We are entering week 4 of the college football fantasy season and this is really where you begin to notice trends developing for both players and teams.
Some players (i.e. Lamar Jackson) transcend any potential pitfalls you could potentially foresee and are must-starts in your lineup regardless. Others can only be trusted if the matchup is right.
Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Deshaun Watson or Leonard Fournette as those players are typically starters regardless of the matchup.
Also below are the top 10 rankings for each position for the given week.
Riley Ferguson, Memphis vs. Bowling Green
Memphis has been on cruise control to start the season, blowing out both Kansas and a lower-level FCS team in its first two games. The competition level rises only slightly this week against Bowling Green, but not by much as the Falcons bring in a pass defense that gives up slightly more than 300 yards per game through the air and is tied for most passing touchdowns allowed with 11. Only Hawaii has allowed as many and the Rainbow Warriors have played in four games already this season. Ferguson has been solid for the Tigers through the first two games, completing 64 percent of his passes with five touchdowns, but has yet to have a breakout performance. That could come this weekend.
Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State vs. Akron
Akron is beginning to look like the 2016 version of what Eastern Michigan was a season ago. What do I mean by that? Just follow that defense around each week and pick a player or two going against the Zips. Akron is currently ranked 127th in the country in pass defense, allowing 346 yards per contest. Just last week, despite winning in impressive fashion over a good Marshall squad, opposing quarterback Chase Litton racked up more than 400 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Lamb has yet to exceed 200 yards passing this season, but I like his chances this week against the Akron pass defense, especially considering starting running back Marcus Cox is unlikely to play due to injury.
Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech vs. Middle Tennessee
After sitting out the first game of the year, Higgins has been excellent the past two weeks, topping 300 yards passing in each with seven touchdowns combined. Higgins could have a tough go of it, though, against conference rival Middle Tennessee, which currently ranks fourth in the country in pass defense, only giving up 100 yards per game through the air to start the season. The MTSU secondary also has a couple of future NFL draft selections in Jeremy Cutrer and Michael Minter, who should be able to limit any big passing plays.
Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee vs. Florida
Anything can happen in a rivalry game so Dobbs could wind up having a big week statistically, but chances are unlikely given the defense he is going up against. While the schedule has been very kind to the Gators to start 2016 (UMass, Kentucky, North Texas), the Florida defense has done what this unit was supposed to do, as evidenced by the 14 points total allowed in three games. The Gators actually rank second in both rush and pass defense, and have yet to give up a passing touchdown all season. Sit all Volunteers this week including Dobbs as this will be a slug-it-out defensive matchup.
Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 4:
Lamar Jackson, Louisville vs. Marshall
Davis Webb, California vs. Arizona State
Kenny Hill, TCU vs. SMU
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee vs. Louisiana Tech
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame vs. Duke
Deshaun Watson, Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
Greg Windham, Ohio vs. Gardner-Webb
Drew Lock, Missouri vs. Delaware State
Cooper Rush, Central Michigan vs. Virginia
Dane Evans, Tulsa vs. Fresno State
Kalen Ballage/Demario Richard, Arizona State vs. California
This selection worked out tremendously two weeks ago so let’s go back to them as the Sun Devils’ backfield duo draws a porous California rush defense. And don’t be scared off by the possibility of the two sharing carries either. Last week, the Bears allowed both Texas running backs to top 100 yards on the ground with a combined four rushing touchdowns. That makes it three consecutive weeks to start the season that the Cal rush defense has allowed a 100-yard rusher, and with the way Arizona State has run the ball to start 2016, I feel fairly confident it will be four straight after this weekend.
Jordan Chunn, Troy vs. New Mexico State
Much of the talk this week surrounding Troy vs. New Mexico State will be the return of former Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Larry Rose, who finally looks to be healthy. But don’t forget about the running back on the other side, as Chunn already has 381 rushing yards – good for eighth in the country. The junior running back was the offense for Troy last week against Southern Miss, carrying the rock 36 times for 176 yards and a score in the upset win. I like Chunn’s chances to duplicate that success this week against a New Mexico State defense that has allowed 200-plus rushing yards in each of its first three games.
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan vs. Georgia Southern
Bogan would be a very tough sit right now considering his fast start to the season with three straight 100-yard performances and four touchdowns. The sophomore running back had his best game of the year last week against Illinois with 189 yards on 27 carries and two scores. The matchup this week against Georgia Southern, thought, is a tough one as the Eagles have allowed just 174 rushing yards through three games and only one rushing touchdown. In addition, Georgia Southern is fifth in the country in time of possession, averaging just over 37 minutes per game, meaning carries could be on the lower end for Bogan this week.
Corey Clement, Wisconsin vs. Michigan State
Clement was a surprise scratch last Saturday against Georgia State with an ankle injury that he suffered late in the game against Akron the week prior. After that game, Clement had mentioned that he could have played through it if necessary; leading to the belief he would be ready to go against Georgia State. Alas he did not, and the senior running back remains questionable heading into the Badgers’ Big Ten opener against Michigan State. With his questionable injury status and unfavorable matchup against a top-10 run defense, play it safe and sit Clement this week.
Top 10 Running Backs for Week 4:
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford vs. UCLA
Aaron Jones, UTEP vs. Southern Miss
Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. Eastern Michigan
Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. Oregon State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss vs. UTEP
Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Tulane
Jordan Chunn, Troy vs. New Mexico State
Leonard Fournette, LSU vs. Auburn
Kyle Hicks, TCU vs. SMU
Kalen Ballage/Demario Richard, Arizona State vs. California
Corey Willis, Central Michigan vs. Virginia
Another name to possibly consider on the waiver wire, Willis has caught a touchdown pass in each of the first three games. He is coming off of a 100-yard, two-touchdown performance last week against UNLV. Due to a lack of a running game yet again this season, the Chippewas have had to resort to throwing the ball the majority of the time, but quarterback Cooper Rush and his group of receivers have been up to the task thus far. Virginia’s secondary has rebounded from a horrid start to 2016, allowing just 154 passing yards to Connecticut last week, but this Central Michigan’s offense poses a far greater challenge. Willis has a great chance at finding the end zone again this week.
James Gardner, Miami (Ohio) vs. Cincinnati
Not many players on 0-3 teams get much fantasy consideration in college football, but Gardner deserves some this week. The sophomore wideout has caught a touchdown in each of his first three games, and put up his best numbers yet last week against Western Kentucky with five receptions for 136 yards and a score. The RedHawks will likely be 0-4 after this week, but should have success throwing the football against a Cincinnati pass defense that gives up close to 300 yards through the air per game.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC vs. Utah
This can’t be how Smith-Schuster imagined his junior season would start off. The junior receiver has mustered just 11 catches through three weeks, seven of which came in one game against Utah State where he also accounted for his only two touchdowns so far. Now, with USC’s offense in a state of flux, Smith-Schuster will be catching passes from a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. While I do think this will be an upgrade, it could be a tough week for the USC offense going to Utah on Friday night in what will assuredly be a hostile environment on the road. That is not a recipe for success with a young and inexperienced quarterback.
Zay Jones, East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech
I know what you are thinking – how can you sit a guy who just caught 22 passes last week and is second in the country in receptions? This really is only a move you can make if you have the roster depth at the position, but East Carolina may have a difficult time throwing the football against the best pass defense in college football in Virginia Tech. Through three games, the most an opposing receiver has tallied against the Hokies has been 46 yards, and opponents have averaged just 76 passing yards per game. Jones should rarely come out of your starting lineup (if ever), but this is the week to at least consider it IF you have depth at wide receiver on your roster.
Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 4:
Chad Hansen, California vs. Arizona State
Richie James, Middle Tennessee vs. Louisiana Tech
Corey Davis, Western Michigan vs. Georgia Southern
Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse vs. Connecticut
James Washington, Oklahoma State vs. Baylor
KD Cannon, Baylor vs. Oklahoma State
J’Mon Moore, Missouri vs. Delaware State
Nicholas Norris, Western Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. Middle Tennessee
Nate Cole, Cincinnati vs. Miami (Ohio)
— 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.