In this article I give six recommended plays each for the Noon ET and 7 PM ET slates of Saturday games. Within the six recommendations for each slate, three are “Paying Up” plays (top-12 salaries at their positions), and three are “Digging Deep” plays (non-top-12 salaries at their positions).
The data in this piece is taken from Sports Reference, VegasInsider.com, and The College Football Experiment.
EARLY SLATE: Noon ET
Paying Up: Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech): $8,100
Mahomes is by far the slate’s most productive quarterback to date, racking up the production as both a thrower and a runner, with 2,851 yards and 21 touchdowns passing and 281 yards and seven touchdowns rushing in eight games. Texas Tech is a 2.5-point home underdog against Oklahoma State in a game that has the slate’s highest over/under. The Red Raiders should unleash Mahomes in an attempt to keep up with the Cowboys. Mahomes has a good chance of accumulating at least 275 yards passing, 25 yards rushing, and three total touchdowns in Week 9.
Digging Deep: Perry Hills (Maryland) – $5,900
Hills is not a good quarterback and Maryland is not a good team. Hills was benched after the second game of the season only to be reinstated as the starter a few games later. Although Maryland has continued to lose, Hills has been highly productive, especially in his two games since returning to the starting unit. The problem (for Maryland) is that his production is better for fantasy than reality, in that he is completing only 52.8 percent of his passes and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns — but in the last two games he has compensated for his deficiencies as a passer by rushing 51 times for 294 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State and Penn State. Hills has actually been more productive in losses this season than in wins, so the fact that Maryland is a double-digit underdog could potentially be seen as a good thing. All the offense will go through Hills as he attempts to keep Maryland in a game they will likely lose.
In Week 9, Hills has a good chance of passing for 150 yards, rushing for 100 yards, and scoring two touchdowns, with a reasonable chance for a third touchdown.
Paying Up: Samaje Perine (Oklahoma): $6,700
You’re paying a slight premium for Perine, but he is a RB1 averaging 96 yards and 1.1 touchdowns per contest. The positive game script should benefit Perine, as Oklahoma is a massive favorite over Kansas, against whom Perine had a record-setting day last year. Perine won’t approach last year’s 446-yard, five-touchdown performance, but he did just have a 210-yard, four-touchdown performance last week, so the OU coaching staff is not averse to letting him dominate a weaker opponent. At a minimum, Perine has a high floor this weekend.
Against Kansas, Perine has a good chance of rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and there is also plenty of room for upside in his projection.
Digging Deep: Jacques Patrick (Florida State): $3,500
This is the kind of player who gets recommended when the starting and primary backup running backs are out with injuries. Patrick is a true freshman who was a coveted prospect in the 2015 recruiting class. He is listed at 6’1”and 232 lbs. and has been praised by the FSU coaching staff for his ability as not only a runner but also a receiver. Patrick is the last man standing in a backfield that has been highly productive this season, and FSU is a double-digit home favorite against a Syracuse team with a defense that is average at best. Patrick should get all kinds of run in this game, and even if he isn’t highly efficient, the positive game script should enable him to be productive.
Against Syracuse, Patrick should be able to rush for at least 80 yards and a touchdown in his first college start.
Paying Up: JuJu Smith-Schuster (Southern California) – $7,300
Smith-Schuster is USC’s offense. QB Cody Kessler of course is important, but inasmuch as the offense is centered around the pass the offense runs through JJSS, who has been highly consistent this season with a touchdown in six of seven games and 100 yards receiving in five of seven. Playing against California on the road in what should be a close, high-scoring game, USC is likely to keep its lead receiver heavily involved throughout the contest. One of the slate’s three elite receiving options, JJSS has the best combination of production, price, and matchup.
Smith-Schuster has an excellent chance of finishing his contest against Cal with at least 6 receptions, 100 yards, and a touchdown, and he has the potential for substantially more.
Digging Deep: Courtland Sutton (Southern Methodist): $4,900
Sutton isn’t a widely known player, but he’s a big-bodied redshirt freshman who has emerged as SMU’s clear playmaker. Not only does he lead the team in scrimmage yards and all-purpose touchdowns, but he has more than double the yards and triple the touchdowns of the team’s second-most productive receiver. Available at a discount to his production, Sutton is averaging 79.1 yards and a touchdown per contest, with a score in every game this season except for one. Given that SMU is a slight home underdog to Tulsa and expected to be in a close and very high-scoring game, Sutton should be heavily involved throughout the contest and especially if SMU finds itself down by double digits early.
Against Tulsa, Sutton has a strong chance of finishing with at least 60 yards and a touchdown.
LATE SLATE: 7 PM ET
Paying Up: Greg Ward, Jr. (Houston) – $8,200
Ward is one of the best players in college football, and he’s available at a discount to his 2015 production. Accomplished both as a passer and a runner, Ward is a top-10 quarterback in terms of passing efficiency, and he not only leads his team in yards and touchdowns rushing but he also leads the country in rushing scores. In seven games, he is averaging 247.6 yards and 1.4 touchdowns passing and 97.6 yards and 2.1 touchdowns rushing. He has scored at least three touchdowns in every game this season except for one. A double-digit home favorite over a Vanderbilt team with an overrated defense, Houston should be able to pile on the points.
In Week 9, as is always the case, Ward has a strong chance of passing for 225 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 75 yards and another two touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Seth Collins (Oregon State) – $5,700
What Hills is to the early slate, Collins is to the late slate. He’s a subpar quarterback on a subpar team, but he is a productive fantasy quarterback because of his rushing production. Despite passing for only 127.1 yards and 0.86 touchdowns per game, Collins is one of the slate’s top-eight quarterbacks because he rushes for 76.6 yards and 0.71 touchdowns per game. Available at a discount, Collins has a suboptimal matchup on the road against Utah — but he always has suboptimal matchups so his team’s status as a 24.5-point underdog isn’t really a concern. Any points the Beavers do get will go through Collins.
Collins is questionable for the game with an undisclosed injury. If he doesn’t play, the Jerrod Heard of Texas would be a fine substitute.
Against Utah, Collins has a good chance of passing for 100 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 60 yards and another touchdown. That’s not inspiring, but that’s probably good enough given his price tag and the generally low quality of non-elite quarterbacks in this slate.
Paying Up: Jalen Hurd (Tennessee) – $6,400
Hurd is one of the most impressive running backs in the country, and after averaging 106.6 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per contest over a seven-game stretch that has included matchups against the defenses of Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, and Georgia, the 6’3” and 230 lb. bruiser gets to face a Kentucky defense that gives up an average of 172.7 yards and 1.9 touchdowns rushing per game. Hurd is a workhorse runner who usually gets over 20 touches per game. In the two games this season in which he didn’t score a touchdown, he averaged 118 yards per contest. As a road favorite, Tennessee will probably give at least 22 touches to Hurd so that he can exploit UK’s run defense.
In Week 9, Hurd has a good chance of rushing for 100 yards and scoring a touchdown.
Digging Deep: Shaquille Powell (Duke) – $4,000
Powell isn’t a workhorse, as his quarterback leads the team in carries and yards rushing, but Powell is the lead back in a committee and a strong receiver out of the backfield. A double-digit home favorite against a Miami team that last week allowed 416 yards rushing, Duke is likely to run the ball aggressively throughout this game and Powell has a good chance of getting 15 touches, and in his previous 2015 contests with at least 15 touches Powell has averaged 98.7 yards and 1.3 touchdowns. Powell is a volatile game-to-game producer, but with a positive game script, he has done well this season.
Against Miami, Powell has a decent chance of accumulating 50 yards and a touchdown, and he has much more room for upside in his projection.
Paying Up: Will Fuller (Notre Dame) – $6,700
Fuller is one of the best wide receivers in the country and dominates the receiving production on his team. With eight touchdown receptions, he has quadruple the number of touchdowns received by the team’s second-leading receiver. Even on a team that doesn’t throw much, he has 100.3 yards and 1.1 touchdowns receiving per game, and he has failed to get 55 yards receiving and a touchdown in only game this year. Notre Dame is a double-digit favorite against Temple, which has a stingy defense but hasn’t faced a team like ND or a receiver like Fuller this season. He should be just as effective as he usually is.
In Week 9, Fuller has a good chance of having 80 yards and a touchdown receiving.
Digging Deep: Johnny Jackson (Arizona): $3,600
Jackson is a frequent “Digging Deep” selection because he is always undervalued relative to his production. In fact, out of all the receivers in the slate, not one who is more productive than him is cheaper than him: Jackson resides at the nexus of value. On a top-10 offense, Jackson leads the team in touchdowns receiving and is second in receptions and yards receiving. He has six games with 90 yards receiving or a touchdown. Granted, in his two other 2015 contests he averaged one reception for 7.5 yards, so he might be best suited for tournament lineups, but that he has returned value in 75 percent of his games is exceptional for a player this cheap. Arizona is an underdog on the road to Washington, but Jackson’s production has been relatively game flow independent. If Arizona has two touchdowns receiving this game, it’s more likely than not that one of them will go to Jackson.
Against Washington, Jackson has a decent chance of having four receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown.