PLAYERS TO START
Jared Goff, QB, Cal (vs. Grambling)
California loves to throw the ball around under Sonny Dykes. Last year, his first as the full-time starter, Goff threw the ball 509 times for 3,973 yards, 35 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. This year, the Golden Bears will hope to be in fewer shootouts, but they will still be a pass-first, pass-second offense. The Pac-12 is a tough conference to play in this year, and Cal is going to have some rough matchups that will test Goff. Grambling is not such a matchup. This is a chance for Goff to start things off on a high note and put up some video game numbers.
Skyler Howard, QB, West Virginia (vs. Georgia Southern)
Clint Trickett was the lead man for the Mountaineers for most of the season, but when Howard was called upon, he stepped up. He threw eight touchdowns and no picks last year, and he adds a little mobility on the ground as well, as he rushed 22 times for 140 yards as well. Sure, Kevin White isnít around anymore, but Dana Holgorsen and his offensive scheme is, and thatís what matters. Georgia Southern has given teams some trouble in the past, but donít let that scare you out of using Howard in this matchup.
Jacoby Brissett, QB, North Carolina State (vs. Troy)
The Wolfpack are considered a bit of an ACC sleeper, and Brissett, a 2013 transfer from Florida, is a big reason why. He threw for 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions in his first year starting for NC State, and he added 529 yards and three touchdowns on the ground for good measure. There is reason to believe that he can be even better, now that he has some experience with the team under his belt. Troy used to be the darlings of the Sun Belt, but thatís still the Sun Belt, and they arenít even all that good by those standards anymore, having gone 3-9 last year. Brissett should be able to hit the ground running.
Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois (vs. Kent State)
There are those who may want to shy away from the Fighting Illini this week. Itís understandable, given that they just fired Tim Beckman as their head coach just before the start of the season. However, offensive coordinator Bill Cubit is taking over as coach, so that side of the ball should stay relatively calm. Also, their opponent is Kent State, who was awful last year, so they shouldnít put up a huge fight. Ferguson contributed on the ground and through the air last season and should end up the focal point in this game. Donít be afraid of a little turmoil.
Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida (vs. New Mexico State)
Offense has not been the forte of the Gators recently, but thatís why Will Muschamp is gone and Jim McElwain was brought in. With Matt Jones graduating to the NFL, Kelvin Taylor will likely take over as the lead back for Florida. He ran reasonably well last year, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns on 116 carries. The move to the Sun Belt has not bolstered the Aggies of New Mexico State, as they were only able to beat one FBS team last season. McElwain will get the chance to make a good first impression, and Taylor will likely be a big part of that.
Joel Bouagnon, RB, Northern Illinois (vs. UNLV)
Cameron Stingily ran admirably for the Huskies last season, and he wonít necessarily be easy to replace. However, Bouagnon seems up to the task. Despite being the third rushing option last year, he scored five touchdowns, and more importantly he averaged 5.8 yards per carry. The skills are there, and now the opportunity should as well. UNLV is so desperate to try and get something going they just hired a Las Vegas high school legend to coach the team. Thatís interesting, but itís not likely to yield fast results. Bouagnon should be able to run all over them.
Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona (vs. UTSA)
The Wildcats bring back a lot of offensive talent, including quarterback Anu Solomon, and they have hopes of contending in the Pac-12 this year. Jones should be a big part of that, as last year he led the team in receptions and yards, finishing with over 1,000 yards on the year. The Roadrunners of UTSA shouldnít put up too much resistance in this matchup. The only concern for Jones is that the Wildcats run the ball so efficiently that they donít bother to pass, but chances are he has a big game in this easy matchup.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma (vs. Akron)
Sterling Shepard is the go-to guy for the Sooners, but there should be enough pass offense to support two receivers this year. New quarterback Baker Mayfield is a better passer than Trevor Knight, and Oklahoma brought in Mike Leach acolyte Lincoln Riley to try and boost their numbers through the air. Akron is actually one of the better teams in the MAC, but that doesnít mean they can put up a challenge against Oklahoma. Westbrook is new to the team, but this is a chance for him to make a big impact out of the gates.
PLAYERS TO SIT
Matt Johnson, QB, Bowling Green (at Tennessee)
Johnson is hoping to rebound after missing out on the bulk of the 2014 season due to injury. In 2013, when he last started, he did play well, but that was a long time ago. It could take a little time for him to get back into the swing of things. Furthermore, a road game against Tennessee, a ranked SEC team, is not exactly the ideal way to ease Johnson back into action. He may find his old form at some point, but it wonít be this week.
Matt Davis, QB, Southern Methodist (vs. Baylor)
Chad Morris was brought in to save SMU and return them to their glory days. Maybe that will happen - down the road - but this is a Week 1 matchup against the playoff-hopeful Baylor Bears. Art Briles and company are known for their offense, but any defense with Shawn Oakman on it is not to be trifled with. Davis will get a chance to put up some nice numbers in Morrisí offense, but that will be down the road. This week will likely be a nightmare for him.
P.J. Walker, QB, Temple (vs. Penn State)
Walker really impressed as a freshman, but last year he regressed and ended up with more interceptions than touchdown passes. Heís expected to bounce back, at least to some degree, and the Owls look to be a decent team. That being said, for all their offensive questions, Penn Stateís defense is skilled, and they will make it tough for their Pennsylvanian brethren. Walkerís redemption wonít start against the Nittany Lions.
Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP (at Arkansas)
The only things that slow down Jones are injuries, but theyíve unfortunately popped up here and there during his UTEP career. However, heís also taken advantage of the fact he plays in Conference USA, which is one of the weaker conferences in the FBS. The only game last year where he ran for over 100 yards against a Power Five team was against Texas Tech and their disastrous defense. Arkansas is not Texas Tech. They are a big, powerful SEC defense. Jones isnít going to be able to treat them like New Mexico, who gave up 237 yards to Jones in last yearís opener. Heís in for some tough sledding against the Razorbacks.
Robert Lowe, RB, Texas State (at Florida State)
This shouldnít be that difficult to understand. Lowe is a fine running back who can take advantage of Texas Stateís easy, Sun Belt schedule. The problem is that they are opening the season as cannon fodder for the Seminoles. Florida State is still loaded down with future NFL talent. Texas State is not. This has the makings of a rout, and Loweís team is not going to be on the positive end of it.
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern (vs. Stanford)
Jackson was a rare positive in a disappointing season for Northwestern last year. He rushed for 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns as pretty much the one functional aspect of the Wildcatsí offense. That being said, it makes it easy to key in on him for a good defense, and Stanford is that. They too are coming off a somewhat disappointing season, but that was more on the offensive side of things. The Cardinal defense is a tough matchup for Jackson in a week when so many similar running backs are feasting on cupcakes. Turn to one of them instead.
James Quick, WR, Louisville (vs. Auburn)
With DeVante Parker off to the pros, Quick will step up as the lead receiver for the Cardinals, and Parkerís injury woes gave Quick the opportunity to get added experience last year, which doesnít hurt. What does hurt is some unsettledness at quarterback for Louisville, and more pressingly Auburnís defense. They may be known more for their offense, but they have some real talent on the defensive line, and Will Muschamp as their new defensive coordinator. This is shaping up to be a less-than-great week for Quick.
Teldrick Morgan, WR, New Mexico State (at Florida)
Morgan is on the flipside of the Kelvin Taylor situation. While Taylor is in line for a big game against a cupcake opponent, Morgan has to go up against the toughest defense he will face this season. He was one of those non-Big Five players who shrewd fantasy owners turned to last year once the schedule turned to his favor, and he can work that way this year. You just have to wait to use him for when a team like the Gators isnít on the docket.
Jesse Kroll, WR, Central Michigan (vs. Oklahoma State)
Titus Davis was a fantasy stud for many years, and while Kroll is no Davis, heís the new lead receiver for the Chippewas. The fact that Oklahoma State is somewhat surprisingly visiting Central Michigan is better for Kroll than having to head to Stillwater, but that doesnít make him a good fantasy option in Week 1. As previously mentioned, the first week of the season is full of legitimate teams that have scheduled "automatic wins" for themselves. Krollís in a bit of a bind going up against one of those legitimate opponents, at least from a fantasy perspective.