This article is part of our DraftKings College Football series.
Welcome to this week's main slate breakdown over on DraftKings. Unfortunately, we're still a week away from the Big Ten joining the main slate party on here, but the hope is that those teams will be available come next week. Same goes for the Mountain West.
Regardless, we have a fun 12-gamer here with plenty of offense expected from the bulk of the teams. 10 squads carry implied totals north of 30 points, meaning that there are many ways to attack this slate and create a unique lineup. Let's dive in.
- DraftKings Lineup Optimizer
- NEW Matchups Page (Vegas odds, opponent averages, etc.)
- Advanced Lineups Page
- Team Trends
- Defense vs. Position
- Team Rankings
Hendon Hooker, Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest
The top-billed quarterbacks on the board this week get the bulk of their production through the air, though Trevor Lawrence is a threat to vulture a rushing score and Sam Ehlinger can do some work on the ground as well. Hooker, though, is a true difference-maker on the ground.
He finally got his first start of the season last week against Boston College and was dominant, taking 18 carries for 164 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles. Hooker, who ran for 356 yards and five scores in 2019, won't be sneaking up on Wake Forest the same way this week, but there's still reason to believe his mobility will be a major factor in the Hokies' game plan.
Wake Forest is middling against the run and will already be contending with slowing down Khalil Herbert out of the Hokie backfield. Hooker's athleticism could be the final straw that breaks the camel's back and leads to another offensive onslaught from Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Jordan Travis, Florida State ($6,700) at Louisville
Travis is another player whose run-game impact carries his value. He has run it at least 16 times in each of his two starts and has punched in a rushing score in three straight games. His passing efficiency has been palatable, averaging 10.1 YPA with three touchdowns and two picks over his last three, but the volume (60 attempts) lags behind.
We don't expect Florida State to go to the air much more than 25 times here so the 300-yard passing bonus may be hard to come by for Travis, but his usage in the run game leaves open the distinct possibility of a 100-yard performance on the ground.
Louisville has given up 216 rushing yards and two rushing scores to opposing quarterbacks this season, and opposing signal-callers also have an 8:1 TD:INT against the Cardinals. This sets up as a favorable matchup where Travis can have some success through the air despite Tamorrion Terry's absence while also racking up serious production on the ground.
Terry Wilson, Kentucky ($6,000) vs. Missouri
Missouri has yet to figure out how to slow opposing quarterbacks. The Tigers have coughed up 923 passing yards and seven touchdowns through the air, and while some of that has to do with facing the likes of Alabama and LSU's passing games, it goes to show that this is a defense that can give up points and yardage.
Wilson is playing an efficient brand of football, completing 64.4 percent of his passes with three touchdowns against one pick through four games. Kentucky rarely asks him to throw more than 20 passes a game, but even if he hovers around that number Saturday, his overall passing production could be on the upswing given that Missouri allows 9.0 YPA. On top of that, Wilson is running 14.0 times a game and tearing off 4.5 YPC (non sack-adjusted).
Wilson might not be a slate-changing quarterback, but at $6K he offers floor and a bit of upside given the matchup.
Others to Consider: Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State
Sanders hasn't played since hurting his ankle in the opener against Tulsa but has had plenty of time to rehab and get ready for Saturday. He has reportedly been splitting first-team reps this week and while Mike Gundy likely won't make an official announcement before kick, it could come to light that Sanders is the starter. If that's the case, he'd be in position to hit value at $6,400 against a weak Iowa State secondary.
Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech ($8,800) at Wake Forest
The light couldn't be much greener to play Herbert this weekend. Herbert is averaging an absurd 9.7 YPC over 61 carries this season while no other running back in the nation with at least 50 attempts averages more than 6.8. That is unbelievable explosiveness to sustain over that type of volume.
Now there's a slight reason for concern in that newly minted starting quarterback Hendon Hooker is a tremendous rushing threat in his own right, having rushed for 164 yards and three scores on 18 attempts last week against Boston College.
But what if I told you you could use both Hooker and Herbert in the same lineup?
This Hokie rushing attack is pounding out 312 rushing yards per game, which ranks second in the nation behind only Air Force, which has played one game. Only Appalachian State is in the same zip code as rushing ability among non-triple option teams.
With Virginia Tech running the ball over 65 percent of the time, a QB-RB pairing like this one actually has some legs to it. The other factors to consider are that Virginia Tech carries the third-highest expected point total on the board (39.25) and Wake Forest surrenders nearly 200 rushing yards per game.
Tank Bigsby, Auburn ($6,500) at Mississippi
Bigsby has frequent-flyer miles in my articles and we're only four games into his collegiate career. He is special. Bigsby officially took over the Auburn backfield in its second game of the season and compiled 99 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches. The following week, he went off for 146 yards on 20 carries against a legit Arkansas defense, then followed it up with 111 yards and his first touchdown in Week 7 against South Carolina.
He owns a 39 percent share of the Auburn carries while no other Auburn back has seen over 16 percent of the rushes. Bo Nix is involved in the run game, but he's less of a vulture threat to Bigsby than Hooker is to Herbert like we discussed above.
Bigsby is in for a big day Saturday against this Mississippi defense that allows 265 yards per game on the ground and has already coughed up 14 rushing scores in four games. Look for him to get the bulk of the rushing work Saturday and gash the Rebels with each carry. At $6,500, Bigsby is a great point-per-dollar value.
Michael Carter, North Carolina ($5,900) vs. North Carolina State
Javonte Williams is the headliner of the UNC backfield and for good reason. His big-play ability is almost unmatched. His nine catches have gone for 200 yards and nearly a quarter of his 63 rushes have gone over 10 yards. But Carter is a standout talent, too, and he's plenty involved in this offense even with Williams taking over the No.1 role.
Other than the season-opener against Syracuse, Carter has seen at least 16 carries in each game this season. The touchdowns haven't been there just yet with just two thus far, but I would bet on that type of explosive output finding its way into the end zone soon enough.
As for the matchup, NC State is competent against the run, allowing 3.89 YPC and 153.2 rushing yards per game. However, the 'Pack has had three easy games against Pitt, Virginia, and Duke to help bolster those totals. It fell victim to Virginia Tech's rushing attack in late September and North Carolina's rushing offense is closer to Virginia Tech's than it is to those aforementioned middling-to-poor run games.
I can't fault anyone for using Williams in a lineup, it's just that Carter is a bargain with comparable upside that hasn't been fully tapped yet.
La'Damian Webb, Florida State ($5,100) vs Louisville
Webb has been the pleasant surprise of the Florida State backfield and is the new No.1 running back in Tallahassee, overtaking Jashaun Corbin. He has double-digit carries in each game and is coming off his breakout performance against North Carolina where he ran for 109 yards on 12 carries.
This week he gets Louisville, which allows 4.6 YPC as a team and has surrendered nine rushing scores in five games. Webb has some vulture risk from quarterback Jordan Travis but at $5,100 in a favorable matchup with a bankable workload, I'm in on this sophomore this week.
I have my doubts about Bo Nix but Auburn's narrow target tree that has these two combining for 66.2 percent of the team's targets removes some of the guesswork as to where the ball is going when the Tigers opt to pass.
Schwartz is interesting given that he was merely a gadget player his first two seasons on The Plains as he was used mostly on jet sweeps or short passes trying to get him in space to utilize his speed. He's being used as a normal wide receiver this season and, yes, it's been a steep adjustment. He has 27 catches on 44 targets but is averaging just 5.8 YPT. Auburn has targeted Schwartz double-digit times in each of the last three games and if that trend continues against Mississippi, the chances for a big play increase dramatically. Schwartz has world-class speed and Mississippi allows 9.5 yards per attempt to opposing passers. Even if the efficiency hasn't been great so far for Schwartz, the volume is encouraging and the matchup couldn't be better.
Williams is more of a case of a good player getting off to a rough start. In his last three games, he has 10 catches for 178 yards on 32 targets. Much has been made about his drops and I'm not going to pile on there. The fact of the matter is Williams (7.4 YPT, 830 yards in 2019) played above the offense's baseline last season (6.8 YPA, 2697 passing yards) and accounted for 30 percent of the receiving yards. This is a very good player off to a rocky start. Getting 10+ targets against Mississippi will go a long way towards putting Williams back on the right path.
Tutu Atwell, Louisville ($6,300) vs. Florida State
Atwell is another talented player off to a relatively slow start this season. He's seeing 9.2 targets per game, which is 33.8 percent of the team's market share, but Atwell's 7.0 YPT is a far cry from his 12.0 YPT mark from 2019.
Is he half the player he was a year ago? Unlikely. He has faced some tough defenses in tough conditions, however. In fact, two of his games have come against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, both of whom allow fewer than 6.2 YPA through the air. And last week's game in South Bend was greatly affected by the wind and it was evident by the box scores on both sides.
Atwell draws a more favorable matchup Saturday against a competent but not imposing Florida State secondary that surrenders 279.3 passing yards per game. With Atwell's high target volume and a neutral matchup, things are set up for Atwell to return value Saturday.
Amari Rodgers, Clemson ($6,800) vs Syracuse
I'm starting to think my fade Clemson strategy has some flaws to it. I always worry that they'll call off the dogs in the second half and DFS investors won't get a full four quarters of counting stats to make using their players worth it.
That point is moot when Clemson can hang 42 in a half like it did against Georgia Tech last week. I might counter by saying that I'm buying high and that Clemson won't go quite as ballistic on Saturday against Syracuse, but Vegas is expecting Clemson to put up 53 points and win by 46. Even if it falls short of those numbers, there's plenty of reason to expect the Tigers post the highest point total on this slate.
Rodgers is consistently getting the necessary targets to be a DFS factor, too. His 25 targets over the last three weeks rank sixth among players on this slate and he has turned those looks into 19 grabs for 295 yards and four touchdowns. Pretty good. And Rodgers is only the seventh-highest salaried receiver on the board. Consistent volume, explosive production and a favorable matchup all combine to make Rodgers an appealing upper-midtier choice at receiver Saturday.
John Metchie, Alabama ($5,500) at Tennessee
Metchie doesn't see the volume of a Jaylen Waddle or a DeVonta Smith, but his explosiveness is off the charts. He averages over 20 yards per target* and has turned his 14 receptions into 348 yards and three touchdowns.
Again, Metchie may only draw five or six targets against a decent Tennessee defense on Saturday, but Alabama's passing game is matchup proof. No one can hold down the Tide over 60 minutes. So even if Metchie's volume is pedestrian, he can turn a couple of those into backbreaking plays for the Vol defense. If you're looking for a cheap way to get exposure to the Alabama passing game, Metchie is the way to go.
*some Alabama target data has yet to be updated due to the stats issue from the weekend of Oct. 10.