A rough Week 2 slate is in the rearview mirror and we have another excellent collection of games on the docket this weekend, highlighted by several matchups between ranked opponents. Without further adieu, letís get into who we should be starting and who we should be sitting for Week 3.
PLAYERS TO START
Riley Ferguson, QB Memphis (vs. Kansas): Any chance to roster someone against Kansas, you have to jump at the opportunity. The Memphis Tigers are the flavor of the week in this case, catching 19.5 points at home against the Jayhawks. Leading the charge could be Ferguson, who completed 65 percent of his passes for 295 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks in his debut two weeks ago. Hopefully Ferguson worked on ball security during his bye week, because tossing two picks against Southeast Missouri State is pretty inexcusable. That said, if he does a better job of taking care of the ball this week, Ferguson owners should be in line for a profitable week. Led by Anthony Miller, Memphis has a talented receiving corps that should be able to test a Kansas secondary that hasnít yet seen a passing attack of this caliber. I tend to avoid suggesting players going against FCS opponents, which takes teams like Tulsa and SMU out of the equation for this week. Noel Thomas (WR, UConn) warrants some consideration against UVA this week on the strength of his 20 catches through the first two weeks of the season and the fact that the Cavaliers have allowed close to 700 yards through the air to start the year.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (vs. Florida State): Before you call this an obvious pick, try to remember that Jackson has lit the college football landscape on fire against the likes of UNC-Charlotte and Syracuse; he hasnít faced a team even close to the level of Florida State, whose defense is so ridiculously talented that there are four-star recruits that barely see the field. Having some trepidation about using Jackson in such a monumental early-season game is totally understandable, even if heís vaulted himself firmly into the Heisman conversation thus far this season. Florida Stateís defense has playmakers at every level, but theyíll be missing one key component Saturday that makes me feel better about deploying Jackson with the expectation of a big time performance: Derwin James. The stellar sophomore had surgery Monday to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and will miss Saturdayís contest, meaning that the Seminoles will be without their most dynamic and versatile defender. Jamesí presence on the edge could have played a major factor in slowing Jacksonís ability to get outside, but now that heís sidelined, look for Jackson to feast once again Saturday.
Kyle Hicks, RB, TCU (vs. Iowa State): The Horned Frogs are more known for their aerial attack than their run game, but Hicks has been solid with the work heís been given this season. Heís averaged 4.2 YPC over 26 carries and heís posted four touchdowns on the ground. Whatís more, heís been an excellent back for PPR purposes, having racked up 12 receptions through the first two games. Coming off a tough loss at home, TCU is going to get its revenge against a hapless Iowa State club that has been dealt back-to-back embarrassing losses to start the year. With that, Hicks should have plenty of opportunities in a game that TCU should have a sizable lead for most of the contest. The Cyclones have given up five rushing touchdowns and an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
Jordan Westerkamp, WR, Nebraska (vs. Oregon): Not only is Westerkamp coming off an excellent four-catch, 105-yard, two-touchdown showing Saturday against Wyoming, but quarterback Tommy Armstrong is coming off one of the best games of his career and the Cornhuskers draw a matchup with Oregon at home. This game has the potential to be one of the higher-scoring contests of the weekend with a pair of high-powered offenses going toe to toe. Toss in the fact that Oregonís pass defense hasnít been particularly impressive in 2016 and Westerkamp could be in for a huge day Saturday. Whatís more, Alonzo Moore (shoulder) and Brandon Reilly (hamstring) are battling injuries, so Westerkamp could be in line for double-digit targets should either of them sit out or play at less than full strength. Regardless, Westerkamp is the best receiver on the Nebraska roster and this is a sneaky-good matchup for him against a suspect Ducks defense.
Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee State (@ Bowling Green): I made the mistake of recommending sitting James last week and I immediately need to atone for that mortal sin. Despite going against a strong Vanderbilt defense that held MTSU to 24 points, James had himself a day, hauling in 14 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown. James is looking like a matchup-proof wideout in any format, so a date with Bowling Green is extremely tantalizing. Not only should you start James this week, but you should expect him to push for double-digit receptions once again and find the end zone against a secondary that ranks towards the bottom in nearly every major category. Trent Taylor of Louisiana Tech also draws a favorable matchup against a porous Texas Tech defense Saturday.
Jerome Lane, WR, Akron (@ Marshall): After a one-week hiatus (I hope) from your lineups, itís time to get Lane back in the fold against Marshall. The Zips are 17-point underdogs, meaning that they could be playing catch-up and chucking it downfield for most of the game. At 6-3, 220, Lane presents a massive mismatch for the undersized Marshall corners and he should be able to win any 50-50 balls over them. Lane is averaging 18.4 yards/catch this year, which is a lofty number that heís backed up in the past when he averaged 20.1 in 2015. Look for Lane to continue to regain his status as a dominant deep threat against the Herd.
James Butler, RB, Nevada (vs. Buffalo): Although Buffalo didnít get the chance to redeem itself last week after an embarrassing Week 1 loss to Albany, that loss still lingers in the college football conscience as arguably the worst of the season. A cross-country trip to Nevada is unlikely to be the catalyst behind any major turnaround, and with that, Iím looking for Butler to gash a Buffalo run defense that allowed 141 rushing yards to the Great Danes. Butler absolutely shredded Buffalo last season, taking 16 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown. If youíre on the fence about playing Butler at your RB2 or FLEX spot this week, rest easy knowing that he could replicate that type of production with even more touchdown upside this time around.
Brandon Dawkins, QB, Arizona (vs. Hawaii): This isnít the first time Iíve mentioned Hawaiíi as a team to target in this column, and Iím not afraid to go back to the well this week. As of Tuesday afternoon, signs seem to be pointing toward Anu Solomon sitting out again this week, meaning that Dawkins will get another start. If you have a quarterback like Brad Kaaya, Chad Kelly, Sefo Liufau, or even Baker Mayfield, it might be worth dropping one of the ancillary characters on your bench and plugging in Dawkins if you play in a two-QB league. Dawkins has room for improvement as a passer, as evidenced by his 15-for-29 showing against Grambling last week, but he is a talented runner that accounted for 97 yards and two scores in the same game. Grambling might be a better football team than Hawaiíi right now, so Dawkins should be in line for another explosive performance Saturday. Whatís more, heís likely available on your waiver wire and will help you avoid starting a quarterback with a tough matchup like the signal callers mentioned above. UCLAís Soso Jamabo, coming off a three-touchdown performance, is also nice play Saturday against BYU.
ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama (@ Mississippi): If you have Stewart, he may be the fifth or sixth receiver you drafted after assuming that sophomore Calvin Ridley would eat up the majority of the targets again in the Alabama offense. Although Jalen Hurts is only a freshman, he looks to be a more competent quarterback than last yearís starter, Jake Coker, and heís shown that he can spread the ball around to several different targets. Stewart has been one of the main beneficiaries in the offense, averaging a whopping 22.6 yards per reception with three touchdowns on nine grabs this season. Itís usually smart to avoid taking a receiver going against Ole Miss, but the Rebels suffered a litany of injuries in the defensive backfield -- most notably Ken Webster Ė and no longer have the imposing secondary it did in past years. Ridley will continue to get most of the attention from the Rebels secondary, but that could lead to Stewart having a big day on the opposite side of the field Saturday.
Matt Breida, RB, Georgia Southern (vs. Louisiana-Monroe): Itís been an oddly slow start to the year for Breida, averaging a pedestrian 4.5 yards per carry after tearing off 7.9 YPC a season ago. In fairness, he hasnít necessarily been able to get into a rhythm yet as Georgia Southern has won both of its games with relative ease (78-9 combined score). Breida isnít going to stay below 5.0 YPC for long, and ULM doesnít have the type of defense that really has a say in the matter. If Breida can get his requisite 15 carries Saturday, look out. Iím not saying that heís ďdueĒ -- Iím just saying that Breida hasnít played like Breida yet and heís never gone more than two games without eclipsing the 100-yard mark.
PLAYERS TO SIT
Hayden Moore, QB, Cincinnati (vs. Houston): Itís tough to sit a player like Moore, who is a threat to put up staggering numbers any given week. This is a week to let him ride the pine, however, as Houston sports an aggressive defense that gets after the quarterback in a multitude of ways. Keyed by DT Ed Oliver and LB Tyus Bowser, Houston has compiled eight sacks through the first two games and added several more pressures and hits on opposing quarterbacks. Though the volume could be there for Moore to post a palatable stat line due to the fact that the Bearcats will likely be trailing for most of Thursdayís contest, the likelihood for a dangerous amount of sack yardage dragging down your rushing yards coupled with the potential for turnovers (he threw 11 picks in 225 attempts last season) make him a player to keep on the bench this week.
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (FL) (@ Appalachian State): Appalachian State isnít necessarily sneaking up on anyone anymore after its near upset over Tennessee in Knoxville, and Kaaya and the ĎCanes will be traveling up to Boone to face the Mountaineers this time. Favored by just three points, Miami isnít facing a trap game so much as it is facing a legitimate toss-up on the road against a feisty team looking to get a win off a major program. Kaaya, who is widely considered to be one of the more polished quarterbacks in the nation, hasnít looked sharp to start the year, completing just 59 percent of his passes for 326 yards, four touchdowns, and two picks while averaging 6.7 YPA. He has plenty of weapons and a quality line that has kept his jersey clean thus far this season, but Appalachian State features a defense thatís on a different level from what heís faced thus far this year. Kaaya may not be in for a meltdown Saturday, but a matchup on the road against a hungry App State team is one Iíd avoid if at all possible.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (vs. Ohio State): If you have Mayfield, you probably took him with one of your first two picks, so leaving him on the bench for a game this early in the season might seem unfathomable. That said, you might have to bite the bullet this week against an Ohio State team that looks to be back to its 2014 level of dominance on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes, though facing a pair of cupcakes (Bowling Green and Tulsa) to start the year, have allowed a grand total of 13 points. Mayfield has been excellent in his own right to start this season, throwing for 567 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 10.7 YPA, but Ohio Stateís defense presents a whole different challenge, as the secondary may be even better than it was last season, while Oklahomaís receiving corps isnít quite as explosive without Sterling Shepard in the fold. This may be the only week Mayfield warrants a spot on the bench, and while he might still have a fine game by most standards, itís hard to imagine him putting up the type of numbers weíve grown accustomed to seeing from him.
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin (vs. Georgia State): This isnít to say Clement couldnít shred the Georgia State defense with just a handful of carries, but rather that a handful of carries may be his ceiling this week. He left last weekís game with an ankle injury and though head coach Paul Chryst contends that the star running back will be able to play this week, it doesnít mean he should be in your lineup. Wisconsin would be foolish to load Clement up with 20+ carries in a game where it can gash GSU with backup tailbacks like Dare Ogunbowale, Bradrick Shaw, and Taiwan Deal. Expect the Badgers to play it safe with Clement before conference play opens.
Greg Howell, RB, Florida Atlantic (@ Kansas State): Conference USA is littered with favorable matchups across the board, so distilling a matchup to avoid out of this slate was a challenge. Howell, however, is a different case because of his extremely strong start to the year in which heís averaged 5.8 yards per carry while reaching paydirt three times. He even racked up 75 yards against a quality Miami defense. That said, Kansas State plays at a plodding pace that could limit FAUís play count overall, and the Wildcats did an admirable job of slowing the likes of Christian McCaffrey in the season opener. Howell is the unquestioned lead back for FAU, and heís rewarded owners in the early going this season, but this is a week where heís best left on the bench.
Ryan Graham, Northern Illinois, QB (vs. San Diego State): It may be tempting to nab Graham as a plug-and-play option in 2-QB leagues after San Diego State allowed over 600 yards of offense last week, but itís important to remember that Cal has one of the best passing offenses in the country and is run to perfection by Davis Webb. Northern Illinois, on the other hand, is coming off a beating at the hands of South Florida in which the Huskies were held under 300 yards of total offense. Graham entered the game in place of injured starter Drew Hare and did manage to complete 60 percent of his passes while orchestrating a touchdown drive. However, Grahamís track record as a starter last season isnít overly encouraging as he managed to throw for 622 yards across four starts in November before being completely stymied against Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl. Graham looks to be the starter of the future for Northern Illinois with Hare sidelined, but that doesnít mean he needs to be in your lineup right now.
Deontae Cooper, RB, San Jose State (vs. Utah): Cooper is coming off his best game since his freshman season and he actually draws a favorable matchup this weekend against a Utah team thatís been vulnerable against the run, ranking in the nation in yards per carry (4.4). That doesnít necessarily mean that Utah will struggle Saturday, as the Utes have finished in the top 20 in rushing yards allowed per career twice in the last three years. Furthermore, Utah is a comfortable favorite, so the idea of the Spartans turning to QB Kenny Potter to chuck it in the second half in lieu of running a balanced offense is not out of the question.
Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado (@ Michigan): Liufau looked like a completely reinvented passer in the season opener and backed it up by making quick work of Idaho State in Coloradoís tune-up before Saturdayís showdown in the Big House. Heís completed 38 out of 51 passes for 522 yards thus far this season, which gives him a ridiculous 74.5-percent completion percentage and ranks him 12th in the nation at 10.2 YPA. That level of dominance is impressive regardless of the opponent, but itíll be nearly impossible to produce numbers in that same stratosphere this week against a Michigan defense that has been dominant save for a handful of breakdowns late in blowouts. Liufau has certainly turned a corner, but this might be a week to look for a different option at quarterback with Colorado playing in hostile territory.
Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State (@ LSU): If you picked up Fitzgerald prior to his incredible outing Saturday against South Carolina, kudos. BUT...letís pump the brakes here. Tearing an inexperienced South Carolina defense to shreds at home compared to doing that in Death Valley at night are two completely different things. Sure, Fitzgerald clearly has mobility as evidenced by his 195 rushing yards last week, but LSUís defense has a different level of talent and cohesion than that of the Gamecocks. Furthermore, the hostile environment at LSU at night is something that can rattle even the most poised and experienced quarterback, let alone a player making his third career start. What buoyed Fitzgeraldís tremendous outing Saturday wasnít merely the volume of his carries, but his ruthless efficiency. He tore off 11.5 yards per carry, although that was aided by a 75-yard dash. Regardless, LSU will be ready for Fitzgeraldís runs and they have the team speed to chop him down before he does too much damage. To be clear, it was thrilling for Fitzgerald to do what he did against South Carolina, and it should give hope to the Mississippi State fan base as they face life after Dak, but going to LSU at night is simply too big an ask for the young signal caller.
Marcus Cox, RB, Appalachian State (vs. Miami): Generally Iím not going to dissuade anyone from trying to use an App State player, especially one like Cox, but Miamiís run defense has been scary-good to start the year. Sure, Miami has only played Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic, but holding teams to under one yard per carry is impressive at any level in college. Cox should fare much better than the 0.91 YPC mark held by Miamiís previous opponents, but itís still going to be tough sledding Saturday. Cox has gotten 42 carries over the first two weeks of the season, picking up 248 tough yards and three scores in the process. Appalachian State has shown it can hang physically with a Power Five school already by taking Tennessee to overtime, but Miamiís run defense to start the year has been nothing short of impressive. Cox should see plenty of carries again in a close game Saturday, but he wonít be able to match his per-carry efficiency.