Devy Fantasy Football Primer: Week 14 (College Football)
The planets are finally aligning as we head into Conference Championship Weekend. Michigan dominated OSU to get to the Big Ten Championship Game, and USC crushed Notre Dame to avoid an upset and play in the Pac-12 Championship. Kansas State surprised many by earning their way to the Big 12 Title game. Can the current Top 4 in the CFP hold their rankings after this weekend? We shall see. As always, CJ Lang and Britt Sanders will guide you this college football season through all the storylines, player profiles, and game previews you will need. Enjoy!
Squid Game (CJ)
So far, since its inception in 2014, there has not been a 2-loss team in the CFP. Will that change this year? Possibly. If TCU and USC lose, they could fall out of the top four pushing a two-loss Alabama or Tennessee team to the CFP. Georgia, Michigan, TCU, and USC hold the top four spots in the CFP rankings. All four of those teams will be playing conference championship games this weekend. Georgia and Michigan should not have many problems with their opponents, #14 LSU and unranked Purdue, respectively. But TCU plays a strong #10 Kansas State team looking to play upset, and USC plays reigning Pac-12 champ #11 Utah.
Over their last nine games, TCU’s margin of victory has been 10 points or less. Some people may think they are primed for a loss, while others think they will always find a way to win. They beat Kansas State at home by ten earlier in the season. If TCU and USC win, this is all a moot point, but if one of them loses, it looks like OSU will get in. Unless the voters somehow, someway, vote in the 2-loss Bama team over them. I would not put it past them, but the easiest thing here would be for the top four to win and be done with it.
Heisman Pose (Britt)
This year has not been a strong year for the Heisman Trophy. Unlike in years past, there hasn’t been a clear front-runner for the season. Instead, we have gotten a carousel of players momentarily taking the lead to lose it again. For most of the year, OSU QB C.J. Stroud has been the No. 1 or 2 option. The issue is that he hasn’t had that impressive game or win to be an easy front-runner. The recent loss against Michigan puts a period on his Heisman story; Ohio State decided not to lean into the future Top-5 NFL draft pick and continually chose to ground and pound into oblivion. Stroud has been at such a great level of play his career in college; his never leveling up for a career year will be his Achilles heel in this race. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker was a front-runner in some groups for the middle portion of the season. Unfortunately, those aspirations are out of reach after the loss to Georgia and his knee injury. A sad story where a player doesn’t get to live his fairytale dream. Another sad story was Michigan RB Blake Corum, a player running up the ranks for the last six weeks. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury against Illinois and, while trying to come back to play against Ohio State, was unable to play long-term. A class riddled with injury and underperformance often leads to unexpected winners.
Since the Ohio State and UNC loss with Drake Maye looking pedestrian, Caleb Williams has stepped into the winner’s circle. Playing in a highly prolific and productive offense built by head coach Lincoln Riley has been making mincemeat of the Pac-12. Caleb Williams has become the favorite in Heisman voting. He isn’t out of the woods yet, as he needs to finish off #11 Utah, which would all but put the shipping label on the trophy. A Friday game that will have a lot of attention for various reasons.
Caleb Williams (SO – USC) 6-1, 218
As I wrote above, Williams is on a Heisman-type pace this year. Williams brings back memories of a young, spry Russell Wilson out of the pocket. Finding ways to buy those precious extra seconds to allow his receivers to break coverage and find the space. He truly is an exciting prospect. This year he has 3,712 yards through the air, 351 yards on the ground, and a touchdown to interception ratio of 34:3. He has a QB rating of 168.6 this year while having yards per attempt of 9.1 and an average yards per attempt of 10.5. This week Williams will be facing Utah, a team who has failed to live to expectations but has pounded the Pac-12. Utah is susceptible against the pass, ranking 69th in allowed pass completion and 80th in yards per pass. However, they are 20th in sacks and 49th in interceptions thrown. We’ll be watching Friday evening for a few reasons: playoff implications, Heisman implications, and to watch the magic Williams continually unfolds in the pocket.
Kendre Miller (JR – TCU) 6-0, 206
With CFP playoff aspirations on the wind, it’s going to come down to how well Kendre Miller and company execute on the offense. After blowing out Iowa State last week and narrowly squeezing past Baylor the week prior, Miller will be relied upon again to get this offense jumpstarted. On the year, Miller has rushed for 1,260 yards, 115 receiving yards, and 16 total touchdowns. They are going up against a Kansas State defense that has been above average in most areas. Miller will rely on his tackle-breaking ability to help push TCU into the college football playoffs.
Josh Downs (JR – UNC) 5-10, 180
Josh Downs is a name that not many folks have been speaking on. Not because he hasn’t been impressive, but he has nearly 1,000 receiving yards on the season. But because UNC isn’t a national mogul, it’s too early for most to get into NFL draft prep. As mentioned above, Downs has 923 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns, and 11.2 yards per catch this season. Downs has 2.08 yards per team pass attempt this year, which is a good mark to be at efficiency-wise. UNC will face Clemson this weekend in the ACC Championship game. Clemson is ranked 57th in pass yards per game, 27th in yards per pass, and 42nd in opponent completion percentage. This game offers a great film study to dive into for Downs ahead of the NFL draft cycle.
Payne Durham (SR – Purdue) 6-5, 255
This segment gives me flashbacks to Week 0. Luckily we have better options to discuss than that week. Payne Durham is the second-leading receiver for the Boilermakers. Having racked up 550 yards, averaging 10.5 yards per reception and eight touchdowns. From an efficiency standpoint, he has 1.11 yards per team pass attempt which isn’t top tier but is in a decent threshold for being an NFL productive TE. This week Purdue gets to try and play spoilers one more time. They take on Michigan coming off of an elating feeling of dismantling Ohio State for the second straight year. You have to assume that Durham will be a big part of the offense, as Michigan has the top rushing defense in the nation.
Game Of The Week
#4 TCU (-2.5) vs. #10 Kansas State
There are a lot of exciting games this weekend. However, I am unsure if there is any game more exciting than the game slated to start at 9:00 am PST. This has been a matchup that has been coming to a boil for the last month. Two teams who are very clearly destined for a bowl game. The big difference is the stakes of the game for the different teams. For TCU, this could very well cap off the culmination of a magical season. They get to play spoiler for Kansas State and have this as a statement game for the upcoming season and recruitment cycle. This could also be the best season record for Kansas State since 2012 when they went 11-3.
Kansas State has been running out QB Will Howard, who has injected the offense with a special change. QB Adrian Martinez has an undisclosed injury and is questionable going into the game. Kansas State will need to rely on the magic of Howard and RB Deuce Vaughn‘s bowling ball-style running to make this game spicy. They’ll also need their receivers Malik Knowles and Phillip Brooks to seize the moment. From a defensive perspective, KSU ranks 19th in points per play allowed, 21st in points allowed per game, and 40th in 3rd down conversions. They are 91st in red zone scoring, which is an issue since TCU ranks 46th in red zone scoring. On offense, they are 17th in points per play, 23rd in points per game, 47th in 3rd down conversions, and 13th in red zone scoring. Similar to their defense, this is an issue, given that TCU ranks 56th.
TCU, on the other hand, is an offensive powerhouse. Being led by QB Max Duggan, RB Kendre Miller, and WR Quentin Johnston. The injury concern for this game is that Johnston has a bad ankle. The injury caused him to miss last week’s game, but that could have been to rest him versus a weaker opponent. Ranking 5th in points per play, 6th in points per game, 16th in yards per play, 38th in 3rd down conversions, and 46th in red zone scoring. They have a high-flying, explosive offense. On defense, they’re not as stout but still durable. They rank 43rd in opponent points per game, 50th in opponent yards per play, 39th in opponent 3rd down conversion percentage, and 56th in opponent red zone scoring.
These two teams are close by the numbers, but a few contextual differences are needed to explore. The game comes down to a few pivotal topics. The first is explosive plays. Can KSU limit the innate ability Duggan has at tearing apart broken coverages? The second is can TCU limit KSU to more field goals than touchdowns in the red zone? The last topic is turnovers and penalties. In the last three games, KSU is +1.3 in turnovers margin per game (TCU is +1), 4.3 penalties per game (TCU 4.7), and TCU has a 3.73% opponents interceptions thrown at home compared to KSU’s 2.73%. TCU being home is going to play a large role in this game. Vegas agrees, as they currently have TCU as the favorites giving them a spread of 2.5.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, 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, which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.