Devy Primer: Week 5 (2021 Fantasy Football)
This weekend may be the most impactful on the college football playoff picture of the entire season. The SEC balance of power shifts as upstarts Ole Miss and Arkansas get their shots at blue blood Alabama and Georgia this weekend. An upset in either game will shape the complexion of the conference’s playoff spots. Elsewhere the hopes of the G5 finally breaking into the bracket via Cincinnati go up against Notre Dame’s bid to steal a conference spot. Oklahoma, Iowa, Oregon, and Michigan all face road tests that look to derail the hot starts to their season. Kevin Coleman, Christian Williams, Jeff Bell, & C.J. Lang guide you through the Week five action.
Midnight in Death Valley (Jeff)
Dabo Swinney has lived a charmed existence since taking over as Clemson’s coach. He retired the phrase “Clemsoning” (inexplicably losing in an upset to wreck a season) and was able to push the program to two national championships. A combination of recruiting, player development, and a downturn at programs like Miami and Florida St has contributed to a run of six consecutive ACC Championships. That run is in jeopardy. The college football playoff hopes ended before the calendar turned to October. Still, the team needs to run the table and hope NC State loses twice to appear in Charlotte for the conference championship game. Expectations were high with an experienced defense, a highly regarded quarterback in D.J. Uiagalelei, and a pre-season ranking of number 2. Now the team is one loss away from their worst record since 2014. Is this a blip, or has the college football world caught up with the magic in little ole Clemson?
Surprise Undefeated Teams (CJ)
If you were to tell me a month ago that by October 1st: Ohio State would be ranked 5th in the Big Ten East, Clemson would be ranked 25th overall, Arkansas would be in the top 10, and FSU would be winless, I’d say you were crazy. But that’s where we find ourselves at the start of Week 5 in the 2021 college football season. There are 26 undefeated teams left in FBS. Some are the usual suspects being Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Michigan. Still, some others are off to fast starts, and I think we need to pay attention to them. Some of the notable undefeated teams left are Boston College and Wake Forest from the ACC, in the Big Ten Michigan State, and from the SEC, Kentucky. Most of these teams have played only one conference game or none, but it is fun to see some new schools in the top 25. The strength of schedule will play a factor in where the teams end up at the end of the season, but some, like Clemson, look in serious trouble. College athletics saves Cinderella stories for March during the NCAA basketball tournament, but this year seems different. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been longing for college football so much after the COVID shortened 2020 season, or perhaps the powerhouse programs are not so immortal after all. Regardless, it’s been fun to watch.
The 2023 RB Class (Christian)
Dynasty managers have long been aware of the strength of 2023’s running back class. But all too often, a position group gets hyped to unrealistic expectations, and the subsequent rookie draft ends up disappointing. The 2023 rookie draft will not be disappointing. The heavy hitters in Bijan Robinson, Zach Evans, and Tank Bigsby all rank inside the top 30 in rushing in the FBS. Jahmyr Gibbs has been the most disappointing of the class, and he’s averaging 85 yards from scrimmage on a reasonably bad Georgia Tech team that saw their offensive line get bullied against a stout Clemson defensive line. Add in the pleasant surprises of Blake Corum and Trey Potts – each of which ranks in the top ten in rushing yards per game – and the 2023 running back class looks like it will stack up nicely against the 2020 class; 2023 is looking strong. Flash plays and exciting early-college career film often dupes dynasty managers. Barring severe injury, that will not be the case for 2023’s running back class.
Non-Power 5 Playoff Run (Kevin)
Through five weeks, the 2021 season has seen upsets create havoc over the College Football landscape. While the perennial contenders are still around, there are some new faces in the top 25 of college football these days. Schools like Oregon, Arkansas, and Penn State find themselves unfamiliarly in the top 10. But the real story this season is, can a non-power five team make it into the College Football Playoff? The contenders for that coveted spot are Cincinnati(#7), BYU(#13), Coastal Carolina(#16), and Fresno State(#18). Each team has outperformed their pre-season rankings. Fresno State has the best resume after beating UCLA in LA and only losing to Oregon by 7. BYU has looked great this season, and Coastal Carolina has done just enough to remain undefeated. The real contender right now is in Cincinnati. Cincinnati this week is possibly playing the program’s biggest game in over a decade as they travel to Notre Dame. This game is the type it takes to break through the Group of Five and make the playoff. It’s one of the most exciting storylines this season.
Matt Corral (RS JR – Ole Miss) 6’0″, 200 lbs
There isn’t a quarterback prospect that has seen his draft stock rise more than Matt Corral. Corral ranks 7th in the nation in passing yards per game, 3rd in yards per attempt, 9th in EPA, and hasn’t thrown a single interception in 2021. His toughest test comes this weekend at Alabama, where he’ll face a team littered with NFL talent for the first time this season. Corral has a chance to put a stamp on the Heisman race, and Ole Miss has the offensive talent to help him do just that. Corral has entered 2022 QB1 discussions; if he performs well against Alabama, he will virtually have that title locked up.
KJ Jefferson (SO – Arkansas) 6’3″, 245 lbs.
Last week, the Cam Newton comparisons on the CBS broadcast were probably too rich, but KJ Jefferson has been incredibly impressive through 4 weeks in 2021. At 6’3 and 245 lbs, Jefferson’s ability to challenge defenses with his legs is imposing. Jefferson has been shakey as a passer, but he has been lights out since his less-than-stellar performance against Texas. Jefferson is averaging over 268 scrimmage yards per game, and while Arkansas won’t ask him to throw the ball 40 times in this game, he has an opportunity to perk some ears against the best defense in the country.
Jerome Ford (JR – Cincinnati) 5’11”, 220 lbs
After splitting the backfield with Gerrid Doaks in 2020, the Alabama transfer Ford claimed complete control in 2021. Cincinnati gets their major shot against a premier opponent in a top 10 matchup against Notre Dame, and hope for success rides on Ford. As the primary back, he has averaged precisely 100 yards and two touchdowns per game. Last week, Notre Dame’s defense stiffened against Wisconsin, and the heralded Badger run game could never get on track. It is on Ford, who provided a strong game against Georgia in the 2020 Sugar Bowl, totaling 113 yards of offense. Ford possesses NFL size and features a powerful running style, though his ability to make guys miss in the box will likely keep him from becoming an actual NFL back. This game is Cincinnati’s shot at making a case to the playoff committee, and Ford needs to play a crucial role in that quest.
Mataeo Durant (SR – Duke) 6’1″, 195 lbs
This weekend, the Duke-North Carolina game will fly under the radar as several high-profile games take the stage, but Durant deserves top billing. Durant spent his first several years as part of a committee, but the team has put the offense on his shoulders this year. Durant responded, currently ranking third nationally in rushing yards while tying for the lead with eight touchdowns. This year, Durant’s most significant asset has been his ability to hit home runs, breaking three plays of over 50 yards in Duke’s four games. To carve any NFL role, he will need to continue to show versatility in the passing game. A position he has not fully fleshed out. Still, he is a fun player to watch and a reason (along with Sam Howell) to check in on this rivalry game during a packed weekend.
Jameson Williams (JR – Alabama) 6’2″, 189lbs
Jameson Williams has been one of the most crucial transfers this season. The Ohio State transfer leads the University of Alabama in receiving with a 12-299-3 line. He also has shown his versatility this year with two kickoff returns for touchdowns. He has been explosive. He has a fantastic burst, and his get-off the line is the best in the country. He’s a legitimate deep threat every time he’s on the field and is averaging a whopping 24.9 yards per reception right now. He excels with YAC and has an excellent lateral quickness that allows him to break multiple tackles. His route running has improved this season, and if he can improve his play strength, we could be looking at a potential 1st round pick in the NFL draft. He has risen that high among NFL scouting departments. This season, Alabama has done a great job elevating his strengths, and Williams will need to have a big game this weekend against Ole Miss.
Jalen Cropper (JR – Fresno State) 6’0″, 173 lbs
Jalen Cropper is one of the most versatile athletes in college football that people are just now starting to mention. He has 39 receptions for 455 yards and five touchdowns this season, leading the team in all three categories. Cropper also led the team in receiving last season as a sophomore with 520 yards and averaged just over fourteen yards per catch. As a prospect, he primarily lines up in the slot finishing with a Slot Snap percentage of 90.0%. Cropper has a great release when unchallenged at the line of scrimmage and utilizes his speed. His speed allows him to be a YAC threat when he gets the ball in open spaces. Cropper also had already hit his 30% breakout threshold last season. He has seemed to improve his hands already, having multiple acrobatic catches this year, and his separation skills have drastically improved. This year, the WR has led Fresno State to a 4-1 record and is now a legitimate prospect for the NFL draft. He’s someone who you should be targeting in devy and C2C leagues.
Sean Dykes (SR- Memphis) 6’2, 224 lbs
Dykes is a fifth-year senior out of Manvel, TX. He was a 2-star recruit and did not get significant playing time until his junior year. In 2020, Dykes had 47 catches, 581 yards, and 7 TDs. Through four games this season, he is on pace for 55 catches and over 1,046 yards. In a 31-28 loss to UTSA last week, Dykes had six catches for 167 yards with a 27.8 yard per reception average. Two weeks ago, against Arkansas State, he had nine catches for 143 yards and 2 TDs. He just has not been targeted consistently. In his other two games played, he had a total of 2 catches for 12 yards. This offense has utilized gadget players like Antonio Gibson and Kenny Gainwell, but they can’t seem to get their offense in sync. And it won’t get any easier this week. Memphis plays Temple, who currently has the #1 passing defense in the NCAA, allowing only 107 passing yards per game. It may be tough sledding for Dykes, but if he pops against a stout pass defense this week, many people will start to notice him. Lucky for you, you heard it here first!
Jelani Woods (SR- Virginia) 6’7, 265 lbs
Some of you Big 12 fans may recognize Jelani Woods as a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State. As a run blocker, he helped Chuba Hubbard lead the NCAA in rushing to become an All-American in 2019. Woods was a block-first, catch-second type tight end, but he has embraced a WR role since moving to Virginia. Two weeks ago, he was the ACC Wide Receiver of the Week after going 5/122/1 against Illinois. Woods has scored a TD in the last three games, and his QB, Brennan Armstrong, leads the ACC in passing and is 2nd in the nation in passing yards. The Cavaliers have been able to find the big man in the red zone, and they will need to this weekend as they travel to play at Miami (FL). Overall, Miami has given up the 2nd most passing yards in the ACC, but Virginia has the ACC’s worse total defense. Look for Woods to get many looks in a game where the current over/under is 62 points.
Games Of The Week
#8 Arkansas @ #2 Georgia (-18.5)
Arkansas has ranked 8th in the AP Top 25 Poll because they were not correctly ranked heading into Week 4. The Arkansas defense is as stout as they come; the only potentially more talented one happens to be on the other sideline on Saturday. That side of the ball is outstanding, but the offense is full of athletic players that are difficult to contain. Between Treylon Burks, Trelon Smith, and Tyson Morris, the Razorbacks have some guys.
Georgia is no slouch, however. Brock Bowers has been incredible as the starting tight end, and the wide receiver duo of Jermaine Burton and Adonai Mitchell presents matchup nightmares for most opposing defenses. This game will come down to trench play. Will the Georgia offensive line hold up against the Arkansas pass rush? Will Arkansas be able to protect KJ Jefferson long enough for him to find Burks downfield? One thing is sure: Saturday will be the litmus test for Arkansas, and they could very well prove that they are a top-five team in the nation.
#7 Cincinnati (-2.5) @ #9 Notre Dame
The 2021 season for Notre Dame has been a story of survival. Starting the season with an overtime win against Florida St, followed by a comeback against Toledo in the final minutes, before beginning to round into form against Purdue and Wisconsin. Entering the 4th quarter against Wisconsin down 10-13, they could pull away in the “Jack Coan Revenge Game” on the back of their defense. That defense will be the critical factor in this game and expect an emotionally charged unit as the team hired defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman from Cincinnati this offseason.
On the Cincinnati side, this game is their season. The team will not get another shot at a top 10 opponent to stake their case to be the first G5 school to gain entry into the college football playoff. A school like Cincinnati would rarely walk into this matchup with the best quarterback, but Desmond Ridder should grant an advantage. Cincinnati struggled with turnovers against Indiana, and the Wisconsin game showed Notre Dame’s ability to capitalize. If the Bearcats can win that battle, they have an excellent opportunity to add a real talking point to their resume.
#12 Ole Miss vs. #1 Alabama (-14.5)
This game will be one of the best games of the weekend. There are so many storylines from which to choose. The return of Lane Kiffin after shredding the Alabama defense last season for 650 yards and putting up 48 points against them. Can Matt Corral prove that he is a true QB1 of the 2022 class? Will Ole Miss’s defense be good enough to stop Bryce Young? The actual litmus test will be if Alabama’s defense can stop Ole Miss’s offense. Let’s take a look at Lane Kiffin’s offense this season:
- No. 1 – Average Yards Per Game – 633.3 yards
- No. 1 – Average Points Per Game – 52.7 points
- No. 4 – Rushing Yards Per Game – 298.7 yards
- No. 11 – Passing Yards Per Game – 336.7 yards
You should expect many points in this game, and the key will be if Matt Corral can limit his mistakes. If he does, we could see Ole Miss take down Alabama and cause a giant ripple in the College Football landscape.
#5 Iowa (-3.5) @ Maryland
Maryland finds itself 4-0 (1-0 Big Ten) to start the season, and they welcome the undefeated #5 Iowa Hawkeyes to College Park this weekend. Maryland was ranked 27th in the latest AP poll, and they have one of the best QB-WR combinations in the nation. Taulia Tagovailoa leads the Big Ten in just about every passing category except interceptions. Rakim Jarrett, his main target, was a 5-star recruit in the 2020 class and the 4th ranked WR in the nation. After a hot start over his first three games (16 catches, 259 yards, and 2 TDs), he was held to 1 catch for 6 yards last week against Kent State, but it did go for a touchdown. He wasn’t hurt, the head coach just wanted to spread the ball around, and he did. Tagovailoa had completions to 12 different receivers. #5 Iowa is going to be a challenge for the Terps.
The Hawkeyes have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten and have allowed the fewest points thus far. They are also looking for their 11th straight win dating back to 2020. The Hawkeyes will need to capitalize on their opportunities because they have not been a stellar passing team. Iowa’s QB, Spencer Petras, has completed just 48% of his passes vs. Big Ten opponents, and in the two conference games they have played, he has not thrown more than 146 yards, has thrown just one TD, and has been sacked six times. I would not be surprised if Maryland comes away with a win at home versus a Top 5 team, which will rank them in the teens on the following AP Poll as they go back-to-back weeks against division opponents. Next week, Maryland travels to the Horseshoe to play OSU, so a win here could give them some momentum going against an OSU team who hasn’t looked great this season.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.