Make no mistake about it; daily fantasy sports leagues are starting to explode in popularity. Industry leaders such as Fanduel and Draftstreet are dumping big dollars into marketing and in turn, a new wave of players are entering the fray. I’ve begun to dabble in each sport offering, but I find myself intrigued by college football. College football is very popular among students and alumni, but has not generated much buzz in the fantasy community. There are hundreds of teams across Division I and it’s nearly impossible to know every player. Still, games focused on Top 25 only players or only on FBS sports makes the game more enjoyable. Fanduel and Draftstreet downsize their game offerings to include only a certain sample of games, which makes it much easier for the average player. After doing some research on Saturday morning, I decided to give myself a small bankroll and experiment in this space…My findings are discussed after the jump.

Lesson #1: Always look at Vegas’ spreads and over/under totals. 

I think this goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning in this article. Vegas books have lines down to a science. They know how to set lines in order to get action on both sides. There were two FBS games on Saturday with totals over 72. Both games, Ohio State/Illinois (73) and Baylor/Texas Tech (83.5), went over their respective totals. When you see a monster total like this, you have to find a way to get some of the key players in your lineup. On Draftstreet, owners receive a $100,000 budget to build a team. Baylor QB Bryce Petty ($20,000) and Ohio State QB Braxton Miller ($17,000) were pricey, but both players put up massive stat lines in their wins. In addition, Baylor RB Shock Linwood ($7,500) and Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde ($11,500) had career days and paid off their respective salaries. High totals plus opportunity leads to fantasy goodness. Do your research and load up on these stud players.

Lesson #2: Don’t fear the ‘blow out factor’

In some sports, fantasy players fear blowouts. If an NBA game has a huge spread, some fantasy players choose to avoid players on the team favored in fear of missing court time late. Don’t fear that in college football. Blowouts frequently happen, but by the time the starters are pulled, your studs have gotten their stats. In addition, teams like Ohio State want to run up the score in order to appear more favorable to the BCS. Embrace the blow-out factor.

Lesson #3: NCAA Offensive production is more predictable than the NFL

On a coaching and talent level, many NFL teams are comparable. Few teams have stud QBs that gives them a clear advantage, but for the most part, NFL talent is comparable. The motto ‘Any Given Sunday’ applies every week. This isn’t the case in college football. Upsets happen, but for the most part, stud coaches and stud players are pretty much match-up proof and get their stats. Baylor’s offense has been virtually unstoppable. Alabama can run the ball at will against any team. Most Pac12 teams have dynamic passing attacks and boast the most skilled set of WRs in college football. Play to the strengths of each team and you’ll be rewarded.

Lesson #4: Fade Jace Amaro at your own risk

For those that don’t know Mr. Amaro, he is Texas Tech’s tight end. Through 11 games, Amaro has 92 catches, 1,157 yards and 6 TDs. Tight end production across college football is very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, but Amaro has been money in the bank. Given his steep price, I faded Amaro on all of my teams and that proved to be a costly mistake. Amaro went off for 57 yards and 2 TDs in the first half before leaving with an injury. Who knows how much he produces if he doesn’t get hurt. Texas Tech only has one more game, so you know Amaro will be in my lineup.

Lesson #5: Load up on Baylor Bears

Baylor has the most explosive offense in college football. Led by QB Bryce Petty, Baylor is a well-oiled machine that routinely puts up 50 points per game. Petty isn’t your prototypical dual-threat college quarterback, but he has the ability to run for first down and touchdowns. Baylor’s offense is dealing with injuries to several key players, so that presents opportunity for second and third string players to step-up. This past weekend, back-up RB Shock Linwood and WR Levi Norwood stepped up for their injured teammates and had big days. Baylor’s top WR, Antwan Goodley, is following in the footsteps of past team mates, Josh Gordon and Terrance Williams, and is one of top WRs in college football. 

Lesson #6: Invest in discounted players

The old adage of ‘Buy Low, Sell High’ rings true in college football. Over the last few weeks, Oregon has faced tough defenses and in turn, their point production has drastically declined. All of Oregon’s main players (Marcus Mariotta, DeAnthony Thomas, Byron Marshall, Josh Huff, Bralon Addison) were discounted against a weak Utah team. Marshall had a nice game for a cheap price on Draftstreet($10,000). Always take a look at last week’s results and see where you can find value in stud players. 

Lesson #7: Watch out for negative rushing yards

I’m not sure whether this is totally true or not, but sacks are counted towards a quarterback’s rushing yardage total. Many QBs had negative rushing totals in excess of 20 yards which indicates sacks. QBs such as Jordan Lynch, Johnny Manziel, and Marcus Mariotta don’t have these issues and regularly run. 

Game Plan: Week 13

As we get ready for Week 13, here are a few notes from Week 12 and some recommendations for Week 13:

Early Week

  • The Mid-American Conference (MAC) plays exclusively on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Fanduel has some Tuesday-Wednesday only leagues and they might be worth a small play if you’re so inclined. #15 Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch has Heisman-like stats and is thrilling to watch. The point totals are also really high, so if you like watching high scoring offenses, tune in for some MACtion.

Mid-Week

  • On Thursday night, #17 UCF hosts Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights just gave up 52 points and 400 passing yards to Cincinnati QB, Brendon Kay. UCF’s QB, Blake Bortles, had a huge bounce back game (467 total yards, 4 TDs) against Temple. Expect Bortles to put up a huge total as UCF marches towards an automatic BCS berth.

Weekend

  • #13 Michigan State travels to Northwestern on Saturday afternoon. Northwestern is giving up 165 rushing yards per game. Opponents have scored 12 rushing touchdowns. Michigan State’s RB Jeremy Langford dropped 151 yards and 3 TDs on Nebraska last weekend. Langford is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored 15 rushing TDs this season. Couple Langford’s impressive performances with Michigan State’s 4th ranked defense and you have the recipe for success. Michigan State opened up as a 7.5 point favorite, so Vegas is not expecting the blow-out to take shape.  
  • #18 Oklahoma bounced back from its embarrassing performance against Baylor by beating down Iowa State, 48-10. Bob Stoops played three different quarterbacks during the game, but found success with dual-threat freshman QB, Trevor Knight. Starting QB Blake Bell was injured early in the game and Knight rushed for 123 yards and 1 TD. Knight led the OU offense to all 48 of its points. None of OU’s QBs threw for more than 61 yards, but when you’re able to run for 405 yards, it doesn’t matter. If the price is right and Bell is out, Knight is worth a look next week at Kansas State, who is allowing 139 rushing yards per game. Given the uncertainty at the QB position for OU, Kansas State is installed as a 3.5 point favorite.
  • #20 Louisville won a very boring 27-13 decision at home against Houston in Week 12. I was heavy on Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, but he laid an egg from a fantasy perspective (203 yards, 0 TDs). Louisville seemed content running the ball to keep Houston’s explosive passing attack off the field. Bridgewater appeared to operate more of a pro-style NFL offense instead of a wide-open, spread passing attack like most college teams. Louisville RB Dominique Brown (27/154/2 TDs) looked great and he’s worth a look this weekend. Louisville hosts Memphis and opened as a 24.5 point favorite. I’m probably fading Bridgewater for the rest of the season.
  • Unranked Duke Blue Devils (8-2) are hot. Duke ran for 358 yards and 5 TDs against #23 Miami en-route to a 48-30 win. Duke doesn’t have one bonafide stud, but Duke QB Brandon Connette strictly operates on the goal line. Connette scored four rushing touchdowns against Miami. Wake Forest (4-6) hosts Duke and they’ve allowed 146.5 yards per game. No obvious plays in this game.
  • Unranked Houston is looking for some revenge after losing to Louisville last week 27-13. Houston (7-3) hosts conference rival (8-2) Cincinnati. Cincinnati dropped 52 points on Rutgers last weekend and QB Brendon Kay has thrown for 11 TDs while averaging nearly 300 yards per game over his last four games. Houston ranked towards the bottom of the FBS in total defense, so Cincinnati players are in play. Cincinnati likes to spread the ball around to three different receivers, so it’s tough to recommend one solid play. However, Cincinnati WR Anthony McClung is the team’s leading receiver and did not score last game. Look for Kay to get McClung into the end zone this weekend. Houston opened as a small 2.5 point favorite.
  • Michigan-Iowa: This game is a mess. I’m staying away.
  • Unraked Miami FL has taken three straight losses as it has tumbled out of the Top 25. Miami will look to rebound at home against a lowly (2-8) Virginia team. Virginia is terrible against the run, allowing 183 yards per game. Miami opened as a comfortable 19.5 point favorite, giving me confidence in Miami RB Dallas Crawford, who put over 100 total yards on Duke last week.
  • Unranked Illinois (3-7) will try to pick up its first Big 10 win on the road against Purdue (1-9). Last weekend, both teams were gashed for over 280 rushing yards. Penn State’s top receiver, Allen Robinson, grabbed eight passes for 100 yards in the win. Illinois’ top WR, Steve Hull, has put over 100 yards over the last four games, so he could be an option. 
  • #10 South Carolina hosts Coastal Carolina this weekend. I have no idea whether or not this game will be in play, but if it is, South Carolina RB Mike Davis is in play. Davis played sparingly in the fourth quarter against Florida, so check it out and see if he has an injury. WR Bruce Ellington returned after an injury and scored a TD to go along with 68 yards.
  • I doubt Chattanooga/#1 Alabama or Idaho/#2 FSU will be on the slate, so we’ll skip it.
  • #3 Ohio State (10-0) hung 60 on Illinois last weekend. This weekend, they host Indiana (4-6) at the Horseshoe. Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde put up 270 total yards and 5 TDs. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller coupled 184 rushing yards with 150 passing yards for 3 total TDs. Wisconsin ran for over 400 yards on Indiana last weekend, so I would find a way to get at least one of Miller or Hyde in your lineups. I’d prefer Hyde as Urban Meyer will run up the score on the lowly Hoosiers. Indiana is at the bottom of rushing defenses, allowing 260 yards per game.
  • #5 Oregon (9-1) travels to take on Arizona (6-4). Arizona has dropped two straight home games, but will look to end the slide against the powerful Ducks. Oregon’s powerful rushing offense (285.5 yards per game) should not have any trouble with Arizona’s bottom feeder defense (170 rushing yards per game). Arizona is giving up 380 yards per game, so Oregon should be able to score some points. Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas is not 100% healthy from his high ankle sprain, so I really like Oregon RB Byron Marshall in this one. Arizona will try to ride its RB, Ka’Deem Carey, early on, but I expect Oregon to start fast and turn Carey into a moot point.
  • #12 Texas A&M (8-2) heads into Death Valley to take on #22 LSU (7-3). LSU is coming off a bye week and had an extra week to prepare for A&M QB Johnny Football. Last season, LSU defeated A&M, 24-19 on A&M’s home turf. Manziel was limited to 276 passing yards, 0 TDs and 3 INTs by a defense that has not lost any starters. In addition, Manziel was only able to run for 27 yards on 17 carries. LSU’s ranks 27th in total defense this season and I think LSU should find some success against Johnny Football. A&M WR Mike Evans had 6-76 last season and is a big play threat, but the play for this game has to be LSU RB Jeremy Hill. Hill gashed A&M for 137 yards and 1 TD last season. Hill is averaging 8.5 yards per carry at home and has scored a total of 13 TDs this year. In order to neutralize Johnny Football, LSU has to keep A&M off the field. A&M is giving up 211 yards per game on the ground. 
  • #19 Wisconsin (8-2) and its dynamic rushing attack heads north to face #25 Minnesota (8-2). Wisconsin is coming off a dismantling of Indiana while Minnesota took down Penn State, 24-10. Wisconsin’s RBs James White and Melvin Gordon are a lethal combination that put up over 400 rushing yards last week. Minnesota ranks in the top half of rushing defenses. Still, Penn State was able to run for 190 yards with less dynamic backs. Minnesota continues to ride RB David Cobb, but Wisconsin boasts a Top 10 run defense. Unless I can get Wisconsin TE Jacob Pedersen or RB Gordon for a decent price, I’m probably fading this game.

Part II will come out tomorrow…