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Devy Primer: Week 8 (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Jeff Bell | @4WhomJBellTolls | Featured Writer
Oct 22, 2021
Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett leads a high powered Pitt offense into a season defining matchup against Clemson

Week seven saw Purdue upset Iowa, dealing a massive blow to any college playoff hopes for the Hawkeyes.  It also saw Georgia continue their dominance by taking out Kentucky and dealing a decisive blow in the SEC East Championship race.  Week eight is light on top 25 matchups, but it does see two playoff hopefuls in #7 Oklahoma St and #10 Oregon faces stiff road tests that see them enter as underdogs.  Kevin Coleman, Christian Williams, Jeff Bell, & C.J. Lang guides you through the Week Eight action.

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Favorite Storylines

The Future Is Now In Oklahoma (Jeff)

Will he or won’t he? That was the question facing Lincoln Riley following Caleb Williams’s entrance and heroic comeback against Texas.  Riley trusted his instincts and made a move, and the team responded with a dominant win over TCU.  For the first time this season, we saw the true Oklahoma team many expected with a preseason top 5 ranking, and a loss by Iowa cleared the way for Oklahoma to ascend to #2 in the coaches poll.  As we often see with teams in college football, if they are let off the hook multiple times in the season, they can become battle-tested and very dangerous.  This decision sends ripples through the sport and continues to tank the draft stock of Spencer Rattler.  What’s next?  Rattler is in a terrible position to enter the draft, but a transfer opens up questions that if he could not succeed with Riley’s proven track record, does success elsewhere mean something?  No player seems to have lost more this college football season, and his future will continue to be a story around the sport.

Coach O and LSU Geaux’ing Separate Ways (CJ)

Coach Ed Orgeron has agreed with LSU to part ways at the end of the 2021 season. Remarkably this is 18 months after LSU won the Natty behind stellar performances by Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. It’s not much of a rumor mill because there is plenty of documented evidence, but Coach O’s personal life led to this situation. His big ego and larger-than-life personality off the field became a distraction to the players and the entire school. He has the reputation of being a “womanizer,” There were reports that he asked an LSU Official’s pregnant wife to cheat on her husband with him. There was also the fact that he failed to report allegations against his players for sexual assault, domestic violence, and even rape, and that is not the press you want for your school. Coupled with the fact that since their undefeated National Championship season, LSU has gone 9-8 overall with losses to teams they had been historically excellent against like UCLA, Missouri, and Kentucky. The writing was clearly on the wall.

Who will replace him? Several big-name candidates have ties to LSU, like Jimbo Fisher (Tx A&M), Mel Tucker (Sparty), Dave Aranda (Baylor), and then some outside guys like Luke Fickell (Cincy) and James Franklin (PSU). It will be interesting, but you must believe this job is highly coveted, and they will need to make a big splash to stay relevant in the SEC.

Eric Gray & Trait-Based Evaluation (Christian)

This summer, Eric Gray was one of the hottest names in 2022 running backs. The Tennessee transfer was heading to one of the most prolific offenses in college football under the direction of Lincoln Riley. His 2020 film was great; he showed a good burst, decent vision, and loads of potential—his weak points: patience approaching the line of scrimmage and inconsistency.

It turns out those weak points mattered. Kennedy Brooks has yet to cede the backfield to Gray, primarily because he’s flat-out more skilled. Brooks has displayed a great understanding of “slow too, fast through,” which has allowed him to succeed within the offense. On the other hand, Gray has been incredibly disappointing, displaying the same weaknesses and relegated to a change-of-pace role. Traits-based evaluation in devy is essential, yes. Putting too much value into traits and turning a blind eye to the nuances of the various skill positions is a mistake. All indications are that the devy community made a mistake with Eric Gray.

AAC Realignment (Kevin)

Realignment has just started in college football. The American Athletic Conference announced an expectation to add six schools from Conference USA: Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA. It looks like those schools will be playing at that conference as soon as 2023. While those schools don’t move the needle football-wise, it is still significant. We could be looking at the end of Conference USA as we know it as members there do not want to join the Sun Belt Conference. As for the AAC, they can save their conference, but I can’t see them getting national traction anymore, and it would shock me to see them improve their next TV deal. It’s the SEC and everyone else. 

Player Spotlights

Quarterbacks

Kenny Pickett (COVID SR – Pittsburgh) – 6’3″, 220 lbs

The 2022 quarterback class is full of question marks and enigmas, and Kenny Pickett is a quarterback that falls into the latter category. Pickett expected to enter the 2021 NFL Draft, putting up three years of decent, yet not incredible, film and seemingly content with being a Day 3 flier and battling for a roster spot. COVID gave Pickett a chance to return to school, and there isn’t a player in the nation that took advantage of the extra eligibility quite like Kenny. Pickett is completing 69% of his passes, has averaged 11.3 adjusted passing yards per attempt, has a 21:1 touchdown to interception ratio, and has vaulted his way into the first-round conversation. The film echoes the hype. Pickett has displayed arm talent that he had not previously, layering throws over multiple levels of coverage. His ball placement has been precise. He has more mobility than anticipated, as well. Pickett may not make it into the first round, but this weekend’s game against Clemson could certainly help his case.

Jake Haener (SR – Fresno State) 6’1″, 195 lbs

Jake Haener is an exciting evaluation from a devy perspective. On the one hand, he’s averaging 332 passing yards per game, good for 5th in the nation. Haener is completing 68% of his passes and posting an above-average rating. On the other hand, he’s an undersized quarterback that may lack the arm strength necessary to be a starter at the next level. One thing is sure, however: he is an outstanding college quarterback. That will be on full display this weekend when Fresno State takes on Carson Strong‘s Nevada Wolf Pack. Nevada is susceptible to being beat through the air, ranking 93rd in passing yards allowed. Haener and WR Jalen Cropper have a special connection, and when playing against one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects, a shootout could be in order. Haener is draftable; where he may go is yet to be determined, but there’s a pretty good chance that Haener is on an NFL roster at this time next year. This weekend could help his cause.

Running Backs

Jaylen Warren (SR – Oklahoma St) 5’8″, 215 lbs

Oklahoma St has become one of the surprise stories of the 2021 season, ranked 8th after a 6-0 start.  Warren has been a significant driver of that success, and his 705 rushing yards rank 14th nationally.  After a slow start to the season, he’s come on very strong, including 193 yards against Texas to cap a four-game run where he has averaged 165 ypg.  This week Warren and Oklahoma St feature a considerable challenge, a road game against an Iowa St defense that ranks 15th against the run.  Warren is a fun watch; his compact, muscular frame and powerful style evoke visions of Doug Martin.  Outside of size, a significant knock-on Warren is his age, coming in as a grad transfer, the clock has run, and he will be one of the oldest in the draft.  Testing will be necessary, but right now, he is in the middle of one of the most exciting teams in college football.

Tyrion Davis-Price (JR – LSU) 6’1″, 232 lbs

As CJ so eloquently touched on previously, things are not going well with LSU.  But an upset against Florida in which Tyrion Davis-Price dominated to the tune of 287 yards has given LSU new hope of at least playing spoiler with several big games remaining.  Davis-Price was disappointed to begin the season and lost work to Corey Kiner before reclaiming his place atop the depth chart.  The size immediately stands out; backs who run close to 4.5 at 230+ are always going to catch eyes.  Davis-Price runs to his size and punishes defenders, staying behind his pads.  If there’s a criticism, it lacks nuance as he runs with a breakneck style that does not allow him to set up blocks.  He is the leading player to watch on this offense and faces a great opportunity against a weak Ole Miss defense to continue his current run.

Wide Receivers

Jameson Williams (JR – Alabama) 6’2″, 189lbs 

People forget that Williams had to transfer from Ohio State to get playing time this year in the off-season. He has 29 receptions for 587 yards and six touchdowns this year. Williams also has two kickoff return touchdowns and has proved to be one of the best big-play threats in the country. He has exceptional explosiveness and speed. Williams is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, and when catching the ball in space, is the most dangerous receiver in the country. He has a chance to improve his draft stock considerably this year, and we could be looking at him as a Day 2 prospect. Williams may have been the most critical transfer this past season. 

Joshua Cephus (JR – UTSA) 6’3″, 190 lbs

The UTSA Roadrunners are ranked #24 this season, and Joshua Cephus is a big reason. He has 46 receptions for 520 yards and five touchdowns this year. Cephus has shown a level of consistency that other receivers in his conference haven’t. Cephus has demonstrated that he has the explosiveness and good hands. It looks like he has a good understanding of the offense, and he could be a great addition if you are playing in C2C leagues this season.

Tight Ends

Michael Mayer (SO- Notre Dame) 6’4, 241 lbs.

Michael Mayer was one of the first tight ends we profiled, and he has shown why he is one of the best tight ends in college football. If you remove a Week 3 dud vs. Purdue where he had one catch for 5 yards, Mayer has averaged eight catches for 88 yards and one touchdown for Notre Dame this season. He gets 23.4% of passes for the whole team, and among tight ends in the nation, he is currently 2nd in targets, 4th in receptions, and 9th in receiving yards. This week, USC vs. Notre Dame will renew their rivalry in South Bend. USC’s 3-3 record has lowered the stakes, but this is still a game circled annually. This year, USC has been susceptible against tight ends, allowing over 60 receiving yards in five of their six games. I would expect Mayer to be fed early and often in a game Notre Dame needs. They are currently ranked #13 in the Top 25, and USC is their most formidable opponent the rest of the way, so they need to make a statement with a big win to have any hopes of a playoff appearance. 

Cole Turner (SR- Nevada) 6’6, 240 lbs.

Cole Turner is a converted wide receiver playing tight end for the Nevada Wolfpack. He has had a great season so far, with over 400 receiving yards and four TDs. Turner currently leads the nation in targets for tight ends and is 3rd in receptions. He is also coming off a game vs. Hawaii, where he had 12 receptions for 175 yards! This week Nevada travels to Fresno State in a Mountain West game that may be a shootout. There are a lot of talented, under-the-radar players in this game, along with Turner, like his QB Carson Strong and Fresno State’s QB Jake Haener and WR Jalen Cropper. Turner is a great athlete and has a knack for high pointing the ball with that tall 6’6 frame. Please do yourself a favor and Google his catch vs. Wyoming this season. It was unbelievable. In a game with a 63.5 O/U, look for Turner to get plenty of targets in a game that could help Nevada climb towards the Top 25. 

Games Of The Week

Clemson at #23 Pittsburgh (-3)

In August, if someone claimed that Pittsburgh would enter this game as favorites, they would have been shunned from the college football community. Clemson entered the season with typical expectations for the College Football Playoff, but they head into this game after narrowly escaping Syracuse and being unranked for consecutive weeks. DJ Uiagalelei has struggled at times, and the lack of consistency in the wide receiver and running back rooms has made scoring points difficult. Meanwhile, with Kenny Pickett under center, Pittsburgh has impressed. Jordan Addison is a star at wideout, and aside from an odd loss against Western Michigan, Pittsburgh has been dominant. They enter this game as 3-point favorites, and if Kenny Pickett continues his upward trajectory, there’s a good chance they cover.

#8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State (-7)

#8 Oklahoma State travels to Ames, Iowa, in a Big 12 matchup vs. the Iowa State Cyclones this Saturday. The Cowboys are 6-0, coming off three straight wins vs. ranked opponents (#25 Kansas State, #21 Baylor, and #25 Texas). Oklahoma State Junior QB Spencer Sanders seems to be the textbook definition of a “game manager.” He ranks 95th in the nation in passing yards, 83rd in passing TDs, and is 7th or worse in almost all the Big 12 QB categories, yet he finds a way to win. Utah State transfer Senior RB Jaylen Warren has had an outstanding season for the Cowboys. He ranks 4th in the Big 12 in rushing and has the 8th most plays from scrimmage in the NCAA. In his past four games, Warren has had over 123 rushing yards, including a monster 218 rushing yards and two TDs against Boise State.

On the other hand, Iowa State came into this season with some star players who had a decent amount of NFL Draft hype. QB Brock Purdy has been middle of the road and has seen his draft stock disappear. Tight end Charlie Kolar who had a great 2020 season, has also disappointed, but luckily Junior RB Breece Hall has been a positive for the Cyclones all season. He is 2nd in the conference in rushing to only Texas’s Bijan Robinson. Hall is also tied for the Big 12 lead in TDs with ten and currently has the 10th most points scored in the entire NCAA. He and Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller were most people’s #1 and #2 running backs going into this season, and so far, he has outperformed Spiller. Iowa State is a 7-point favorite in this game in large part to their 14th ranked rushing defense. If they can stop Jaylen Warren, I think we could see some students on the field post-game in Ames.

USC at #13 Notre Dame (-7)

Wow, has this game lost some luster this year. The last time the USC played was a 42-26 loss to Utah. Notre Dame bounced back from their loss to Cincinnati by beating Virginia Tech. I look at this game is if Notre Dame puts together four strong quarters, there is no way they can lose. The Irish have an elite running back in Kyren Williams and a potential Top-5 pick in Kyle Hamilton. USC has weapons, but Kedon Slovis leads the team and has struggled this season. I expect the Trojans to keep it close but Notre Dame to pull away late. 

#10 Oregon at UCLA (-1.5) 

Oregon fired one of the loudest shots early in the season, coming into Columbus and upsetting Ohio State in week 2.  But in the last two weeks, the program has lost most of that moment, first came an overtime loss to Stanford, next came a close win against Cal that will do little for the beauty pageant that is the CFP. The game is on QB Anthony Brown as UCLA features the 9th ranked rush defense playing against Oregon’s preferred method of rush game reliance.  That did not end well against Stanford.  UCLA suffered a close loss to Fresno St and an Arizona St. game that caught them flat-footed, but a win over LSU showed they have athletes capable of competing with Oregon.  Injuries have hit Oregon, but it’s not often you get a chance to give up points and take a top 10 team, and adversity has found a way to bind groups historically.  Take the Ducks.

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