This article is part of our DraftKings College Football series.
We're treated to our customary 12-game main slate on DraftKings this week that lacks much in the way of high totals but is not without its charm. Cincinnati, Florida, North Carolina, Texas A&M and Georgia project as the highest-scoring teams on the board and the games with the highest totals include UNC-Miami (FL), Texas-Oklahoma State, LSU-Florida, Missouri-Texas A&M and Cincinnati-UCF.
Looking to units to target, Michigan State, Miami, Texas, BYU and Pittsburgh all give up the most passing yards per game but context is needed before diving in with both feet in terms of targeting these defenses specifically. More on that later.
In terms of the ground game, it starts with Missouri's atrocious run defense that surrenders 287 yards per game on 6.1 YPC. Texas is second-worst, checking in with 200.2 rush yards per game allowed. Arkansas, North Carolina and LSU have all proven to be shaky against the run as well.
Looking for some diamonds in the rough, the Virginia Tech-Pitt and Michigan State-Indiana games don't have particularly high totals but both feature good offenses on either side along with spreads that suggest that each matchup will be competitive. If you're looking to fade either the UNC-Miami or Texas-Oklahoma State games, those are two matchups that could allow you to differentiate from the field.
Below, you'll find our suite of DFS tools along with matchup info and position-by-position analysis.
- DraftKings Lineup Optimizer
- NEW Matchups Page (Vegas odds, opponent averages, etc.)
- Advanced Lineups Page
- Team Trends
- Defense vs. Position
- Team Rankings
Payton Thorne, Michigan State ($7,300) at Indiana
While Thorne's passing volume isn't off the charts (26.2 Att/G), his efficiency has been strong thus far as he averages 10.0 YPA and has thrown 14 touchdowns on 157 attempts. Thorne stands out as a quarterback with legit stacking options this weekend (more on that later) and he draws a matchup against a Hoosier secondary that allows a respectable but not intimidating 223 passing yards per game. The weather is supposed to be clear and 60 degrees, so the passing game shouldn't take too much of a hit. While many will target running back Kenneth Walker ($6,700) at a discount, a Michigan State passing stack starting with Thorne could be a path towards getting leverage on the field.
Adrian Martinez, Nebraska at Minnesota
It's never pretty but Martinez keeps producing this season. He threw for 291 yards and three scores against Michigan last Saturday night on 10.4 YPA and he punched in another score on the ground, pushing his 2021 total to 10. He's also completing an impressive 66.3 percent of his passes at 9.9 YPA. His improved passing numbers coupled with his reliable rushing ability make him one of the better quarterback options on the board, especially against a Minnesota defense that isn't overly imposing.
Others to Consider
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati ($8,100) vs. Cincinnati
Ridder is at the helm of what is expected to be the highest-scoring offense (39.0) on the slate Saturday. He hasn't been running as much this season as in years past but he's still averaging nearly 25 DK points per game with efficient passing numbers rounding out his statistical profile. If UCF keeps this competitive, Ridder could be in line for one of his biggest outings of the season.
Jerome Ford, Cincinnati ($7,200) vs. UCF
Ford is a great blend of floor and ceiling at the running back spot for this slate. He has an ironclad grip on the workhorse role in the Cincy backfield with a 51 percent rushing share and is also tearing off an impressive 6.29 YPC over 82 attempts. He isn't active in the passing game but when he's getting over 16 carries per game and racking up over 100 yards per game, that's something you can excuse.
As for the matchup, UCF has a respectable run defense that surrenders just 144.8 yards per game on 3.8 YPC. Still, Vegas expects Cincinnati to be the highest-scoring team on this slate and Cincinnati checks in as heavy (-21.5) point favorites so the run game will be on display.
Devon Achane, Texas A&M ($5,100) at Missouri
There's a lot of discussion about A&M being in a letdown spot this week after toppling Alabama last Saturday. Even if A&M isn't at it's sharpest, it's impossible to understate just how bad Missouri's defense is right now. The Tigers cough up the third-most rushing yards per game at 287. Only Northwestern and Arkansas State are worse against the run. Even Kansas (272.8) is better!
Now, Isaiah Spiller is the clear No.1 in the Aggie backfield, having drawn 40 percent or more of the rushes in all but one game this season. Still, Achane is getting a healthy dose of work at 27 percent of the carries (50 total) and he rips off an impressive 6.6 YPC. I'm of the opinion that Achane is actually the best player on the Aggie offense and even 8-10 carries could be enough for him to return value at $5,100.
Missouri has given up 341 yards and 458 yards on the ground in its two conference games and hasn't seen an offensive line this good yet. Missouri even gave up 294 (8.17 YPC) rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns to Southeast Missouri State. No disrespect to the Redhawks, but they shouldn't be running like that on an SEC team.
Jaylen Warren, Oklahoma State ($7,100) at Texas
Texas' run defense isn't as bad as Missouri's but that doesn't mean it's good. In fact, it's very bad. Like 200.2 rushing yards allowed per game at 5.4 YPC bad. Like Oklahoma running for 339 yards on 8.3 YPC bad. Not. Good.
Oklahoma State, in fairness, hasn't been all that efficient on the ground. The 'Pokes rank just 107th in YPC and 76th in rushing yards per game. However, they stay committed to it, ranking seventh in the nation in run play rate (66.45%). That means Warren is getting fed and he projects to feast this week with 20+ carries against this soft Texas run defense. There's some concern that Texas can sell out more against the run with Spencer Sanders not having a good season at quarterback, but Oklahoma State's dedication to Warren and the run game will end up producing results.
Ky Thomas, Minnesota ($3,000) vs. Nebraska
We've seen Minnesota's backfield upended twice this year already with Mo Ibrahim getting injured in the opener and Treyson Potts now being ruled out for the season.
Now, a lot of people will be trying to find the next man up for the Gophers this weekend. There are a lot of ways it can go. Mar'Keise Irving has seen the most work of the remaining runners, having taken 25 attempts for 112 yards this season. Bryce Williams has a strong track record dating back to 2018 (117/502/4) but hasn't had more than 17 attempts in a season since then. Thomas meanwhile was a Top-30 running back in the 2020 recruiting cycle who got some run against Colorado with seven rushes for 66 yards and a score.
I'll use my dart throw on Thomas, who checks in at min-price and has shown some explosiveness this season, albeit in a small sample. Again, this is a murky situation and Minnesota could go with a deep rotation of backs or even lean on one of the more veteran options. But there will be lineups where I need a min-priced option to make the rest of it work and Thomas at least seems to have a path to playing time.
Ty Fryfogle, Indiana ($5,300) vs. Michigan State
Indiana has been a disappointment this season and Fryfogle's production has lagged behind where his drafters took the plunge in season-long formats. 5.3 yards per target is a far cry from what anyone expected from a player who racked up 721 yards and seven touchdowns on 70 targets in 2020. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look ahead to Saturday and why Fryfogle is playable Saturday.
Fryfogle is still a strong PPR option who holds a 30 percent target share. He has been targeted no less than seven times in any game this season and his targets have bumped up to 17 and 11 in his last two outings. No other Hoosier receiver is seeing more than 5.0 targets per game.
You may be drawn to Michigan State's passing yardage allowed per game and see it as a defense to target. Well, the 388 yards given up to D'Eriq King and Miami and the 488 given up to Bailey Zappe's Western Kentucky is doing a lot of the heavy lifting there. It's obviously not a great secondary but I still doubt the Hoosiers rack up the same type of production on Sparty this weekend. The key for Fryfogle lies in the volume. A receiver just north of $5K pushing for double-digit targets is hard to find on most slates, and the idea here is that even with middling per-target production, Fryfogle will do enough to return value Saturday.
One injury note to monitor: Quarterback Michael Penix was dealing with a shoulder injury going into the bye week. If he's out, Fryfogle's projection takes a hit even if Penix hasn't been as good this season as he was in 2020.
Jayden Reed ($6,300) and Jalen Nailor ($6,200), Michigan State at Indiana
On the other side of the Hoosier game, we find a pair of Spartan receivers who fuel what has become a surprisingly fun offense. Now, Nailor is coming off the big game against Rutgers while Reed was somewhat quiet with three grabs for 29 yards and no touchdowns. They're priced right next to each other, setting up this kind of situation.
I say, why not both? Indiana isn't terrible against the pass (223.0 YPG) but Michigan State has clearly turned a corner with its passing offense and it's a fairly narrow target tree with Nailor and Reed leading the way at 31 and 21 percent shares respectively. Nailor's elevated share is enticing but he's catching fewer than 50 percent of his looks (23/50) while Reed has caught 23 of 34 targets at 14.5 YPT. Both should do well and a lineup build that stacks these two along with Payton Thorne is something I'll pursue in a couple of entries.
Jack Bech, LSU ($5,500) vs. Florida
The loss of Kayshon Boutte is the latest development in what has been a brutal start to the year for LSU. In addition to the secondary being decimated and the run game being (mostly) non-existent, LSU must now figure out how to recalibrate its passing game.
For our purposes, this makes Bech an alluring target this weekend. Florida is stout against the pass, allowing just 208.3 passing yards per game, but it hasn't faced a strong passing attack aside from Alabama in The Swamp. LSU is one of the most pass-happy offenses in the nation with a 60 percent pass rate. Maybe that dips down with the loss of Boutte but the Tigers can't completely change their stripes at this point. Max Johnson will still be a busy man behind center.
Bech had started to come on strong prior to the Boutte injury, seeing an average of 8.0 target per game in his last four games. He's averaging 7.2 YPT and if the volume ticks up as expected, he's a viable play Saturday.
Ainias Smith, Texas A&M ($4,400) at Missouri
We've established Missouri's defense is terrible. The run defense is the main culprit but the secondary still allows 8.2 YPT. Now, A&M doesn't have a quarterback that can really exploit that and the Aggies might not have much reason to pass Saturday anyway, but when they do, Smith will be a fixture.
Smith commands a 22.4 percent target share and has caught four touchdowns on 26 receptions. His background as a running back could afford him a couple of rushes, too, and that could result in a splash play.