With playoff matchups and championships potentially on the line, how you set your college fantasy football lineup this week will be critical. Luckily, AthlonSports.com is here to help you make those tough decisions and hopefully assure that you will come away victories in the college fantasy football postseason.
Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Lamar Jackson or Donnel Pumphrey as those players are typically starters regardless of the matchup.
Also below are the top 10 rankings for each position for the given week.
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State vs. Arkansas
Typically with quarterbacks I take a look at some of the pass defense statistics throughout college football, but that was not the case here. Arkansas has been dreadful against the run over the last month and a half, allowing more than 270 yards per game and an average of nearly four rushing scores a game. Against LSU last week, the Razorbacks gave up 350 rushing yards to the combination of Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette. Adding to that, Arkansas is allowing more than 46 points per game this season on the road. Fitzgerald struggled mightily last week (as we thought he would) against Alabama, but had been playing some of his best ball of late with three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances prior to that. I expect a bounce-back game from Fitzgerald both running and throwing the football at home against the Razorbacks.
Daniel Jones, Duke at Pittsburgh
While it is widely known by now that Arizona State has the worst pass defense in the country, Pittsburgh is slowly creeping up on the Sun Devils. The Panthers rank 127th in the nation, allowing more than 343 passing yards per game. Last week certainly did not help as Deshaun Watson threw for 580 yards and three touchdowns, though that did come on 70 attempts, as the Pitt D did do a good job shutting down Clemson’s running game. The Panthers’ secondary will have another tough challenge this week against Jones. The freshman has played well in spurts this season, including the last two games where he has run for nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns. If Jones continues to get carries in the red zone this week, it looks to be a fantastic matchup for him both running and throwing the football.
Jalen Hurts, Alabama vs. Chattanooga
Hurts had probably his best game of the year last week against Mississippi State as he threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 100 yards and another score. So why sit him against a cupcake like Chattanooga? Well, typically Alabama has a “bye week” like this scheduled each season so I went to look back at last season where the Tide faced Charleston Southern at a similar point in the year. In total, three quarterbacks played, five different running backs received no more than 10 carries and 10 different receivers caught a pass. I can see a similar situation taking place this week where Nick Saban looks to get some of the younger players some experience and utilize a few others on the depth chart when the game is well in hand by half time. Hurts may rack up a few touchdowns but will likely not play the entire game based on what we have seen Alabama do previously.
John O’Korn, Michigan vs. Indiana
By all accounts, it looks as though O’Korn, a transfer from Houston, will be getting the start this week against Indiana as Wilton Speight could be out for the remainder of the season due to a shoulder injury (broken collarbone?) suffered against Iowa. Two reasons primarily why I would not start O’Korn this week unless you are in dire straits at the position. (1) I don’t see O’Korn being the only player getting snaps under center. We very well could see third-string quarterback Shane Morris get some reps and it is very possible that we will see Jabrill Peppers utilized much more frequently in wildcat formations. (2) The Hoosiers are much improved this season on D, especially against the pass. After finishing 127th in the country in 2015, the Hoosiers have jumped up 54 spots in the national ranking, and have allowed just 15 touchdown passes. Jim Harbaugh won’t hesitate throwing O’Korn into the fire as he needs to get him prepared for next week against Ohio State, but I expect the running game to get the majority of the work for the Wolverines this week.
Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 12:
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech at Iowa State
Lamar Jackson, Louisville at Houston
Jake Browning, Washington vs. Arizona State
Quinton Flowers, South Florida at SMU
Will Worth, Navy at East Carolina
Logan Woodside, Toledo vs. Ball State (Wed.)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State at Michigan State
Deshaun Watson, Clemson at Wake Forest
Luke Falk, Washington State at Colorado
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State at TCU
Corey Clement, Wisconsin at Purdue
Clement has been a workhorse for the Badgers’ offense the previous two weeks with 32 carries against Northwestern and then 25 last Saturday against Illinois. After a slow start to the year, Clement finally appears to be at full strength and it is showing in the box score as well with four straight 100-yard performances and four rushing touchdowns in the last two games. He should have a field day against a Purdue rush defense that has allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the last three games and is currently ranked 122nd in the country against the run. Hopefully Purdue can keep it relatively close so the Badgers don’t distribute carries amongst a host of backs, but Clement should get plenty of reps before/if that happens.
David Montgomery, Iowa State vs. Texas Tech
With Mike Warren hobbled due to injury, Montgomery got the bulk of the carries last week against Kansas and rushed for 169 yards – a career high. Because of his performance, the true freshman no longer shares an “OR” spot on the depth chart with Warren and is now listed as the Cyclones’ starting running back heading into this week’s matchup with Texas Tech. Montgomery should have plenty of opportunities to score against the 124th-ranked scoring defense in Texas Tech. The Red Raiders also rank near the bottom against the run, allowing more than 230 rushing yards per game. A second straight 100-yard performance is the expectation for Montgomery this week.
Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. San Diego State
Hill would be one of the toughest decisions you will have to make this week, especially if a championship is on the line. In that case, I may say ride the horse that led you there, but be wary about a potential bust this week against the No. 2 rush defense in the country. The Aztecs have been stingy against the run all season long, and have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher against them all season long. In fact, the highest total by a running back came back in Week 2 against California where Vic Enwere had just 72 yards. Looking back to last season, the Aztecs, who were not nearly as good at stopping the run in 2015, held Hill in check to just 92 yards and no touchdowns. In deeper leagues, I have no issue if you want to leave Hill in the lineup, but if a better option is available, go ahead and sit him.
Brandon Radcliff, Louisville at Houston
I remember back in September when writing about Radcliff as a potential waiver wire pickup after three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances and thinking, “I know he will come back down to Earth.” Well that is exactly what happened as Radcliff did not top the century mark in any of the next six games while also not scoring a single touchdown. That streak ended this past week with 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the win over Wake Forest. Don’t count on the senior running back going on another hot streak like earlier in the year as the Cardinals will face off against the No. 3 rush defense in the country in Houston. The Cougars’ defense has been far from dominant since their undefeated season went away, but still have allowed just two 100-yard rushers all year and opposing teams are averaging just 92 yards per game on the ground.
Top 10 Running Backs for Week 12:
Aaron Jones, UTEP at Rice
Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. UNLV (Fri.)
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford at California
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State at Wyoming
D’Onta Foreman, Texas at Kansas
Joe Williams, Utah vs. Oregon
Dalvin Cook, Florida State at Syracuse
l’Tavius Mathers, Middle Tennessee at Charlotte
Ito Smith, Southern Miss at North Texas
Corey Clement, Wisconsin at Purdue
Michael Gallup, Colorado State vs. New Mexico
With the departure of Rashard Higgins a year ago, Colorado State needed someone to step up into the No. 1 receiver role. While it didn’t happen overnight, the Rams do look like they have a potential top guy for the remainder of this year and next in Gallup. The junior has been a star since the start of October, with five straight games with a touchdown catch. His best performance came this past week against Air Force with 13 receptions for 213 yards and a score. The New Mexico pass defense has been better of late during the team’s five-game winning streak, only allowing one receiver to top 100 yards, but the Lobos still rank in the bottom half of the country at defending the pass and have a stiff challenge ahead in trying to stop one of the top receivers in the conference in Gallup.
Dante Pettis, Washington vs. Arizona State
Both Washington receivers (John Ross) deserve a start this week going against the country’s worst pass defense in Arizona State. Pettis has been hit or miss the last three games, with just two receptions and fewer than 30 receiving yards against both Utah and USC, but came up big against California with 104 yards and three touchdowns. I have a gut feeling that the Washington offense will try and put on a show this week following the loss to USC as the Huskies now have some work to do in the eyes of the selection committee as they try and get back into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. This will be a good week to do so against a pass defense that is allowing more than 380 passing yards per game and is tied for the most touchdown passes allowed (30).
Noel Thomas, Connecticut at Boston College
Thomas has been the model of consistency at his position this season, ranking third in the country with 87 receptions after just 54 all of last season. The senior has had at least six receptions in every game until he posted just four in last week’s shutout loss to Temple. Head coach Bob Diaco went in a different direction at quarterback last week, starting freshman Donovan Williams in the place of Bryant Sherriffs, but that move did very little to spark the Huskies’ offense as Williams finished with 69 passing yards. Diaco announced earlier this week that Williams would be starting against Boston College, which diminishes Thomas’ value in this matchup and for the remainder of the season.
Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech
I am putting my name to this selection in more ways than one as I am sitting St. Brown in my championship matchup this week. After a big start to the year, St. Brown has leveled off in the last five weeks with just two touchdown catches and zero 100-yard receiving games. He had his lowest output this past week against Army with just 32 yards on three catches. It’s a tough matchup for St. Brown this week against the 14th-ranked pass defense in the nation in Virginia Tech that has allowed just 10 touchdowns through the air all season. The Hokies have allowed just two receivers to top 100 yards on them this season and it is a good bet that St. Brown will not be the third.
Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 12:
Zay Jones, East Carolina vs. Navy
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma at West Virginia
Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan (Wed.)
John Ross, Washington vs. Arizona State
Richie James, Middle Tennessee at Charlotte
Austin Carr, Northwestern at Minnesota
Gabe Marks, Washington State at Colorado
Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech at Iowa State
James Washington, Oklahoma State at TCU
Anthony Miller, Memphis at Cincinnati
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. For more College Fantasy Football insight, Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.