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College Fantasy Football Week 1 Start or Sit

Corey Davis

Corey Davis

Week 1 of the college football season is finally upon us and it is that time of the week to set your fantasy lineup. Each week here on AthlonSports.com, we will compile a few players per position that need to be either sure-fire starters or riding the pine.

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Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Deshaun Watson or Leonard Fournette as those players are starters regardless of the matchup.

Also below are the top 10 rankings for each position for the given week.

Quarterbacks

Start ’Em

Mike White, Western Kentucky vs. Rice
Brandon Doughty is not walking through that door, but this offense could be just as effective with White now under center. The former South Florida transfer won a tightly-contested quarterback battle this offseason and will get the Week 1 start against a Rice defense that finished 102nd a year ago against the pass. White also will have the benefit of a full complementary of receivers including Taywan Taylor, Nacarius Fant and Nicholas Norris, who combined for nearly 2,600 yards in 2015. This Western Kentucky offense has potential to finish in the top 10 in the country for a second straight year.

Kenny Potter, San Jose State vs. Tulsa
Potter closed the 2015 season on a tear with a combined 13 total touchdowns in his final four games, including three straight contests with three TD passes. Potter begins the 2016 campaign against a Tulsa defense that finished 125th in the country against the pass, allowing 297 yards per game,  including an FBS-high 89 plays of at least 20 yards. This matchup is expected to be one of the highest-scoring games of the weekend and Potter’s play will be a big reason why.

Sit’ Em

Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina vs. Georgia
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Trubisky’s upside this year in North Carolina’s potent offense. But this is a tough opening matchup against one of the best secondaries in the SEC in Georgia. Adding to that, Trubisky will be without big-play target Mack Hollins for the first half of Saturday’s matchup due to a helmet-to-helmet hit in last year’s bowl game against Baylor. Teams don’t typically fair well against the SEC in neutral-site openers and I think Trubisky could struggle in his first start.

Notre Dame Quarterbacks
This situation is frustrating on many fronts for college fantasy players as head coach Brian Kelly has yet to decide who will start Week 1 at Texas. Kelly did confirm both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will play, which is even more maddening because a clear-cut starter in Notre Dame’s offense would likely be a top-10 play this week. If you drafted either of these quarterbacks, hopefully a pecking order shakes out in the weeks to come, but at least for this week, I wouldn’t suggest having either quarterback in your starting lineup.

Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 1:

Deshaun Watson, Clemson vs. Auburn
Luke Falk, Washington State vs. Eastern Washington
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State vs. Bowling Green
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin
Lamar Jackson, Louisville vs. Charlotte
Kenny Potter, San Jose State vs. Tulsa
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State vs. Alabama A&M
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma vs. Houston
Seth Russell, Baylor vs. Northwestern State
Matt Davis, SMU vs. North Texas

Running Backs

Start’ Em

Aaron Jones, UTEP vs. New Mexico State
After sitting out all but one game last season due to an ankle injury, Jones is set to return to action Saturday night against New Mexico State. As a sophomore, Jones was one of the best backs in the country with 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns while finishing in the top third in the FBS with 242 carries. The Miners employ a run-heavy offense that should feature Jones often against an Aggies defense that finished 2015 giving up 200-plus yards per game on the ground. Expect a big performance out of Jones in his 2016 debut.

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Terence Williams, Baylor vs. Northwestern State
Baylor should jump out to a comfortable lead from the first whistle against Northwestern State, and don’t expect the Bears to put quarterback Seth Russell in harm’s way in a game that will likely result in a blowout victory. That means plenty of carries for the team’s stable of backs, including Williams, who was listed as a co-starter along with Shock Linwood on Baylor’s Week 1 depth chart. With Johnny Jefferson out indefinitely due to injuries suffered in a car accident earlier this month, expect Williams to handle the bulk of the workload this week.

Sit’ Em

Corey Clement, Wisconsin vs. LSU
Now fully healthy, something that couldn’t be said all of last season, Clement is expected to have a bounce-back year for the Badgers. It just won’t show this week against an LSU defense that is projected to be one of the best in the country in 2016. The Tigers return nine starters from a group that finished 17th in total rush defense, including three of the four along the defensive front. Also working against Clement is that LSU’s new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will know exactly how to scheme against Wisconsin’s ground attack after spending the previous three seasons on the Badgers’ staff. Clement will bounce back from a disappointing 2015 campaign; it just won’t be against the Tigers.

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Ronald Jones II/Justin Davis, USC vs. Alabama
It’s no secret that the Trojans will run the ball early and often this year with their two-headed monster at running back. However, yards will be hard to come by Week 1 against the vaunted Alabama defense. In 2015, the Tide allowed just 76 yards per game on the ground, and this year’s version is said to be one of the fastest groups Nick Saban has had in some time. Add in that USC will be rolling out a first-year starter at quarterback and you can be assured that Alabama’s primary focus will be on limiting the ground game of the Trojans.

Top 10 Running Backs for Week 1:

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford vs. Kansas State
Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Leonard Fournette, LSU vs. Wisconsin
Myles Gaskin, Washington vs. Rutgers
Aaron Jones, UTEP vs. New Mexico State
Joel Bouganon, Northern Illinois vs. Wyoming
Kareem Hunt, Toledo vs. Arkansas State
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State vs. New Hampshire
Saquon Barkley, Penn State vs. Kent State
Royce Freeman, Oregon vs. UC Davis

Wide Receivers

Start ’Em

Steve Ishmael, Syracuse vs. Colgate
This layup of an opener against Colgate should be the perfect opportunity for new head coach Dino Babers to excite the fan base with his fast-paced, up-tempo offense. In each of the past two seasons with Bowling Green, Babers’ offense helped produce consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons for Roger Lewis and I expect that streak to continue this season with Ishmael, the clear-cut No. 1 target for the Orange. Two touchdowns is probably the floor for Ishmael this week unless Syracuse jumps out to such a big lead early on that his services are no longer needed.

Courtland Sutton, SMU vs. North Texas
While the arrow is certainly pointed in the right direction now for North Texas with new head coach Sean Littrell at the helm, the Mean Green will not be very good in 2016. Though North Texas does bring back six defensive starters from a year ago, including all four in the secondary, that is not necessarily a good thing as the unit gave up a school-record 502.6 yards per game (120th in the FBS) in 2015. SMU should rack up the points this week and Sutton, the Mustangs No. 1 target, will be one of the primary beneficiaries.

Sit ‘Em

Corey Davis, Western Michigan vs. Northwestern
Remember what Northwestern did last season in the opener? The Wildcats completely shut down Christian McCaffrey and Stanford, en route to top-15 finish for the year in total defense. Can Northwestern replicate that success in 2016 against arguably the best wide receiver in the country? Expect senior cornerback and potential All-Big Ten performer Matthew Harris to shadow Davis all game long in the hopes of limiting the big play.

Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. Arkansas
Louisiana Tech announced earlier this week that redshirt freshman J’Mar Smith would get the start at quarterback against Arkansas after an impressive fall camp that saw him rise up the depth chart. That said, Smith likely would be the backup had senior Ryan Higgins not gotten suspended due to a DWI last month. Going on the road with a first-time starter at QB against an SEC defense in Arkansas that brings back plenty of experience in the secondary does not feel like a recipe for success. If possible, I would sit Taylor this week.

Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 1:

Gabe Marks, Washington State vs. Eastern Washington
Richie James, Middle Tennessee State vs. Alabama A&M
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky vs. Rice
Courtland Sutton, SMU vs. North Texas
Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
KD Cannon, Baylor vs. Northwestern State
Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois vs. Wyoming
Steve Ishmael, Syracuse vs. Colgate
Mike Williams, Clemson vs. Auburn
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M vs. UCLA

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.