Devy Primer: Week 3 (2021 Fantasy Football)
The 2021 college football season has already proven to be full of surprises; Florida State lost on a walk-off to Jacksonville State, USC lost their head coach, and Ohio State lost a Week 2 matchup against a Pac-12 team. However, week 3 is here, and there are plenty of storylines that remain.
Ohio St Fallout (Jeff)
Ryan Day has reached his first real crossroads as Ohio St’s coach. No one would accuse Kerry Coombs of doing well in his time as defensive coordinator, and the unit ranks outside the top 100 in yards and points allowed. Day has promised changes, and the Buckeyes will get an opportunity to come through against an outmatched Tulsa team. Still, these opening season performances will be a thorn in any resume regarding the team’s playoff odds. The upside in terms of offensive production is the need to mask these shortcomings. CJ Stroud accumulated 484 yards, and each of Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigbe, and Garrett Wilson topped 100 receiving yards. Still, Stroud struggled in several key moments, and this team, most of all Coombs, has missed Justin Fields. Ohio St is a 24.5 point favorite for the 3:30 matchup with Tulsa.
It’s Been Real, Non-Power 5 (CJ)
In last season’s COVID-19 shortened season, which saw some teams play only four games, there was not much parity in the AP Top 25 poll. Teams like: Liberty, Ball State, San Jose State, and Buffalo all ended the 2020 season in the AP Top 25. It offered great exposure for those schools, gave them an inside track to a better bowl, and was a great talking point to recruits. This year, now that all conferences are back to a full schedule of games, the poll voters have added that parity back to the Top 25 polls. Further illustrating this parity, in the final AP Poll of 2020, the following non-Power five conferences made appearances: the AAC, Sun Belt, MAC, and Mountain West. In the AP Top 25 poll that just came out on Sept 12, 2021, the only non-Power five conference teams ranked are #8 Cincinnati (AAC) and #17 Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt). That’s it. Barring a run of epic proportions, I think this will be the norm as we advance. With the strength of schedules back in full force and all the Power 5 conferences, we probably will not see the lower-level FBS schools back in the polls. For us in the devy community, having those teams not ranked doesn’t make that much difference because we are watching those games anyways, but the casual college football viewer will likely not see those teams play until Bowl Season. It was fun while it lasted.
Sam Howell’s Bounceback (Christian)
Most in the devy and NFL Draft worlds were alarmed by the North Carolina quarterback in Week 1 against Virginia Tech. His less-than-ideal performance on the national stage had many questioning his ability to be ‘the guy at the next level. In Week 2, an entirely different quarterback was on display. Howell was 21/29 for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He added 104 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns on the ground. His highlight was a pass that traveled 64 yards in the air with plenty of arm strength to spare. Howell gets a tough matchup against Virginia in Week 3 (they rank 4th in all college football scoring defense). A down performance could cement ‘The Field’ as ahead of him on 2022 quarterback lists. On the other hand, a repeat of Week 2 could cement Sam Howell as QB1.
Clay Helton Firing (Kevin)
This past weekend after Stanford beat USC 42-28, USC finally fired Clay Helton after seven seasons as their head coach. This move was needed. The firing would have come earlier, but in 2018, he was awarded a six-year contract extension by then Athletic Director Lynn Swann. That extension paid him close to $5 million a year and gave Helton some cover. The cost of firing Helton will be considerable, presumably in the neighborhood of $15 million. It just goes to show you the lack of confidence in him from now Athletic Director Mike Bohn. Helton went 46-24 at USC, which comes out to a .657 winning percentage. But when you dive into the numbers, USC went 9-12 against ranked opponents after he took over full time in 2016, with three of those wins coming during the Trojans’ 10-win campaign that year. They were even worse against top-10 opponents, going 3-6. Their last Top 10 win was against No. 10 Utah in 2019. Helton also had difficulty coaching against USC’s rivals, going 1-3 against Notre Dame, 3-3 against Stanford, and 4-1 against UCLA. He only won one Pac-12 football championship and was 1-2 in bowls. Those numbers aren’t good enough for a program like USC. The real question is who they bring in, and can that coach keep California recruits from leaving the state. This next hire is one of the most critical decisions in USC history.
Grayson McCall (SO – Coastal Carolina) 6’3″, 210 lbs
Grayson McCall has quietly inserted himself in a lot of 2022 quarterback discussions early on in 2021. His first two performances have totaled 507 yards, an 82.5% completion rate, a QBR of 89.1 (good for 2nd in all of college football), and a TD: INT ratio of 3:0. He has been efficient, decisive, and has looked like one of the better 2022 NFL Draft quarterback prospects in a class that lacks clarity. McCall’s ability to throw off the platform with accuracy is the most intriguing trait he has, and that ability will be on display this week. In Week 3, he gets a Buffalo team that ranks 53rd in the nation in passing defense but possesses more talent than his previous opponents. If McCall can continue with his efficient quarterback play, the former 2-star recruit will emerge as a devy fantasy football favorite.
Jayden Daniels (JR – Arizona State) 6’3″, 185 lbs
After leaving his Week 1 matchup early due to injury, Jayden Daniels posted a perplexing yet promising stat line in Week 2. Daniels was 20/29 for 175 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in Week 2. He added 125 yards on the ground, and that number fully encapsulates the talent that Daniels possesses. Daniels has been up and down as a passer throughout his career; the rollercoaster nature has not disappeared. If Daniels is ready to take the next step, he will have to improve upon his 6 yards per attempt and be more careful with the football. However, it’s not impossible, and Daniels could get on the right track against a ranked BYU team in Week 3. BYU has been atrocious against the pass, giving up 274 yards per game and inviting a quarterback like Jayden Daniels to test them. NFL scouts will notice if Daniels can try them with his arm and build off some early-season success.
Brandon Thomas (FR – Memphis) 5’11”, 200 lbs
Memphis’s assembly line at running back continues to roll on, with Brandon Thomas storming into the position. Thomas leads college football with 338 yards rushing, boasting a robust 9.9 ypc average. Thomas is a physical runner with a low to the ground style that allows him to maintain leverage and break tackles while keeping balance. He is listed at 200, surprising given how hard he runs, though his current production could be a product of games against Nicholls and Arkansas St. Mississippi St on Saturday will prove a much stiffer test.
Chris Rodriguez Jr. (JR – Kentucky) 5’11”, 224 lbs
Rodriguez Jr. has modeled his game after former Wildcat and current Steeler Benny Snell. His strength and attitude allow him to finish every run. The team leaned on him against Missouri to the tune of a 27-206-3 line. Rodriguez’s 331 rushing yards place right behind Thomas. Rodriguez is in a position to continue his hot start against Tennessee-Chattanooga before Kentucky hits the teeth of their SEC schedule: South Carolina, Florida, LSU, and Georgia. Rodriguez has an NFL player frame, and if his production can continue through this stretch, he can work his way up a running back class that has raised Devy concerns about the lack of depth towards the top.
Josh Downs (SO – North Carolina) 5’10”, 180lbs
North Carolina’s football team lost Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown, and Dazz Newsome to the NFL this past year. The player primed to fill that void this season is Josh Downs. Downs played sparingly last season, but he showed up big time in their bowl game against Texas A&M. He had four receptions for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Downs is the number one target of All-American QB Sam Howell. In just two games this season, he has 16 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He has a recorded forty-time of 4.46 and is a big-play threat all over the field. His speed allows him to beat defenses over the top and create separation in his routes. However, his most impressive attribute is his release off the line. He’s one of the top sophomore wide receivers in the country, and his stock should rise with Howell throwing him the football. Look for him to have a big game this weekend against Virginia.
Xzavier Henderson (SO – Florida) 6’4″, 190 lbs
Xzavier Henderson finds himself in a great spot to break out in 2021. The Florida Gators lost their three leading receivers in Kyle Pitts, Trevon Grimes, and Kadarius Toney last year. Henderson seems to have taken over the WR-Z position within the Gator offense. After not playing in Week 1, Henderson had four receptions for sixty-eight yards and one touchdown last Saturday against USF. Henderson is an elite athlete with a recorded forty times of 4.55. He can stretch defenses with his long speed. This season, he can be Florida’s vertical threat, and he demonstrated elite body control on those types of catches in high school. His ability to catch the ball at its highest point and create separation from his defender will elevate him among Florida’s other receiver options. It would shock me if Henderson didn’t lead Florida in receiving yards this year. If Henderson can put up big numbers against Alabama, we could discuss a potential breakout season for the young Gator.
Payne Durham (JR- Purdue) 6’5, 255 lbs
In Purdue’s 49-0 rout of Connecticut last week, Payne Durham, their talented tight end, had four catches for 54 yards and 1 TD. That might not be spectacular, but if you consider that in week one vs. Oregon State, Durham went for seven catches, 120 yards, and 2 TDs, he went on many people’s radar. After the Oregon State win, he was named the weekly Mackey Award winner and tied with Purdue teammate WR David Bell for the most touchdowns. Durham was nothing special coming out of high school. He was a 3-star prospect out of Suwanee, Georgia, and the 79th TE in the nation, yet he now finds himself in the conversation to be an NFL draft pick. He is currently 3rd in the country for TEs in both receiving yards and TDs.
This week, Purdue travels to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in a matchup with two of the top 3 TEs in the nation, with Michael Mayer for Notre Dame and Durham. Both teams are undefeated, and with the way Notre Dame has looked the last two weeks, this game is up for grabs. Look for Durham to solidify himself as one of the top NFL tight end prospects in the nationally televised game. With Trey McBride, Michael Mayer, and now Durham, this 2022 TE class is finally taking shape.
Brock Bowers (FR- Georgia) 6’4, 230 lbs
Georgia played UAB last week and beat them decisively, 56-7. The leading receiver for the Dawgs was not Jermaine Burton, Kearis Jackson, or Zamir White; it was Freshman Tight End Brock Bowers. Bowers had seven catches for 107 yards and 2 TDs (including an 89-yard TD reception). And on that 89-yard TD, he outran the entire defense along the sideline. Bowers is a 4-star prospect from Napa, California, and the 3rd best TE in the 2021 class. In high school, he ran a 4.5 40-yd dash. You don’t see many TEs with that height and weight run that fast. A current NFL comp who ran that 40 yd dash time is George Kittle. With nine catches in the first two games for Georgia, it looks like Bowers will be a big part of their offense as the year goes on. Of the top three tight ends in the 2024 class (Clemson’s Jake Briningstool, Nebraska’s Thomas Fidone, and Bowers), Brock Bowers is the only one with any playing time so far. There is still a lot of time to go but put Bowers in your rankings. Georgia opens their SEC schedule this week to welcome the 2-0 South Carolina Gamecocks to Athens. Let’s see how well Bowers does against a more challenging opponent.
Games Of The Week
Purdue @ #12 Notre Dame (-7)
Both teams go into this game undefeated, but Notre Dame has had a couple of close games, and they are about to go on a stretch where they play #18 Wisconsin, #8 Cincinnati, and #15 Virginia Tech in three straight weeks. In week one, they were in an overtime nail-biter in Tallahassee. The Florida State Seminoles scored 18 unanswered 4th quarter points before missing an FG in OT and allowing Notre Dame to come back and win. Then last week, against Toledo, it took a TD pass with 1:09 seconds left to beat the Rockets. This Notre Dame defense has allowed 395 yards/game and 33 points/game to opponents. On the flip side, Purdue’s offense has averaged 495 yards/game and 39 points/game. Notre Dame’s defense will have to step it up against Purdue or their QB, Jack Plummer, who is completing 73% of his passes and has 6 TDs and no interceptions, will have a field day with top 2022 WR prospect David Bell and the TE as mentioned earlier Payne Durham. Notre Dame is also dealing with some critical injuries. So far, their offensive line has been a carousel, and QB Jack Coan dislocated his thumb late in the Toledo game. Even though true freshman QB Tyler Buchner looked effective, I think Notre Dame will have to “execute,” or they will be upset at home as they start a tough stretch of games.
Auburn @ Penn State (-6.5)
One three games between ranked teams on the schedule, both these teams enter undefeated. Auburn’s path has featured wins against Akron and Alabama State by an average margin of 56 points. The Tigers come in stocked with noted devy asset RB Tank Bigsby averaging 120 yards in the blowout wins. The passing game features veterans in QB Bo Nix and WRs Shedrick Jackson and Demetris Robertson. Robertson first arrived in college in 2016 and set a career-high with three touchdowns against Alabama State.
Penn St enters the game battle-tested with a win at Wisconsin. Nix has played slightly better than his counterpart, but QB Sean Clifford brings four years of experience into the game. Auburn gets the edge at running back, though Noah Cain can prove capable in moments. But WRs Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington swing the skill pendulum toward the Nittany Lions. The team comes in battling distraction, with recent links between James Franklin and USC’s now open head coach position. The 6.5 is a significant number, but Penn St has home-field advantage and has slightly more experience in big-game situations this season. Look for them to cover in this game.
Fresno State vs. UCLA (-11.5)
This game has the potential to be the best game this weekend. It’s an underrated matchup. Fresno State comes in at 2-1, having suffered the lone loss to the Oregon Ducks team that beat Ohio State. At the risk of a hot take, but Fresno State is the best team that UCLA has played this season, including their offense. Through three games, Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener has thrown for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns. UCLA will need to stop Fresno State’s passing attack if they want to be successful. They will also need to establish their running game. UCLA has kept the ball on the ground for 70.5% of its plays in its first two games. Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown have combined for 6.75 yards per carrying on first downs and have carried UCLA to a 3-0 record. If they can continue their dominance in the rushing attack, we could be talking about UCLA as a sleeper for the College Football Playoff. Fresno State will test them Saturday night in Pasadena.
Alabama (-15.5) vs. Florida
This weekend, the marquee SEC matchup comes in Alabama vs. Florida, with both teams trending upward. After a slow start, Alabama put its foot on the gas and trounced Mercer 48-14. Bryce Young and Brian Robinson paced the team, contributing to four of the five Alabama touchdowns. The Gators were just as impressive, with standout freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson posting a ridiculous 3/3 for 152 yards and two touchdowns and adding four carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Richardson completely changes the dynamic of this Week 3 matchup, but he did pull up with a hamstring injury that sent him out of the game in Week 2. However, he is practicing this week, indicating that he could be ready to face the stout Alabama defense.
The recipe for beating Alabama does not exist, but if there’s a single player that could do it, it’s Anthony Richardson. Florida HC Dan Mullen will likely start Emory Jones, who poses much less of a threat on the ground and has a less intimidating deep ball. With the offensive talent on both sides of the field, this should prove to be a high-scoring affair that leads to the inevitable; an Alabama win and cover.
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