squad. The Herd is expected to hang 40.5 points, the second-highest mark on the slate.
Speaking of high totals, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Miami are all carrying implied totals of at least 32.75 points and USC leads the pack with an IT of 41.0.
Without further adieu, let's get to the DFS tools, matchup info and positional analysis to help you build your best lineups this week.
- DraftKings Lineup Optimizer
- NEW Matchups Page (Vegas odds, opponent averages, etc.)
- Advanced Lineups Page
- Team Trends
- Defense vs. Position
- Team Rankings
*Editor's note: Arizona has not played a game, which skews the color coding on the above table. The data is all up to date and actionable, however.
Kedon Slovis, USC ($8,600) at Arizona
We have a week of sample for USC and it looks like the Graham Harrell offense is going to take a step forward this year with Slovis again at the helm. USC was not shy about turning the keys over to Slovis and letting him rip it against Arizona State as he went 40-for-55 for 381 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in a comeback win. Repeating 55 attempts is unlikely here with USC checking in as fairly heavy favorites (-14) but this is still an offense geared towards the pass.
The added bonus with Slovis is it is rather easy to stack his receivers along with him. Amon-Ra St. Brown ($6,700), Drake London ($5,800) and Bru McCoy ($4,000) all have great projections relative to their salaries. They are all extremely talented and have a high target floor against a weak and untested Arizona secondary. The USC offense is going to be key for this slate Saturday and I'm happily taking the plunge.
These are the two highest-salaried quarterbacks on the board, so I'm not breaking any new ground in saying that both King and Hooker are strong plays this weekend. What I am saying is that that trying to fit both into the same lineup is a worthwhile endeavor.
This game has the second-highest total (67.5) on the board but the spread is just Virginia Tech -2.0, so the expectation is that both of these teams will be putting up north of 30 points. It starts with the talent of both these quarterbacks.
King is starting to get hot -- he's coming off his best game as a Hurricane with 535 total yards of offense and five passing touchdowns against North Carolina State. He has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his last two games and has double-digit rush attempts in four straight.
Hooker, meanwhile, is absolutely crushing it on the ground and through the air. He has at least 32 DK points in three of his last four and has 12 total touchdowns and 486 rushing yards in that span.
Hooker has the tougher matchup than King, who faces a Virginia Tech defense allowing 31.6 points per game and 202.9 rushing yards per game. Still, both are high-ceiling, high-floor players who can carry their fantasy production on the ground.
Others to Consider
- Asher O'Hara, Middle Tennessee ($6,600) at Marshall: This is a tough spot but after a rough start, O'Hara has been rolling of late. He has averaged 34.7 DK points over his last five, completing 65 percent of his passes and throwing 11 touchdowns while adding 413 yards and five scores on the ground. I expect him to struggle on Saturday but his 56 percent rushing share means he should be able to pile up enough on the ground to help hit value at his salary.
- Malik Cunningham, Louisville ($8,100) vs. Virginia: The Wahoos allow 9.9 YPA and 312 passing yards per game. Louisville is expected to score over 30 points. Cunningham is averaging 25.6 DK points over his last four outings, completing 66.7 percent of his passes at 8.9 YPA with eight passing touchdowns.
Brenden Knox, Marshall ($8,500) vs. Middle Tennessee State
This one's easy. Knox is one of the best running backs in the country in a run-heavy offense and he's facing an overmatched Middle Tennessee defense. Middle Tennessee coughs up 245 rushing yards per game on 5.4 YPC. Knox has a 47 percent rushing share and averages 5.1 YPC over 19 carries per game. He's got nine rushing touchdowns so far and is in a smash spot here. Knox is my favorite running back north of $8K.
Cam'Ron Harris, Miami ($5,900) vs. Virginia Tech
We've been over Virginia Tech's struggles against the run so we don't need to rehash that. They're bad. Let's move on.
Harris has, admittedly, tapered off in terms of production of late. This is a player who was hitting value while being salaried above $8K earlier in the season who is now struggling over the last four games. He has a total of 43 rushes for 97 yards and no touchdowns in that span. That is objectively terrible.
But unless there's an underlying injury, Harris is in a great bounceback spot. He's been getting volume -- including 15 carries and three targets last week -- and now gets to square off with this porous run defense. D'Eriq King has the same rushing share as Harris so there is competition for work, but Harris will still get double-digit carries against the Hokies.
If you need a dart a little further down the board, Jaylan Knighton is third on the 'Canes in rushing share and checks in at $3,900.
Gary Brightwell, Arizona ($5,200) vs. USC
We don't know a ton about the Arizona side of this game. We do know a little about USC, and what we know is that the Trojans can't stop the run. Arizona State trotted out an untested RB corps last week and ran all over USC, piling up 258 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Part of that came from quarterback Jayden Daniels, but Arizona quarterback Grant Gunnell is not much of a runner, so look for most of the U of A carries to go to the running backs.
Brightwell is the starter, and while it wouldn't be surprising to see Arizona to mix in Michael Wiley or Nathan Tilford, it should still be Brightwell getting the bulk of the carries against this terrible run defense. There's some risk in going heavy on Arizona considering that it hasn't played yet and USC is already battle-tested, but that battle test showed a fatal flaw against the run.
Raheem Blackshear, Virginia Tech ($3,400) at Miami
Virginia Tech is a run-heavy attack, Khalil Herbert is banged up, and Blackshear has been getting work since he recovered from a hamstring issue. There aren't many bargain bin running backs with much of a carry floor, but Blackshear has one. He has averaged nine carries in each of the last three weeks -- unfortunately, that has netted a 3.7 YPC average -- but it's cheap volume and Blackshear also drew five targets last week. If Herbert is out, Blackshear is a must-play that will likely have a high roster percentage. But even if Herbert plays, he may not be ready for the full workload, which boosts Blackshear's carry projection.
Others to consider
- Devyn Ford ($5,400) and Caziah Holmes ($3,000), Penn State at Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are bad against the run and both of these players are potential bargains at their respective salaries. Game flow may have had something to do with it, but Holmes had as many carries as Ford a week ago against Maryland.
- SaRodorick Thompson, Texas Tech ($5,200) vs. Baylor: It's going to be windy in Lubbock, which should steer things toward the run game. Thompson has a 33 percent rushing share and Baylor gives up over 180 rushing yards per game.
All three of these guys are in play for me this week, potentially even all in the same lineup. USC has a high passing volume offense with a fairly predictable usage tree.
St. Brown is the alpha of the group, turning his team-high 12 targets into seven grabs for 100 yards against Arizona State. That's a decent day, but we can expect a little more efficiency in a softer matchup Saturday.
London is the big-bodied athlete of the group who caught eight of nine targets for 125 and a pivotal touchdown in the opener. He's only starting to tap into his immense potential on the football field. London could be a slate-changer on Saturday if his volume holds, and there's little reason to think it won't.
McCoy is the wildcard of the bunch. He's a former five-star recruit who took an interesting route to get here; McCoy was an early enrollee at USC in 2019 but transferred to Texas after two weeks on campus. He was back in Southern California by the end of that spring and is now finally getting his collegiate career underway. McCoy (6-3, 220) looked the part of a five-star in his USC debut last week, catching five of six targets for 51 yards and a score. He has the lowest target floor of this group but it still hovers somewhere between 4 and 7, and with McCoy's explosive athleticism, that will be enough for him to post a worthwhile stat line.
On the other side of the USC-Arizona matchup we have Joiner and Curry. Unfortunately, we don't have any 2020 data to point to with these two, but there's reason for optimism regarding their fantasy output Saturday.
Joiner is the starter in the slot for the Wildcats and is coming off a 500-yard, five-touchdown season as a redshirt freshman. At 6-1, 214, Joiner can be a matchup problem if USC throws an undersized nickel corner at him.
Curry is shorter on track record but he has plenty of pedigree. The former four-star recruit was one of the gems of Arizona's recruiting class last year and at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, he can be a problem on the outside. Curry has locked in a starting spot and reportedly had the best camp of any Wildcat receiver.
Arizona should be in line to throw more than it did last season with Grant Gunnell, a pro-style quarterback, at the helm instead of Khalil Tate. Gunnell is plenty talented and -- fun fact -- played with Curry in high school.
If Arizona is playing from behind here, it'll be on Gunnell and these two receivers to lead the Wildcats' offense. Joiner has the highest target floor of this group but Curry's one of the more interesting near-min-price darts on the slate. I expect both to return value.
Jarrin Pierce, Middle Tennessee ($3,800) at Marshall
Middle Tennessee isn't going to score much on Marshall on Saturday but there are still some cheap PPR points to be had from the Blue Raider passing game. Pierce leads the team in target share and has been reasonably explosive with his volume, averaging 7.8 YPT over his last five games (43 targets). He'll be seeing plenty of targets Saturday and even if they don't go for big plays, the sheer volume should carry Pierce's fantasy output. Yusuf Ali ($4,100) is another Middle Tennessee receiver worth a look. After missing the first three games, Ali has played in five straight and is averaging 11.0 YPT on 30 targets in that stretch.