Welcome back College Football grinders to another wonderful year of the best sport on the planet. First off, a thank you to the readers. This is my (and FantasyCrunchers) first year in covering CFB and I am honored to be the guy to get to bring it to you. Last year with my content I was able to help three people qualify for the College Football World Championship in which I ended up finishing seventh. I look forward to bringing the same high-quality content and knowledge to FantasyCruncher this year.
This year’s Week 0 starting contents aren’t as big, or luxurious as last years, but we still get a two-game slate with plenty of talent. On shorter slates, I will focus on a more game by game approach, while on bigger slates we will aim to eliminate games to shrink down our player pools. Before jumping directly into our picks, we will do a quick overview of things that may have changed from 2018.
(8) Florida at Miami-Florida | UF -7, O/U 47
On this two-game slate, we get two very contrasting games. Here we get an SEC/ACC clash that should figure to be a bit of a grinder. Miami named redshirt freshman Jarren Williams the starting quarterback over Ohio State transfer Tate Martell and redshirt sophomore N’Kosi Perry. Miami also will see their leading rusher from the past few years, Travis Homer, depart to the NFL. To add one more fun nugget, wide receiver Jeff Thomas transferred to Illinois, until he then changed his mind and stayed with Miami. All-in-all, Miami will be starting the season rolling out Jarren Williams at quarterback, DeeJay Dallas as the lead back, and Jeff Thomas, Mike Marley, and Buffalo transfer K.J. Osborn at wide receiver.
On the Florida side, they welcome back nearly every offensive weapon from its 2018 team outside of Jordan Scarlett. Feleipe Franks has been named the starter after an incredible spring. The nation was a bit down on Franks in 2018, though he only threw six interceptions and had 31 total touchdowns through the air and ground. Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett split work in the Gators backfield for most of the season, with Perine only having three more carries on the season. However Perine out-rushed Scarlett by near 100 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers of last year don’t matter much here, it is more to highlight the workload that Perine will be into this year without a Jordan Scarlett type back behind him. That isn’t to say that Malik Davis won’t see work, but I don’t expect anything near a 50/50 split. On the wide receiver side, we have to be careful with exposure as Florida has never been a high volume to one guy team under Franks. Van Jefferson led the team with 38 receptions last year, with the next closest being Josh Hammon with 28 and Trevon Grimes with 26. All those players listed are back this season so Florida receivers will never be our main focus.
Arizona at Hawaii | AZ -11, O/U 74
You can notice the large difference in Vegas total right away, as the Arizona/Hawaii game comes in four touchdowns higher than Florida/Miami. Starting with Arizona, the will be returning former Heisman candidate Khalil Tate and work-horse running back J.J. Taylor. However, in the receiving corp, the Wildcats are going through some changes. Gone are the 2018 starters of Shawn Poindexter, Shun Brown, and Tony Ellison. Arizona hasn’t presented a formal depth chart yet aside from one with a lot of “or” designations, but the logical starting wideouts will be Cedric Peterson, Brian Casteel, and one of Drew Dixon and Boobie Curry. Stanley Berryhill is listed behind Cedric Peterson, but I think he is a player to watch for this Wildcat offense as someone who could breakthrough with major contributions.
Hawaii’s offense last year was led by sophomore quarterback Cole McDonald. McDonald passed for 3,875 yards and 36 touchdowns, which was sixth & seventh in the nation overall. The Rainbow Warriors have two very competent quarterbacks in McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro, though McDonald will be the guy to start the season. Leading receiver John Ursua is gone for the NFL but Hawaii will return their other top two receivers in Jo Jo Ward and Cedric Byrd. Running backs Dayton Futura and Freddie Holly also return, however, Futura has jumped Holly on the depth chart to take over as the lead back. The biggest concern for Hawaii will be their defense as they were 109th in the nation last year for points against, giving up 491 total, or just over 36 points per game.
Khalil Tate, AZ (DK: $9,000 | FD: $10,100)
This one for me is a no-brainer, though it will also be a no-brainer for a lot of people. Tate is one of the more exciting quarterbacks in college football with dual-threat upside every time he touches the field. 2018 was a way different year than 2017 as he carried the ball 79 fewer times than in 2017. Some of that has to do a lingering ankle injury that limited his mobility. Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin said Tate’s mobility this year compared to last year is “night and day”. 2018 saw Tate have to focus on his pure passing ability and though it wasn’t bad, his future path to the NFL lies in the marriage of his arm and his legs. There is no better place for Tate to start off his senior season than against a Hawaii team allowing over 439 yards per game, 6.30 yards per play, and over 36 points per game. Hawaii’s defense may put out a better product this season, though there is nothing that can do a full makeover to make them an even average defense in just a year’s time.
Feleipe Franks, AZ (DK: $7,200 | FD: $8,800)
Though we have the ability to roster two quarterbacks with Superflex, rostering both Tate and McDonald would eat up a significant part of our salary. On the Miami side of the ball, Jarren Williams is worth a dart in tournaments, though rostering a freshman in his first career start on a team only projected to score a little over two touchdowns is less than optimal. That leads us to Franks. Again, on only a two-game slate, you are going to see multiple Tate-Franks lineups, however, it is unavoidable to the field. Franks is also a dual-threat option as he attempted 12 or more rushing attempts in three of his last four games to end 2018. To his benefit, he is not someone who turns the ball over and he is returning his entire offense from 2018.
J.J. Taylor, AZ (DK: $7,700 | FD: $9,800)
Taylor was a yardage dependant running back last year as he only found pay dirt six times on the season. However, from a yardage point, he averaged 119 yards per game, while picking up 5.6 yards per carry. The lack of touchdowns is worrisome when paying a premium on a player for DFS, but the matchup against Hawaii is too good to pass up. The defense that Taylor faced that is most comparable to Hawaii would have been Oregon State, whom he torched for 284 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. We, of course, are not expecting that level of production, but when compared to the other starting running backs on this slate Taylor holds a clear production advantage.
LaMical Perine, FL (DK: $6,200 | FD: $8,300)
The price of Perine on DraftKings makes him likely the second highest owned player on this slate next to Khalil Tate. Perine was in an almost direct split with Jordan Scarlett last season, so much so that only three carries separated their total number of attempts. I think a lot of people will use last year’s box scores to justify decisions for this year but with college football, you have to limit that line of thinking since teams change so frequently. The only place the Gators lost last season was in their offensive line as the 2019 squad will only have 23 total starts from a year ago. This is something to keep an eye on as a small nod of concern, but until we get some process and data out of their first game we won’t know if it is a legitimate concern or not. Regardless, Perine averaged 13 fantasy points per game in a 50/50 split. He should have a 75/25 edge on Malik Davis and it will show in Perine’s production.
DeeJay Dallas, MIA (DK: $5,800 | FD: $7,900)
I am writing a small blurb on Dallas as justice to him. He will play a large role in the Miami offense this season, however, opening the season against a Florida team that has 1st-team all-SEC talent in Jabari Zuniga and a solid and experienced linebacker corp is not the ideal first matchup. With Miami being projected for around 20 points at a seven-point underdog, the room for Dallas to dominate this game is not large. Dallas started his career as a wide receiver, yet moved to running back after a 2017 injury to Mark Walton. Dallas is averaging 12.6 yards per reception in his Hurricane career though he only caught ten passes in 2018. The production here and how we see it will strongly come down to how well Jarren Williams reacts to the pocket and the pressure of his first career start. If Dallas provides to be a check down safety blanket for Williams, Dallas’ production and fantasy numbers may rise quickly.
Cedric Peterson, AZ (DK: $5,900 | FD: $8,400)
As mentioned, the Arizona offense lost all three of their starting wideouts from last season. Peterson is the one receiver listed on the Wildcat depth chart that does not have an “or” designation which gives us a good insight into how Arizona views him. Peterson as the fourth wideout last season caught 18 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns. There is a big change going from fourth on the depth chart to the lead receiver and as I said earlier, we need a week or two to really see how things are shaking out off of paper. But for now, Peterson is as good of a bet as anyone to lead the Wildcats in receiving against a soft Hawaii defense.
Cedric Byrd, HAW (DK: $6,900 | FD: $8,700)
Hawaii is a pass-first, pass often, type of offense. That shows in both Cole McDonalds near 500 passing attempts and in the under 200 total rushing attempts from the running back position. That should also show in a game they are an 11-point underdog in. Using conventional game theory not much should change from the Hawaii output, we will likely see McDonald passing quite frequently. The Hawaii wide receiver corp is given a large boost if this game stays close. I talk openly about Hawaii playing from behind and being a bad team, however, they did make the Hawaii Bowl last year and they aren’t a bottom-feeding team. In my eyes, they are going to be overmatched against a Pac-12 team. The offense isn’t Hawaii’s big problem as it is the defense. We can leverage this to our advantage though as if Hawaii plays from behind, the ball will be in the air more than on the ground. Byrd and Jo Jo Ward can be interchangeable here, I give Byrd the advantage as he had 25 more receptions than Ward in 2018 and comes in cheaper than Ward by $600 on FanDuel.
The Gators have a talented wide receiver corp but as mentioned earlier, none topped 35 receptions last season. Florida is a run-first team and though there are players with the ability to go off in any game, for DFS purposes we don’t want to be constantly guessing. All Florida or Miami receivers are priced more appropriately on DraftKings than FanDuel. K.J. Osborn, the transfer from Buffalo, is a very talented receiver who caught 53 passes for 892 yards and seven touchdowns last year and will slot into a starting role with the Hurricanes. Jeff Thomas will get ownership but I rather take a risk on Osborn when it comes down to it. All-in-all I won’t have a lot of exposure to either of these teams receivers.
Jason-Matthew Sharsh, HAW (DK: $4,700 | FD: $6,500)
On the initial depth chart it appears Sharsh has beat out fellow receiver Melquise Stovall for a starting role. As mentioned, Hawaii is a pass-first team so Sharsh should step right into the gameplan. It will be hard to judge his involvement until we get a sample size to work with. However, the $4,700 price on DraftKings is vital to building around some higher-priced option.
Kadarius Toney, FL (DK: $3,300 | FD:$6,200)
On DraftKings, Toney is listed as a running back and on FanDuel he is listed properly as a wide receiver. Toney spent 2018 as a running back on the depth chart, though he was used in a check down back role. This season he has fully converted to the wide receiver position. Though he is buried deep on the depth chart the speedster has game-changing speed and a decent fantasy floor for a cheap dart throw. I would not recommend this play for FanDuel, but the $3,300 salary on DraftKings is a clear discount as he averaged 7.1 fantasy points per contest in 2018.