We are on the cusp of Week 9 of the college fantasy football season and if you like high-flying passing attacks; this will be the week for you. Texas Tech vs. TCU will probably look similar to what we saw from the Red Raiders last weekend against Oklahoma. Oregon QB Justin Herbert, who threw six touchdown passes a week ago, faces off against the worst pass defense in college football. In all, nine of the top 10 passers in the country will be on the field this weekend.
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.
Justin Herbert, Oregon vs. Arizona State
After a sub-par first career start against Washington, Herbert showed everyone why the Ducks are calling him the quarterback of the future against California with 258 passing yards and six touchdowns in the double-overtime loss. While not the athlete that previous Oregon quarterbacks have been, Herbert can move around the pocket a bit as well, rushing for 56 yards on a mix of designed runs. To avoid sounding too much like a broken record, the matchup dictates starting Herbert this week for obvious reasons — Arizona State still ranks dead last in pass defense after giving up 398 more yards and three TDs against Washington State. The freshman is an absolute must-start this week.
Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh (Thursday)
There are not many quarterbacks playing better football right now in the country than Evans. The former junior college transfer is completing 63 percent of his passes and already has 22 total touchdowns on the season with just two interceptions. In the past month, the offensive game plan has really taken advantage of his dual-threat abilities as well, as Evans has double-digit carries in each of the last four games with three rushing TDs. Despite playing at night on the road this week, Evans looks to have a favorable matchup against a Pittsburgh defense that still ranks towards the bottom of the country in passing defense (298.9 ypg). And while the Panthers currently rank in the top five against the run, they have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns already. Both stats should be music to your ears if you start Evans this week.
Shane Buechele, Texas vs. Baylor
Yes, Baylor has only played in six games so far, which will alter the stats some, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Bears still rank in the top 10 in the country in passing yards allowed per game (160.8 ypg). They also stand alone at the top with just three TD passes yielded all season compared to eight interceptions. Baylor leads the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense and has yet to give up a pass completion of more than 50 yards, one of just 10 teams remaining in this distinction. The Bears should pose quite the challenge for Buechele, although the true freshman has been playing solid football of late, despite the Longhorns’ struggles in losing four out of their last five.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia
The West Virginia pass defense still ranks towards the middle of the pack when it comes to yards allowed per game, but that shouldn’t take away from what the Mountaineers have done over the past two weeks. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes did throw for 305 yards, but was held to just one touchdown and negative yards (-10) on the ground, both of which were season lows. Last week against TCU, the Mountaineers stymied the Horned Frogs, holding Kenny Hill to just 148 passing yards, another season low. This week will be another test against Rudolph, but with how well West Virginia’s defense has performed lately, I would not have this Cowboy in your lineup if better options are available.
Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 9:
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech vs. TCU
Lamar Jackson, Louisville vs. Virginia
Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech vs. Rice
Kenny Hill, TCU vs. Texas Tech
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma vs. Kansas
Mike White, Western Kentucky vs. Florida Atlantic
Logan Woodside, Toledo vs. Ohio (Thursday)
Luke Falk, Washington State vs. Oregon State
Greg Ward, Jr., Houston vs. UCF
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee vs. FIU
Marquis Young, UMass vs. Wagner
If you have held onto Young for this long on your roster, go ahead and pat yourself on the back because this week should be fun. While he hasn’t been as consistent as we hoped for, Young has been showing signs of life over the last five weeks, including three 100-yard performances against the likes of South Carolina and Mississippi State. While that is certainly promising considering those are SEC defenses, this stretch also includes some clunkers against Tulane and Louisiana Tech. This week, Young takes on Wagner (who?) in what should be his best statistical performance to date. The Seahawks from the FCS ranks took on Boston College earlier this season and surrendered 300 yards and four touchdowns to the Eagles.
Warren Wand/Johnston White, Arkansas State vs. ULM
After six games, Arkansas State ranks 98th in the country in rushing offense, averaging just 145 yards per game on the ground, but the Red Wolves have shown some life in recent weeks. The combination of Wand and White have started to produce, combining for 266 yards in the win over Georgia Southern and then 146 the following game against a good South Alabama defense. This upward trend should continue against ULM, who currently ranks dead last in college football at nearly 300 rushing yards per game allowed. While both RBs look to be starter-worthy, if you want to choose just one, that would be Wand who has gotten more carries (37 vs. 29) in the last two games compared to White and is a better receiver out of the backfield.
LJ Scott, Michigan State vs. Michigan
Scott finally looked like the 2015 version this past Saturday against Maryland. The second-year back carried the rock 20 times for 128 yards against the Terrapins, including a season-high 48-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter. While Scott did split reps with Gerald Holmes, the 20 carries he got were the most since Week 2 against Notre Dame. That is an encouraging sign moving forward. However, do not even think of starting him this week against in-state rival Michigan. The Wolverines are fourth in the country against the run, allowing just 96 yards per game and are tied with Ohio State for the fewest rushing TDs given up (two).
Justin Jackson, Northwestern vs. Ohio State
We don’t have a reference point as to how Jackson has fared in the past against the Buckeyes as this will be the first time he faces them in three years. What we do know though is how good the Buckeyes have been at defending the run in 2016. As mentioned above, Ohio State is tied for first in the country with just two rushing touchdowns allowed all season long, both of which came in the last two weeks – one to a fullback and the other to a quarterback. With the Buckeyes at home following a tough loss at Penn State, just call it a hunch that this defense will be fired up and ready to play on Saturday.
Bonus: Anthony Wales, Western Kentucky vs. Florida Atlantic
While it is a good matchup for Wales against Florida Atlantic, make sure to sit him this week as he was suspended by Conference USA for the first half due to an on-field altercation last weekend against Old Dominion.
Top 10 Running Backs for Week 9:
l’Tavius Mathers, Middle Tennessee vs. FIU
Joe Mixon, Oklahoma vs. Kansas
Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. Wyoming
Saquon Barkley, Penn State vs. Purdue
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State vs. Utah State (Friday)
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford vs. Arizona
Ito Smith, Southern Miss vs. Marshall
Aaron Jones, UTEP vs. Old Dominion
D’Onta Foreman, Texas vs. Baylor
Kyle Hicks, TCU vs. Texas Tech
Cameron Batson, Texas Tech vs. TCU
I would suggest trying to get as many Texas Tech wide receivers as possible in for this week as the matchups with TCU could look awfully similar to what took place just a week ago against Oklahoma. While fellow receivers Jonathan Giles and Keke Coutee probably are the more explosive players, Batson has been the most consistent amongst the group. Batson has a touchdown in all but one game and matched his season high with nine catches last week against the Sooners. That is with both Giles and Coutee recording 10 receptions each, so targets will be there for all of the top three receivers this week against the Horned Frogs.
Cedrick Wilson, Boise State vs. Wyoming
Wilson has really come on of late for the Broncos with four touchdown catches in the last three games that he was fully healthy for. The former junior college transfer was used primarily as a decoy only against Colorado State due to an ankle injury, but returned last Thursday against BYU with four catches for 68 yards and a score. Wilson has also been the big-play threat (18.5 ypr) for Boise State. Wyoming appears to be a good matchup for Wilson as the Cowboys have given up 34 pass plays of 20-plus yards already and are allowing 299.4 yards per game through the air. Don’t be surprised if Wilson gets behind the defense for a couple of big plays on Saturday.
Evan Engram, Ole Miss vs. Auburn
I may be cutting some corners with this selection, but there are not a ton of great options to sit this week at the wide receiver position. So you get a tight end this week. Ole Miss has gone with a committee approach in 2016 with five receivers posting 10 or more receptions through eight weeks, but Engram leads the way with 40 catches, good for first among tight ends in the country. This week looks to be a tough matchup against an Auburn defense that is playing lights out of late. During the Tigers’ four-game winning streak, opponents are averaging just 156 passing yards and fewer than 10 points per game. Auburn also has allowed just seven receptions to tight ends, with top-tier options like Jordan Leggett and Jeremy Sprinkle limited to just one catch combined. If Engram is your only tight end on the roster, there’s no sense in dropping him just for one week, but he may struggle in this matchup.
Jerome Lane, Akron vs. Buffalo (Thursday)
Lane had a bounce-back performance last week against Ball State with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, his first since Sept. 24. It was no coincidence that Lane had this type of game with the return of Thomas Woodson at quarterback, his first start since... you guessed it, Sept. 24. With Woodson back under center, this does mean Lane’s stock rises for the rest of the season, but I would hold off for a week if possible. While Buffalo is 1-6 on the season, the Bulls have been solid against the pass (155 ypg), as teams have found it much easier to run the ball on this defense. Buffalo has yet to allow a receiver top 100 yards and have given up just six TD passes. Moving forward, Lane looks to be an excellent play with Woodson back in the starting lineup, but not this week.
Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 9:
Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech vs. TCU
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. Rice
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma vs. Kansas
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky vs. Florida Atlantic
JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC vs. California (Thursday)
Zay Jones, East Carolina vs. Connecticut
Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech vs. Rice
Cody Thompson, Toledo vs. Ohio (Thursday)
Noel Thomas, Connecticut vs. East Carolina
Richie James, Middle Tennessee vs. FIU
— 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.