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Devy Primer: Week 4 (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Jeff Bell | @4WhomJBellTolls | Featured Writer
Sep 22, 2021
Spencer Rattler

Fresh off an SEC contender tilt that saw Alabama beat Florida closer than the experts expected, the college football calendar hits a bit of a lull this week. Two ranked matchups, Texas A&M, takes on Arkansas and Notre Dame travels to Wisconsin represent the only two significant tilts. Week 4 should present an opportunity for some premier programs, most notably Ohio St, Clemson, and Oklahoma, to settle in and live up to expectations. If recent history is any indication, a sleepy week may lead to surprises.  Kevin ColemanChristian WilliamsJeff Bell, & C.J. Lang guide you through the Week 4 action.

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The Defensive Revolution (Jeff)

Through the last decade of college football, one thing has remained constant—offensive production. Continued innovation through spread offensive schemes pushed point totals up. Even Nick Saban recognized the revolution, switching from an NFL-style plan to a wide-open system that allowed talented athletes to shine. Devonta Smith ultimately won the first WR Heisman in decades. This season has applied the brakes to the spiraling point totals. Over the last five years, the average score per team was 28 points; so far, in 2021, that’s dropped two points to 26. Alabama is down 11 ppg, Oklahoma is also down 11 ppg, and Clemson’s offense has fallen off a cliff from 43 ppg down to 8.5. The week one slugfest between Georgia and Clemson has portrayed what was to come, a stark contrast from some of the “first to 50” big games that have dominated the sport in recent years. Meanwhile, defensive led teams like Oregon, Iowa, Penn St., and Cincinnati has filled the top 10. It is undoubtedly early, and time can level the numbers back towards expectations, but few could have expected this sort of wave to hit the sport based on recent history.

Injuries at QB1 (CJ)

We are only three weeks in, and we already have some big-time programs with some question marks at quarterback. The USC Trojans started the season with junior Kedon Slovis under center, but after getting hurt against Washington State last week, the 10th ranked QB in the 2021 class, freshman Jaxson Dart, came in and was impressive. Then he got hurt too. Slovis was mediocre in his two games averaging 240 passing yards and 2 TDs. Dart came in to relieve Slovis against the Cougars and threw for 391 yards and 4 TDs. Who will USC roll out Saturday vs. Oregon State? I’ll let you know Saturday.

Another team that wants to keep their QB clean this weekend is Ohio State. Freshman C.J. Stroud hurt his throwing shoulder last week vs. Tulsa. Head Coach Ryan Day has said that if Stroud practices this week, he could start against Akron on Saturday, but I would not expect him to see the field for the entire game. I would think they would put Stroud on a “pitch count” against a team they should dominate anyway. Redshirt freshman Jack Miller III and true freshman Kyle McCord could see the field to give Stroud some extra time to heal his shoulder before the Buckeyes open up their Big Ten season in two weeks vs. Rutgers. It’s a situation to keep your eye on in Columbus.

Parity in College Football (Christian)

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The recipe has been standard order of operations for the College Football Playoff Committee, or, at least, how it feels after the last few years. The 2021 season will present a challenge to the committee: who to put in when no one is deserving. College football is full of parity right now; teams that usually pull away in their conferences have losses or close wins against weak opponents (e.g., Ohio State, Clemson, etc.). Even Alabama looks susceptible to dropping a game in the SEC after they narrowly escaped Emory Jones and company in The Swamp in Week 3. Parity is refreshing. It is essential. And now parity is reality. The College Football Playoffs could feature 2-3 teams that missed the cut in 2020, and that alone makes this season of college football worth watching.

Spencer Rattler Draft Stock (Kevin)

The 2022 quarterback class will be one of the most debated classes we have had in a long time. There is no clear frontrunner, and each prospect has flaws in the class. Spencer Rattler, who many had as their QB1 heading into the 2021 season, has seen the biggest fall. His play on the field has been uninspiring. Against a terrible Nebraska team, Rattler threw for 214 yards and a touchdown. At the same time, he didn’t have a lousy game most fans left wanting more from the QB1. If you take out their game against the juggernaut Western Carolina Catamounts, Oklahoma has struggled against Tulane and Nebraska, which doesn’t bode well for Rattler. Rattler’s most significant flaws don’t come with his skills but rather his decision-making. For years, there have been rumors about his questionable “Work Ethic,” and his play has done little to quiet those rumors. Off the field, he has also been the subject of controversy. Before the Nebraska game, he announced a partnership with an Oklahoma City auto dealership and was gifted a new muscle car or pickup truck. He also posts multiple Instagram links to his own branded merchandise, which has got the attention of the Oklahoma fan base. While there is nothing wrong with what Rattler is doing, it’s not suitable for optics. He’s been struggling on the field, and when you watch him play, there are moments where he seemingly throws the ball into triple coverage and works with simple mechanics. Oklahoma plays an underrated West Virginia team, coming off a big win against #15 Virginia Tech this week, and if they lose, Rattler’s draft stock will spiral. He needs a big game against a good Big 12 opponent. This Saturday will be huge for Rattler to quiet the critics. 

Player Spotlights

Quarterbacks

Tanner Mordecai (JR – SMU) 6’2”, 211 lbs

Tanner Mordecai was the #11 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class. That’s probably the first thing to keep in mind when discussing his NFL prospects. The second: he’s playing excellent football right now. He’s currently completing 73% of his passes, averaging over 9 yards per attempt, has thrown 16 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and still has dual-threat capabilities. Mordecai didn’t work out in Oklahoma, primarily due to the emergence of some incredible players in Kyler Murray and Spencer Rattler. But SMU could challenge Cincinnati and Memphis in the AAC, primarily due to their excellent quarterback play. Mordecai may never be an NFL prospect, but what he has put on tape in 2021 should get some attention from the league, and it’s probably time to start discussing what he could be at the next level. This week, he gets a strong TCU team that has given up just 192 yards through the air to opposing quarterbacks in 2021. If he can produce this weekend, those discussions probably commence.

Bailey Zappe (SR – Western Kentucky) 6’1″, 220

This spotlight probably should’ve come a couple of weeks ago, but Bailey Zappe looks like one of the best quarterbacks in college football right now. He’s completing 74% of his passes, averaging over 11 yards per attempt, and has shown some NFL tools on the game film. This week, Zappe gets a hungry Indiana team that gave Heisman candidate Desmond Ridder fits in the first half of their matchup at home against Cincinnati. His deep ball is remarkable, and of those with at least 40 attempts this season, Zappe has the third-highest yards per attempt clip in all college football. Zappe currently possesses an 85.7 adjusted completion percentage on throws of 20 or more yards, good for first in college football (by a wide margin). If Zappe can continue his upward trajectory against this heightened level of competition, he can continue his upward trend in devy and NFL Draft rankings.

Running Backs

Isaiah Spiller (JR – Texas A&M) 5’11”, 215 lbs

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas would not be a matchup circled two weeks ago, but after an Arkansas upset of mutual rival Texas, here we are. This game features the two highest-ranked teams to meet up this week, and the Razorbacks come in on the back of a tough defense that shut down much-heralded back Bijan Robinson to the tune of 3.6 ypc. Now it is Spiller’s turn. Viewed by many as the top RB in the 2022 class, the Aggies will need to lean on Spiller if they hope to survive through this week. Spiller has sandwiched two big games against overmatched Kent St and New Mexico between a disappointing outing against Colorado that saw him only put up 20 yards on eight rushes. Still, that game featured his versatility as he came through with the game-winning touchdown catch. It is easy to fall in love with Spiller’s game; he showcases power and balance with enough speed to make teams pay, all in an NFL feature back frame. This game is likely to be his stiffest test of the season, outside of the looming matchup with Alabama.  

Chez Mellusi (JR – Wisconsin) 5’11”, 204 lbs

Alabama has staked hold to the title “RB U” given their endless stream of early picks flowing through the position into the NFL. But Wisconsin is just behind with notable alumni like Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gordon, and James White. Saturday against Notre Dame, Mellusi has his opportunity to catapult into the draft conversation. An underlooked transfer from Clemson, he beat out incumbent Jalen Berger and carried the momentum to a strong start with 265 rushing yards on a 5.2 ypc on the season. Notre Dame’s defense carries prestige, but they have been gashed on the ground, ranking 101st in the nation in yards per attempt. Mellusi is a north-south runner who wastes slight motion in getting upfield, though it is fair to question if his game can translate to the NFL level as he does not feature the speed one would like to see at his size. Still, a big game in one of the premier games of the weekend will propel him into the national conversation.

Wide Receivers

Demond Demas (FR – Texas A&M) 6’3″, 180lbs 

Demond Demas was one of the best WR recruits in the country two years ago. Demas didn’t play his senior season because of a transfer issue, but during his junior season at Houston North Forest, Demas caught 50 passes for 1,574 yards and 23 touchdowns. Coming into Texas A&M, there was a lot of hype for the young receiver. Unfortunately for Demas, his freshman year didn’t go as planned. He dealt with a steep learning curve and injuries that limited his playing time. There was a lot of concern for Demas never living up to expectations, but last Saturday showed why he has so much potential. He only had two receptions, but they were for 100 yards and a touchdown, including a seventy-yard touchdown in the first half. Demas needed this type of game, and I am optimistic that he can live up to his expectations.

As a receiver, the first thing that pops off Demas’s tape is his catching ability. He has tremendous eye discipline and can pretty much make every catch that is within his catching radius. He tracks the ball well on deep balls and uses his elite athleticism to high point the ball. He has some of the best ball skills I have seen from a receiver in quite some time. Demas also possesses tremendous hands, and he can catch pretty much any ball thrown his way. Demas also shines after he catches the ball. A recorded 40 time of 4.36 shows in the open field. There aren’t many defenders who can see him after he accelerates, and he is a YAC monster. While raw, he can be a premier playmaker in college football. 

Deven Thompkins (SR – Utah State) 5’8″, 155 lbs

Deven Thompkins might not be a household name, but he currently leads the NCAA in receiving yards with 454 yards in three games. He also has 25 receptions and three touchdowns and is averaging 18.2 yards per catch. He is dominating opposing defenses and is a big reason why Utah State is 3-0 on the year. Despite his size, Thompkins is a physical receiver. He routinely makes catches in 50/50 situations and uses his size to his benefit. His actual value lies in his explosiveness and his YAC ability. He is dynamic when he touches the ball and gets out in space. You should expect Thompkins to be one of the best receivers in college football this season. Since he lacks size, I have a hard time seeing him as an NFL prospect; however, if he keeps up this production level, he could find himself on an NFL roster in training camp. 

Tight Ends

Gerrit Prince (SR- UAB) 6’5, 240 lbs

Gerrit Prince may not be a household name, but he may be soon. The UAB redshirt senior was a walk-on from Shawnee, KS, in 2018. He added 30 lbs. from his high school playing weight and converted from wide receiver to tight end when he walked onto the Birmingham campus. He currently leads the entire NCAA in receiving yards per reception (29.1), and last week in a win @ North Texas, he had three catches for 136 yards and 2 TDs. He trails only Colorado State’s Trey McBride and Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer for most receiving yards by a tight end this season and is currently in his breakout year. In Prince’s first three seasons, he had 14 catches for 129 yards and 5 TDs. Only three weeks into this season, and he already has seven catches for 204 yards and 3 TDs. With the help of Prince and his big-play ability, UAB could put themselves in a position to contend for the C-USA Championship.  

Grant Calcaterra (SR- SMU) 6’5, 247 lbs

Many of you will recognize the name Grant Calcaterra. He was the 6th ranked TE in the 2017 class and played three years for the Oklahoma Sooners. He had a great sophomore year in 2018, where he had 26 catches for 396 yards and 6 TDs. He was one of Kyler Murray’s primary targets, and it looked like Calcaterra’s destiny was to climb the NFL draft boards. Well, in 2019, concussions forced him to retire medically. He missed 2020 as he was recovering but came out of retirement this year to play for SMU. He fills a role that Kylen Granson left open after being a 4th round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts. With another former Sooner, QB Tanner Mordecai, throwing him the ball last week in a win @ Louisiana Tech, Calcaterra had seven catches for 103 yards. He sits top 10 in all receiving categories in the AAC and looks to have regained his 2018 form. It’s a great comeback story, and it will be fun to watch as the 3-0 Mustangs enter the meat of the 2021 campaign when they travel to Fort Worth to take on TCU this Saturday. 

Games Of The Week

#9 Clemson @ NC State (-10.5)

This game has “trap” written all over it. Clemson has been less than impressive in 2021, already dropping a game before a narrow victory against Georgia Tech (a team widely regarded as one of the worst in the ACC). They are averaging 24 points per game, but against FBS teams, they are averaging just 12 points per game. Meanwhile, North Carolina State boasts a decent pass defense (#43 in the nation) and one of the best run defenses in the country (#12 in the nation). Their winning formula consists of a pair of talented running backs in Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. While Clemson is decent against the run, Zamir White and company were able to succeed with their running game in Clemson’s opening weekend loss against Georgia. DJ Uiagalelei has looked like a shell of the player we saw fill in for Trevor Lawrence in 2020, and it’s clear that a lot of development is needed if he is considered one of the best quarterbacks in his draft class. But betting on on-the-fly growth against a 2-1 NC State team that possesses a solid defense is risky, and if DJ doesn’t play well, it’s entirely plausible that NC State emerges from the weekend with fewer losses than Clemson.

#12 Notre Dame @ #18 Wisconsin (-6.5)

Jack Coan circled this game when he left Wisconsin and will get his shot at his former team on Fox’s Big Noon game of the week. The season has not started smoothly for either of these teams. Notre Dame comes in fresh off a two-touchdown win against Purdue, but each of their first two games against Florida St and Toledo came down to the wire. The Fighting Irish are still hunting for identity; in recent years, they have ridden a strong defense, but absent All-American safety Kyle Hamilton, that unit has struggled. The team seemed to breakout in 2020, but with the limited Coan replacing longtime starter Ian Book the offense has yet to come near the heights of their previous playoff iterations. Wisconsin comes in rested; they opened the season with a close loss against Penn St before a walkover win against Eastern Michigan and a bye week. Graham Mertz has struggled to establish himself at QB, and the team has leaned on their usual formula of the run game and defense. Despite the rankings, it is fair to question if either of these teams is particularly good, and in what should be a low-scoring game, the safe play is the points along with Coan’s revenge factor.   

#25 Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (-7)

Kansas State comes into this game 3-0 and is the new #25 ranked team in the country. Kansas State beat an excellent MWC opponent in Nevada last game without starting quarterback Skylar Thompson. With Thompson injured, K-State leaned heavily on their running backs. Deuce Vaughn had 23 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Joe Ervin also got into the mix and rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown. An Oklahoma State’s defense is allowing just 2.6 yards per rush will test the attack. On the flip side, Kansas State’s defense is allowing just 1.9 yards per rush. That means a test for Oklahoma State’s Jaylen Warren Saturday. Warren looks like the next great running back at Oklahoma State. This season, he has 52 carries for 264 yards and four touchdowns, including a career-high thirty-two carries against Boise State. The defense that can stop the run will decide this game. You should expect a defensive battle with little scoring in this Big 12 affair. 

#7 Texas A&M (-5.5) @ #16 Arkansas

Both the Aggies and the Razorbacks come into this weekend sporting a 3-0 record, and they will both open their SEC play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, this Saturday. The Razorbacks are still riding high after beating rival Texas two weeks ago, and honestly, they have been playing just as well as anyone else in the SEC. Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has been on a bit of a coaching carousel since his stint at Baylor, where he was a finalist for Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015. But his high-powered offense is led by a big QB in K.J. Jefferson (6’3, 245 lbs.) and soon-to-be first-round NFL draft pick WR, Treylon Burks. The Razorbacks’ defense may be the cog in the wheel that puts Arkansas over in this game. They have been playing lights out and have allowed an average of only 246 yards of total offense the last two weeks. But it is the start of a rough stretch for the Hogs as they travel to Athens to play #2 Georgia next week.  

Jimbo Fisher is no stranger to big games, and even though this may not be the Saturday Night Game of the Week, this game still should be taken seriously by the Aggies. Their defense has been outstanding this season. Even though they have not played the most formidable opponents (Kent State, Colorado, & New Mexico), the defense is ranked #1 or #2 in almost every category in the SEC. If anything is going to be an issue for the Aggies this weekend, it will be their sputtering offense. Two weeks ago, at home vs. Colorado, they could muster only 10 points, which ended up being three more points than they needed to win. They rank dead last in the SEC in offensive yards, offensive TDs, yards per game, and have the third-fewest points scored in the conference. Maybe the atmosphere in Arlington will help ignite something, or they will be able to carry some momentum from their 34-0 victory vs. New Mexico last week. Still, right now, their #7 ranking is in serious jeopardy this week. 

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