Creating the Ultimate College Football Fantasy Team for Week 2
The first week of the 2014-15 college football season featured its fair share of outstanding individual performances, great kicking efforts and dominant defensive accomplishments. Most were by the usual suspects, but plenty of surprises were out there as well.
Here's the thing, though: One week doesn't make a trend. Just because someone had a good first game doesn't mean they're in line for a big year, and vice versa for expected stars who struggled in the opener. Using fantasy stats from the first week to dictate who to play in Week 2, while seemingly a good approach, doesn't ensure success.
That means picking the ultimate college football fantasy team for this weekend is as much of a crapshoot as it was for the opening set of games. It's a guessing game for at least a few more weeks, until patterns emerge.
But that won't stop us from trying to put together the best lineup, taking into account how players and teams performed last week but also considering the circumstances of those first games as well as the opponent and venue for this weekend. Take a look at our choices, then give us your feedback in the comments section.
Quarterback: Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 at Tulane
There are better options if you're looking for someone to put up big passing yards and throw lots of touchdowns, but to get the most value from this spot, it helps to find a quarterback that uses his feet as well as his arm. The dual-threat quarterback is a gold mine in fantasy sports but only when they have a good matchup.
Justin Thomas had a pretty good debut for Georgia Tech last week. The sophomore threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-15 passing while adding 71 yards on the ground in a 38-19 win over Wofford. The Yellow Jackets run the option but will throw when needed to, and Thomas showed his passing ability by completing his last eight throws for 200 yards.
Thomas has a big No. 1 target in DeAndre Smelter, a 6'3" senior who brings back memories of when Calvin Johnson dominated at Tech. And with a matchup against a Tulane team that allowed 438 passing yards last week, the Yellow Jackets are likely to throw more than you'd expect from the option.
Other candidates: Nick Arbuckle, Georgia State (vs. New Mexico State); Shane Carden, East Carolina (at South Carolina); Cody Fajardo, Nevada (vs. Washington State); Davis Webb, Texas Tech (at UTEP); Travis Wilson, Utah (vs. Fresno State)
Running Back: Kelvin Taylor, Florida
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 vs. Eastern Michigan
Kelvin Taylor didn't get a chance to play until injuries mounted up on Florida's offense in 2013, and by that time, it was pretty much a lost season for the Gators. But the true freshman made the most of his time, and he finished with 508 yards and four touchdowns.
Now with a full season ahead of him to work with, and a new offense implemented by coordinator Kurt Roper, Taylor could be in line for a breakout year. His first chance to show that (last weekend against Idaho) got washed out by rain and lightning, so now Taylor will make his debut against an Eastern Michigan team that allowed 210 rushing yards to an FBS program in its opener.
The 5'10", 209-pound Taylor, the son of former Florida and NFL great Fred Taylor, received rave reviews from coach Will Muschamp during training camp, according to Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel:
He's much improved. He's got natural running ability, natural running skill and he sees things very well. But he's improved his hands out of the backfield, catches the ball much better than he did a year ago. Protection, he has just been a marked improvement of where we were a year ago — stronger and tougher.
Taylor won't get all the carries, nor will Florida go exclusively run with the need to make sure quarterback Jeff Driskel can also handle the new offense well. But this is going to be a blowout, which means Taylor will get plenty of chances early to churn out big yards.
Running Back: Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 vs. San Jose State
With Nick Marshall suspended for the first half and Tre Mason in the NFL, Auburn showed that it's running prowess is as much a product of the system and scheme as it is the players on the field. But the guy who will benefit the most from that system in 2014 is one that has chosen to top the numbers that Mason and Marshall put up last year.
Cameron Artis-Payne ran for 177 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in the Tigers' 45-21 win over Arkansas last week. His 6.8 yards-per-carry average fell in line with the 6.7-yard rate he has last season as a backup, when he still managed to gain 610 yards and score six times.
Joel Erickson of AL.com noted that the 5'11", 210-pound senior held his own against "a stacked box" by Arkansas in the first half, gaining 55 yards on 14 carries before catching fire after halftime with 122 yards on 12 touches. That coincided with Marshall back in there as another weapon, giving Artis-Payne "more room to run" and allowing him to "repeatedly gash the Arkansas defense for big gains through the middle."
San Jose State will be overmatched in this game, and Auburn should win by a landslide. Artis-Payne may only play half the game, but he'll still get a load of yards and probably a few scores before that.
Other candidates: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (vs. McNeese State); Sherman Badie, Tulane (vs. Georgia Tech); Travis Greene, Bowling Green (vs. VMI); D.J. Foster, Arizona State (at New Mexico); T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (vs. Florida Atlantic)
Wide Receiver: Justin Hardy, East Carolina
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 at South Carolina
To assume that South Carolina's secondary will get burned as badly as it did in Week 1 is putting too much stock in one result. But the Gamecocks are going to be tested through the air by East Carolina, which features a veteran quarterback in Shane Carden and one of the most prolific (and underrated) receivers in senior Justin Hardy.
Hardy has 274 receptions for his career, which currently stands 28th on the FBS career list. He has 3,134 career receiving yards and 27 touchdowns, including two last week in the Pirates' 52-7 win over North Carolina Central.
A starter since his freshman year, the 6'1", 188-pound Hardy caught 114 passes last season. And it's not just been against lesser opponents, as in 2013, when he had 14 catches for 149 yards and two TDs in road wins over ACC teams North Carolina and North Carolina State.
South Carolina allowed Texas A&M's Kenny Hill to throw for 511 yards in Week 1. East Carolina will only get close to that number if it's trailing big, which is possible, but that also means Hardy will get lots more looks.
Wide Receiver: Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 at South Florida
We'll never know what might have come of Maryland's offense last season had it not been so ravaged with injuries, including a devastating one to star receiver Stefon Diggs. But the 6'0", 190-pound junior is back after missing the last six games of 2013 with a broken leg and is primed for a big year.
Diggs had five catches for 53 yards in Maryland's 52-7 win over James Madison last week—pedestrian numbers—but more wasn't needed from him in such a blowout. That game was more about seeing how he'd look out on the field, while Saturday's trip to South Florida will be a better indicator of what this season has in store for him.
Maryland suffered another blow to its receiving corps in the opening win, losing Taivon Jacobs to a knee injury that will knock him out for the year. That makes Diggs even more important in this game, which will be against a South Florida team that allowed 374 passing yards to an FCS team last week.
Other candidates: Austin Hill, Arizona (at UTSA); Geno Lewis, Penn State (vs. Akron); Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (at Iowa State); Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech (at UTEP); Nelson Spruce, Colorado (at Boston College)
Tight End: Clive Walford, Miami (Fla.)
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 vs. Florida A&M
While Miami's offense struggled in the season-opening 31-13 loss at Louisville, that wasn't a big surprise with the Hurricanes starting a true freshman quarterback in Brad Kaaya. What did stand out in the game, though, was how effective the use of play action was for Kaaya during the game, particularly when he targeted 6'4", 258-pound tight end Clive Walford.
The senior had only three catches for 38 yards in the game, but that included a 31-yard reception and a 2-yard catch from Kaaya that resulted in Miami's only touchdown of the game.
Walford had 34 receptions for 454 yards last season but only caught two TDs. He figures to be much more involved in Miami's offense this season, even with talented receivers like Stacy Coley, Phillip Dorsett and Herb Waters, and if Kaaya remains in the lineup, the two could form a nice relationship.
Other candidates: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State (Sept. 6 vs. Kansas State); Bryce Dixon, USC (Sept. 6 at Stanford); Connor Hamlett, Oregon State (Sept. 6 at Hawaii); Joel Ruiz, Georgia State (Sept. 6 vs. New Mexico State)
Kicker: Kyle Brindza, Notre Dame
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 vs. Michigan
The choice of a kicker either comes down to one that you expect will get a lot of chances to make field goals and one that simply will rack up points thanks to all of his team's touchdowns in a high-scoring blowout.
There's also the option of going with someone who maybe hasn't lived up to expectations but might be ready to finally shine on a big stage. That's why we're going with Notre Dame senior Kyle Brindza, who could end up being the X-factor in the final rendition of the Fighting Irish's storied series with Michigan.
Brindza made two of three field goals last week against Rice, missing from 39 yards out early in the second quarter. It's the 15th missed kick in his two-plus years as Notre Dame's kicker, and his career percentage is only 75 percent (45-of-60).
But he's made some big kicks in his time with the Irish, such as a 53-yard kick last October against Arizona State that tied the school record, and in his first game as kicker in September 2012, he made a 27-yarder to beat Purdue with seven seconds left.
If Notre Dame needs a kick to win at the end of this big game, on its home field, Brindza will come through.
Other candidates: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State (Sept. 6 vs. The Citadel); Colby Delahoussaye, LSU (Sept. 6 vs. Sam Houston State); Sam Ficken, Penn State (Sept. 6 vs. Akron); Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma (Sept. 6 at Tulsa)
Week 2 matchup: Sept. 6 vs. South Carolina State
Clemson's defense was supposed to be the strength of this year's team, at least early on in the season as the Tigers offense broke in new skill players all over. But Clemson got worn down and run over by Georgia last week, yielding 328 rushing yards (with 211 coming in the fourth quarter) managing just one sack.
Coach Dabo Swinney told Aaron Brenner of the Charleston Post & Courier his defense "got a little bit pouty," but Clemson's offense wasn't producing, which didn't make him happy. He'll expect that unit to do much better next time out, and as fate would have it, the Tigers get a cupcake opponent up next to use as a get-well game.
Vic Beasley, who had the Tigers' lone sack against Georgia among his five tackles, will use South Carolina State as a tackling dummy. And he won't be alone. Clemson's offense will probably also dominate the Bulldogs, and the entire Clemson defense will be superior.
Other candidates: Alabama (vs. Florida Atlantic); Baylor (vs. Northwestern State); Florida State (vs. The Citadel); UCLA (vs. Memphis)
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.