The last week of the regular season upon us, and while that's a bummer on many levels, at least we get to enjoy one more full weekend of great games. Before I sign off until August, I'd like to thank the dedicated few of you that read this article week-in and week-out -- it definitely doesn't go unnoticed. I hope you all enjoyed the article and, as always, feel free to ask lineup-related questions in the comments section!
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (vs. Navy): Sutton has been SMU's top receiving threat for two seasons now, but his current hot streak is unlike anything he's done before in his career. He's always been a great big-play threat, but now he's becoming more consistent as a receiver with back-to-back games of double-digit receptions. In that two-game stretch, Sutton totaled 25 grabs for 418 yards and four touchdowns. That is borderline reckless behavior. A matchup with Navy might be perceived as tough, but Sutton is matchup proof at this point and the Midshipmen have given up 10 passing touchdowns and a 10.5 YPA mark in three November games. Look for SMU to attack the Midshipmen through the air with Sutton serving as the primary target.
Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami (vs. Duke): The young phenom has posted three consecutive 100-yard games on his way to breaking Michael Irving's school record for receiving yards by a freshman. Richards is up to 849 yards on the season, meaning that a 1,000-yard season could be on the table thanks to a soft matchup against the Blue Devils. Opposing quarterbacks have a 139.2 rating against Duke this season, which bodes well for Richards' chances at reaching that milestone. Although Stacy Coley sees the most targets among Miami receivers, Richards has shown to be the Canes' best deep threat (19.74) and his favorable matchup this week makes him a must-start option at wideout.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech (vs. Baylor): Mahomes is coming off his worst game of the season in which he went 18-of-36 for just 219 yards with one touchdown and two picks in a head-scratching loss to Iowa State. A weak performance like that coupled with a matchup against Baylor's secondary (20th in the nation in QB rating allowed) might give some Mahomes owners cold feet. Baylor's strong numbers on the season are buoyed by lights-out play in the early portion of the season, however. In November, the Bears rank 103rd in QB Rating and they just got blown out by Kansas State. To reiterate: Kansas State doesn't blow out ANYONE. With that, Mahomes should be licking his chops heading into what could be his final home game as a Red Raider. Look for Mahomes to regain form and get back to putting up video game-esque numbers Friday in Lubbock.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (vs. Michigan State): The Spartans carry a sterling defensive reputation thanks to years and years of excellent play on that side of the ball. This year has been a different story, however, and Barkley should take advantage of what is a surprisingly favorable matchup as the Nittany Lions look to lock up the Big Ten East crown. In fact, Barkley could be one of the highest-producing backs in the nation this week. Interestingly, he has been held to less than 100 yards on the ground in favorable matchups against Indiana and Rutgers the last two weeks. However, both of those games were on the road and Barkley has been quantifiably better at home this season, where he's averaging 1.27 more yards per carry than he is away from Happy Valley. He'll face a Spartans run defense that's giving up 4.73 yards per carry in November and is coming off a physical game against Ohio State. Look for Barkley to feast Saturday. Elsewhere around the Big Ten, any and all Indiana or Northwestern players should be deployed this weekend with matchups against Purdue and Illinois, respectively.
Ryan Higgins, QB, Louisiana Tech (at Southern Mississippi): The Bulldogs will be well-rested Friday coming off a bye week as they wrap up their regular season. On paper, Southern Miss has arguably the best pass defense in the conference as the Golden Eagles have held the opposition to just 175.7 yards per game through the air. That's an impressive mark in any context, but past success goes out the window when the Louisiana Tech offense enters the equation. Higgins leads the second-highest scoring offense in the nation (45.8 PPG), trailing only the Lamar Jackson-led Louisville Cardinals. Thus, even if Southern Miss has a stingy and opportunistic pass defense, it likely won't be enough to significantly slow Higgins and the Bulldogs’ offense Friday.
Jarvion Franklin, RB, Western Michigan (vs. Toledo): Franklin's coming off one of his least impressive showings of the season, being held to just 76 yards against Buffalo and snapping his six-game touchdown streak in the process. This week presents a tougher matchup on paper with Western Michigan hosting Toledo with major MAC championship implications at stake. The Rockets’ defense hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown in November despite facing some strong ground attacks. That said, Franklin is as dangerous of a runner as there is in the MAC and he should be able to have success Saturday even against a defense of Toledo's caliber. Furthermore, the potential for adverse weather conditions could result in Western Michigan taking a more run-heavy approach than usual Saturday, which would result in an uptick in carries for the two-time 1,000-yard rusher.
Tanner Gentry, WR, Wyoming (at New Mexico): With this week's article the last of the season, I have to give Gentry the shoutout here after leaving him out of this piece all year. He's been one of the best and most consistent receivers, not just in the Mountain West, but the nation this season. The senior has hauled in 57 receptions for 1,020 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016, making him one of just 22 wideouts in the nation with at least 1,000 receiving yards. This week he draws a matchup with New Mexico -- a team that has given up a MWC-leading 22 touchdowns this season. Wyoming figures to put up plenty of points in what is expected to be a competitive shootout and with that, look for Gentry to put up WR1 level production.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado (vs. Utah): Despite going against the best run defense in the Pac-12 in terms of yards allowed per game last week (Washington State. Weird, right?), Lindsay bulldozed his way to 144 yards and two touchdowns in a crucial win over the Cougars. The competition doesn't get much easier this time around with Utah coming to Boulder, but Lindsay's tough running style suggests that he's up to the challenge. He's gotten stronger as the season's gone on; his 80 carries through three November games are more than either of his carry totals in four games in both September and October. Lindsay has also increased his touchdown production this month with a whopping six trips to the end zone in those three games. Look for Utah to see a heavy dosage of Lindsay on Saturday at Folsom Field.
Damarea Crockett, RB, Missouri (vs. Arkansas): There's a bit of recency bias in play with Crockett coming off a record-setting 225-yard performance against Tennessee, but there's also a common theme from this season woven in. The common theme? Picking a running back against Arkansas. The Hogs have been slaughtered on the ground this season with a 6.30 YPC allowed to go with 33 touchdowns given up on the ground. That YPC number gets even worse on the road as the Razorbacks allow 8.13 YPC away from Fayetteville, which is more than a yard from than the next-worst team (California). Crockett's had 20 or more carries in each of the last two games, and if that trend continues Friday, look for him to put up gaudy numbers yet again.
Elijah McGuire, UL-Lafayette (vs. Arkansas State): The way Arkansas State just bottled up Troy's Jordan Chunn in last week's game is enough for owners to at least wonder whether McGuire is as safe a play as he's normally perceived to be. The Red Wolves held Chunn, the Sun Belt's second-leading rusher, to just 51 yards on 16 carries last week as Arkansas State pulled the massive upset. While Chunn was getting shut down by Arkansas State, McGuire was running for 129 yards (6.79 YPC) against Georgia. Considering McGuire was able to put up that kind of production against an SEC team, owners should have no trepidation in using him Saturday against an Arkansas State team that hadn't been exceptional against the run until its meeting with Troy.
Gardner Minshew, QB, East Carolina (at Temple): Minshew has performed well when called upon for the Pirates this season and appears primed to start the season finale against Temple. Yes, Minshew has one of the most dangerous weapons in the nation at his disposal in Zay Jones, who is just four receptions shy of tying the single-season record for catches (155). While Jones is matchup proof and will catch nearly anything thrown his way, that doesn't necessarily mean Minshew will have an easy go of it this week. Temple's defense, especially its secondary, has been incredible since the calendar turned to November. The Owls have pitched consecutive shutouts while allowing all of 93 yards through the air in that stretch.
Dedrick Mills, RB, Georgia Tech (at Georgia): Mills will undoubtedly be fresh coming off a two-game suspension, but there's a possibility that he sees a diminished workload thanks to Marcus Marshall's strong performance in his absence. Marshall ran for 270 yards and two touchdowns while Mills was suspended, which is the kind of production that should lock him into a sizable role even with Mills back in action. To be clear, Mills has had an extremely strong freshman campaign, particularly in terms of touchdown production with 10 rushing TDs on 114 carries. Still, Mills has been suspended twice this season, which raises legitimate questions about his role heading into the season finale. What's more, Georgia has one of the nation’s best rushing defenses, holding opponents to a mere 3.77 yards per carry. In sum, Mills has a tough matchup to begin with Saturday and he's in danger of losing carries to Marshall.
Ke'aun Kinner, RB, Kansas (at Kansas State): Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are on bye this week, which limited the number of viable fantasy options to choose from for this article.That said, Kinner does fit the criteria as a sit candidate for Week 13 due to an extremely tough matchup against one of the best run defenses in the nation. The Wildcats are holding opponents to just 3.6 yards per carry and have allowed just 10 rushing touchdowns this season. Kinner, on the other hand, has had a strong second season with the Jayhawks, averaging 5.44 YPC -- which is a 1.2 yard improvement from a year ago. Also, his workload has been on the rise in recent weeks with 18 and 20 carries in his last two outings. While Kinner's workload might remain in that range this week, he's not quite explosive enough to rip off chunk yardage on Kansas State's stout front seven.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (vs. Michigan): A quarterback of Barrett's stature is virtually impossible to leave on the bench in a given week, but a matchup against Michigan certainly puts that idea to the test. Barrett absolutely shredded Michigan on the ground last season, taking 19 rushes for 139 yards and three touchdowns in a rout of the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. If I were to guess, I wouldn't think that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has really forgotten about what Barrett and the Buckeyes did to his team a year ago. What's more, Michigan's defense is better than it was a year ago, though the Wolverines had one of the better units in the nation in 2015. Look for Michigan to try to limit Barrett's running lanes Saturday and force him to go to the air.
Ito Smith, RB, Southern Mississippi (vs. Western Kentucky): Smith has been one of the pleasant surprises among Conference USA running backs this season, racking up 1,194 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground while averaging 5.55 yards per carry. Unfortunately, he draws about as tough a matchup as there is in the conference with Louisiana Tech coming off a bye week. The Bulldogs have been susceptible to the pass this season but they're holding opposing rushers to just 3.66 yards per carry on the year. If quarterback Nick Mullens remains sidelined Friday, Louisiana Tech will be able to key in on stopping Smith entirely and forcing the Golden Eagles to lean on their backup quarterback for answers. Smith could very well challenge for the century mark Friday, but he'll likely do so in a much less efficient fashion than we've grown accustomed to seeing. Furthermore, Southern Miss could find itself in a large deficit in the early going, which would likely cause the Golden Eagles to abandon the run.
Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force (vs. Boise State): Robinette accounts for nearly all of Air Force's receiving yards and his unbelievable 26.3 YPR has made him a viable fantasy option this season despite playing in a triple-option offense. With that, Robinette relies on explosive plays to get most of his yardage given that he simply doesn't see the target volume of other top receivers. Boise State has been excellent at limiting explosive plays this season as the Broncos rank second in the MWC in pass plays of 25-plus yards allowed. Although Boise State hasn't been as good on the road as it has at home this year, the Broncos secondary is still an excellent unit that should be able to limit Robinette's effectiveness Friday.
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (at Oregon State): Amid all the things that have gone horribly wrong for the Ducks this season, Herbert has been one of the few reasons for optimism among Oregon fans. The freshman quarterback took over the reins against Washington in early October and has improved every week. Herbert showed toughness last week by re-entering the game after suffering a hand injury and proceeding to lead the Ducks to a wild upset victory on the road against Utah. This week presents an oddly difficult matchup for Herbert and the Oregon passing game, however, with Oregon State playing an excellent brand of pass defense. The Beavers hold quarterbacks to 211.0 yards per game on a 6.2 YPA clip, both of which are strong numbers in the Pac-12. Herbert may still be a worthwhile start in deep two-quarterback formats, but otherwise, his surprisingly difficult road matchup this week makes him a bench candidate in most formats.
Rico Dowdle, RB, South Carolina (at Clemson): Dowdle has given Gamecock fans a reason for optimism all season with 684 yards and six touchdowns in just seven games. He's coming off an absolutely dominant showing against Western Carolina in which he ran for a career-high 226 yards and two scores on just 21 carries. Furthermore, given that South Carolina will be starting a true freshman at quarterback this weekend in a hostile environment, Dowdle might be in line to see 20 or more carries again Saturday to alleviate some of the pressure on Jake Bentley. Unfortunately, Clemson knows that it needs to take care of business against its in-state rival to maintain its playoff position and the Tigers have a run defense that's one of the best in the nation. Clemson's 3.52 YPC mark ranks 21st despite facing some of the nation’s best rushing attacks. If Clemson sells out on the run game Saturday, it won't matter how many touches Dowdle will get for the Gamecocks.
Larry Rose III, RB, New Mexico State (vs. Appalachian State): After a slow start to the season, Rose is beginning to recapture his 2015 form. He's coming off back-to-back 100-yard outings and has averaged well over 6.0 yards per carry in each of his last three outings. Even though Rose looks to be his old self now, it might not be enough to make him worth keeping in your lineups for Week 13. Like the common theme of picking on the Arkansas defense, another regular feature in this article has been avoiding Sun Belt running backs going against Appalachian State like the plague. The Mountaineers hold rushers to just 3.79 yards per carry, and that number drops to just 3.43 YPC against Sun Belt competition. Rose's recent run of success suggests that he'll present a tough test for the App State defense in his own right, but the Mountaineers' suffocating brand of defense will make it tough for the Aggies to get on the scoreboard at all on Saturday.