Start vs. Sit: Who to Play, Who to Bench Week 8

Start vs. Sit: Who to Play, Who to Bench Week 8

This article is part of our Start vs. Sit series.

 

Welcome to the Week 8 installment of Start vs. Sit. Last weekend's slate did not disappoint as the Texas-Oklahoma and Florida-LSU matchups both lived up to the hype. We also saw a playoff contender get exposed at home with Georgia getting beaten by visiting South Carolina, leaving us with seven undefeated Power 5 teams. This weekend's slate doesn't have quite the same marquee matchup appeal, but it's a good board nonetheless and presents us with plenty of interesting lineup decisions. Let's look at the toughest start/sit calls for Week 8.

AAC

START

Xavier Jones, RB, SMU vs. Temple

The AAC has some impressively tough defenses, with Temple ranking as one of the best, checking in at No. 18 in S&P+. With that, Jones' owners are faced with a decision they really haven't had to consider since he broke out in the season opener. 

Jones, who averages the third-most fantasy points per game among running backs (24.6), has to go up against a Temple defense that holds rushers to 3.26 YPC. This is a strength-on-strength setup, and while it could be tough sledding at times for Jones, his workload (19 carries/game), efficiency (5.6 YPC) and ability to find the end zone (13 total TDs) are enough to warrant keeping him in your lineup this week.

SIT

Jalen McCleskey, WR, Tulane at Memphis

Memphis' defensive metrics have come back to earth a bit in recent weeks, but the Tigers still rank in the top 30 in S&P+ and are

 

Welcome to the Week 8 installment of Start vs. Sit. Last weekend's slate did not disappoint as the Texas-Oklahoma and Florida-LSU matchups both lived up to the hype. We also saw a playoff contender get exposed at home with Georgia getting beaten by visiting South Carolina, leaving us with seven undefeated Power 5 teams. This weekend's slate doesn't have quite the same marquee matchup appeal, but it's a good board nonetheless and presents us with plenty of interesting lineup decisions. Let's look at the toughest start/sit calls for Week 8.

AAC

START

Xavier Jones, RB, SMU vs. Temple

The AAC has some impressively tough defenses, with Temple ranking as one of the best, checking in at No. 18 in S&P+. With that, Jones' owners are faced with a decision they really haven't had to consider since he broke out in the season opener. 

Jones, who averages the third-most fantasy points per game among running backs (24.6), has to go up against a Temple defense that holds rushers to 3.26 YPC. This is a strength-on-strength setup, and while it could be tough sledding at times for Jones, his workload (19 carries/game), efficiency (5.6 YPC) and ability to find the end zone (13 total TDs) are enough to warrant keeping him in your lineup this week.

SIT

Jalen McCleskey, WR, Tulane at Memphis

Memphis' defensive metrics have come back to earth a bit in recent weeks, but the Tigers still rank in the top 30 in S&P+ and are still shutting down opposing passing games. Memphis gives up just 165 passing yards per game, and while McCleskey is coming off his his best performance of the year in terms of receptions (6), his efficiency was middling at just 5.75 YPT against Connecticut. So while McCleskey is settled into a role with decent volume (5.5), his lack of efficiency coupled with the tough matchup is enough to move McCleskey out of lineups this week.

ACC

START

Taysir Mack, WR, Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse

Mack enters Week 8 as one of the most highly targeted players in the nation at 11.8 targets per game and now faces one of the safer pass defenses in the ACC. Syracuse has been shaky against the pass and will be tested in that phase of the game, even if Pittsburgh's quarterback play is middling at best. 

Mack doesn't only offer elite volume, he's also an efficient player at 7.2 YPT. Teammate Maurice Ffrench gets 12.0 targets per game but turns it into just 5.5 YPT, for comparison. Mack profiles as a high volume play that can take advantage of a Syracuse defense that allows 276.8 passing yards per game — third most in the conference. 

SIT

Deon Jackson, RB, Duke at Virginia

A Week 8 battle for ACC Coastal supremacy between Duke and Virginia, just like we all expected. Jackson is coming off his third consecutive game with 20-plus fantasy points, but it might be time to jump off the train for at least a week. Averaging just 3.45 yards per carry against Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets were giving up 5.0 YPC coming into that game is not a great sign for Jackson when he's set to face a Virginia defense that gives up a grand total of 93.5 rush yards per game. 

BIG 12

START

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State at Texas Tech

This is a classic waiver-wire scoop and score with Hall profiling as one of the week's top pickups that should be in lineups for Week 8. Hall, who has been on my radar since Signing Day, has finally seized the No. 1 role in Ames after the likes of Johnnie Lang, Sheldon Croney Jr. and Kene Nwangwu continued to provide mediocre production through the first six weeks of the season. He busted out with 26 carries for 132 yards and three scores in Week 7 against West Virginia while no other Iowa State back had more than four carries. 

Hall now faces Texas Tech, which surrenders 185 rushing yards and 2.3 rushing scores per game. There's no reason to get cute with Hall if you nabbed him off the waiver wire. Start him right away. 

SIT

Jett Duffey, QB, Texas Tech vs. Iowa State

The Cyclones have the best defense in the Big 12, ranking 17th in S&P+ and holding opponents to just 20.8 points per game. Duffey, meanwhile, is coming off an up-and-down outing against another tough defense, Baylor. He completed 73.8 percent of his passes for 362 yards, but he added a couple picks and managed just one passing touchdown. Duffey was also unable to get anything going on the ground with -3 rushing yards. With a tougher matchup on tap for Saturday, it may be time to look for other options beyond Duffey in Week 8.

BIG TEN

START

Sean Clifford, QB, Penn State vs. Michigan

This week's Big Ten headliner takes place in Happy Valley with No. 7 Penn State playing host to No.  16 Michigan. Clifford's owners might be a bit antsy after his 13.9-point showing at Iowa in Week 7. Risking similar production for a second week in a row could put you behind the eight ball in your matchup. There's reason to believe things will go better for Clifford this week, however.

For one, Iowa ranks seventh in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks and was playing at home in a night game. Michigan is slightly more forgiving to quarterbacks, but not by much, ranking 13th in that category. The Wolverines defense is also third in defensive S&P+, so this matchup is still tough for Clifford. Still, I'm siding with Clifford and the offense playing at home. Also, Clifford has the added bonus of rushing upside, having rushed for  at least 50 yards in four of six games. As long as he can improve his passing line from Week 7 (12-for-24, 117 yards, one touchdown) and add some work on the ground, Clifford will come through as a worthy starter despite the tough matchup.

SIT

Jack Plummer, QB, Purdue at Iowa

Plummer finally showed some signs of life last week against Maryland after a tough start to his season. He completed 80.5 percent of his 41 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns. That Plummer's breakout came against Maryland gives us some reason for pause, though. Maryland has proven to be susceptible through the air and gives up 280 passing yards per game on average. A road matchup against Iowa's sixth-rated defense by S&P+ is a different story for Plummer this week. 

Plummer may be worth stashing, though, as he'll have home matchups against Illinois and Nebraska directly after the Iowa game.

CONFERENCE USA

Start

Austin Watkins, WR, UAB vs. Old Dominion

Quietly, Watkins has established himself as one of the nation's top receivers, averaging 13.9 fantasy points per game. That production ranks ahead of Alabama's Henry Ruggs III and USC's Michael Pittman Jr., for example.

He faces Old Dominion this week, and the Monarchs actually pose a legitimate challenge. They allow just 208.2 passing yards per game on 7.7 YPA, and those are strong marks considering they've played a pair of Power 5 teams in Virginia and Virginia Tech. Still, Watkins is playing at a level to where not even one of the conference's better pass defenses should be a concern to his fantasy value. Start Watkins and his 13.02 YPT average with confidence.

SIT

Benny LeMay, RB, UNC-Charlotte vs. Western Kentucky

Don't look now, but the Hilltoppers might have a pulse again. They're holding opponents to 18.5 points per game and are coming off an impressive 17-8 win over Army that took just two hours and 48 minutes (swoon). Conference USA opponents average just 107 total rush yards per game against them, and that's coming on 2.78 YPC. 

LeMay is arguably the best running back in the conference, and his role promises that he'll see plenty of work Saturday. But Western Kentucky's defense might be one to avoid this week, especially if the rest of LeMay's supporting cast like quarterback Chris Reynolds struggles to pose a threat through the air. 

MAC

START

Kalil Pimpleton, WR, Central Michigan at Bowling Green

Central Michigan's offense ranks just 112th in S&P+, but that hasn't stopped Pimpleton from racking up legitimate fantasy production. Pimpleton has seen at least five targets every week and averages just less than 10.0 targets per target. And he's turning that high volume into 7.2 YPT and a 70.7 percent catch rate. A matchup against Bowling Green's 114th-rated S&P+ defense means  Pimpleton has the green light, even if the Central Michigan quarterback situation is shaky with David Moore suspended.

SIT

Kato Nelson, QB, Akron vs. Buffalo

This might be long overdue. Nelson entered the year with some hype but has struggled mightily at the helm of an Akron offense that ranks last in S&P+. His rushing upside, which he showcased against Kent State to the tune of 64 yards, is enticing. However, it's not enough to warrant keeping him in the starting lineup if he continues to not reach the end zone on the ground and average just 210 passing yards per game. 

MOUNTAIN WEST

START

Tre Walker, WR, San Jose State vs. San Diego State

The Aztecs look like ... well, like the Aztecs usually do — a possession-based, ground-and-pound offense backed by a suffocating defense. The Aztecs rank third in the nation in time of possession per game, so it'll be on San Jose State to make its possessions count. And that won't be easy considering the Aztecs rank 22nd in defense according to S&P+.

So why start Walker? It's simple. Volume. Walker has seen 13 targets per game since making his 2019 debut in Week 4 and has caught 31 of those 52 targets while averaging 8.6 YPT. He has just one touchdown, though, so I'd understand the trepidation in starting him in a standard league. If you're in a full-point PPR league, Walker is still startable even with the brutal matchup. 

SIT

Bryson Carroll, RB, New Mexico vs. San Diego State

Carroll was a steal in DFS and for those who streamed him last week against Colorado State as he gashed the Rams for 193 yards and a score while starting running back Ahmari Davis looked on from the sidelines with a back injury. Davis' status remains shaky for this week, which would seemingly put Carroll in the driver's seat once again. However, facing Wyoming in Laramie is a lot different than a matchup with a Rams team that allowed more than 200 rushing yards per game entering last week. 

Wyoming, meanwhile, surrenders just 2.49 yards per carry and just 89.5 rush yards per game. This one could get away from Carroll and the Lobos in a hurry on Saturday, making Carroll a player to avoid. 

PAC-12

I'm in awe of how good this week's slate is in the PAC-12. For as much as guff as the conference has (rightly) taken for much of the year, it's got ranked matchups going in each division, both of which will have major conference championship implications. There are also fun matchups like Colorado-Washington State and Arizona-USC to sate our Pac-12 After Dark appetites. 

START

Jaylon Redd, WR, Oregon at Washington

This matchup will decide the King in the North, and it's a matchup I look forward to each and every year. I fully believe in both programs top-to-bottom, but Oregon has the look of the best team in the conference this season. I'm betting on Redd's talent shining through this week, and I'm also betting on Justin Herbert to finally show up in a big game. Herbert has completed 65 percent of his passes against ranked opponents the last three seasons, but his YPA is just 6.3 against those opponents and his TD:INT checks in at a passable 6:2. 

While you're likely starting Herbert regardless, you might have second thoughts about starting Redd or another Oregon receiver this week. Redd is tied with Johnny Johnson III for the team lead in targets with 36, and while Johnson has been more efficient per target (8.3 compared to Redd's 7.2), Redd leads the receiving corps in touchdowns with five. Jacob Breeland's absence changes Oregon's red-zone philosophy, and last week that meant getting Redd a goal-line carry. While we're not counting on goal-line carries for Redd, we can at least expect more targets in that area. 

If you're looking for another addition from this Oregon passing game to consider, Juwan Johnson and Mycah Pittman have caught my eye. Johnson is finally healthy and, as a big-bodied target, it's easy to see him absorbing some of the red-zone work left behind by Breeland. In Pittman, we have an electric freshman talent who is healthy after missing time with a shoulder injury. In two games, Pittman has caught all seven of his targets for 100 yards. 

SIT

Jake Luton, QB, Oregon State at California

Isaiah Hodgins is matchup proof and Artavis Pierce is start-worthy even against tough teams like California. Starting Luton on the road this week is a bridge too far, though. 

In fairness, Luton has been far better than expected this year with a 14:1 TD:INT through six games after being seemingly unable to get out of his own way in years past. And his road splits have actually been fine this year, too, with a 7.8 YPA and a 6:0 TD:INT. The issue is Luton hasn't faced a defense of this caliber on the road, yet. 

California ranks 21st in defensive S&P+ and allows just 214 passing yards per game. It even held Justin Herbert to that exact number, too. The Bears have also given up just three passing scores in six games. If Justin Herbert can be held in check by this defense in Autzen, I have my doubts about Luton having much success on the road against California.

SEC

START

Lynn Bowden, WR, Kentucky at Georgia

Stepping in for an injured Sawyer Smith last week, Bowden went off as a Wildcat quarterback and racked up 36.7 fantasy points. Most of his production came on the ground, where he took his 24 carries for 196 yards and two scores. But he also had a bit of success as a passer (78 yards, one touchdown) and could start in that role again this week. Bowden would be a tougher sell as a Start candidate this week if he was only playing receiver, but the potential for increased usage out of the backfield as a Wildcat quarterback against a defense that struggles with mobile quarterbacks makes him a borderline cheat-code this week. 

SIT

Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State vs. LSU

If LSU has an Achilles Heel this year, it's likely on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers gave up 457 total yards (albeit on 84 plays) in Death Valley to Florida a week ago and has shown lapses against inferior opponents at other times this season. Mississippi State is ill-equipped to exploit any of those deficiencies, however. 

Hill being shut down (11 carries, 13 yards) by Tennessee isn't the sole reason behind his placement in the Sit section this week. That outing was troubling, though, as it showed that Mississippi State's offense can be made one-dimensional and disappear. With freshman Garret Shrader starting, it's fair to wonder whether LSU defensive coordinator will focus on subtracting Hill from the Mississippi State attack and forcing the Bulldogs to move the ball through the air. And it's not like LSU's run defense is subpar, either. The Tigers allow just 2.83 YPC and 91.8 rush yards per game. This is a brutal spot for Hill this week.

SUN BELT

START

Caleb Evans, QB, UL-Monroe at Appalachian State

This might be Evans' toughest matchup for the rest of the season as he leads ULM on the road to face the ranked and undefeated Mountaineers in Boone. It's tough in the sense that Appalachian State will keep the pressure on with its efficient scoring offense that ranks in the top 30 in S&P+. Appalachian State's defense is another story, though, and even though it held Louisiana in check a week ago, Evans is matchup-proof in conference. 

Evans is the engine of the offense, averaging 26.0 fantasy points per game and compiling 15 total touchdowns through six games. He admittedly struggled against Texas State in Week 7 (13.5 fantasy points) but has shown an ability to rise to the occasion against strong opponents at other points this season, including four-touchdown outings against both Florida State and Memphis. It's a tough environment, but Evans can still have success this week.

SIT

CJ Marable, RB, Coastal Carolina at Georgia Southern

We have a potential game script nightmare here with Marable. The Chanticleers are traveling to Georgia Southern, and the possession-style offense that both teams play has led to an extremely low over/under of 47. Toss in the fact that Coastal Carolina is nearly a touchdown underdog and we have a setting where the Chanticleers could be in for a low-scoring day. There's also the matter of the Georgia Southern defense, which allows just 3.54 YPC. The tough matchup along with the unfavorable conditions make Marable a fade for me this week. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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