The regular season has finally ended and conference championship week presents one final hurdle for some of the best teams in the nation to prove their worth and make a case for their spot in the College Football Playoff. There certainly is no shortage of storylines for this Saturday's slate of games, whether it be Alabama's quest for back-to-back championships, Georgia seeking to avenge their national championship loss from a year ago, or UCF attempting to overcome a season-ending injury to their star quarterback. For DFS purposes, each one of these storylines presents an interesting narrative to be taken into account during the research process. Alabama's starting unit has not played a full four-quarter game yet this season. Will they finally play a full 60 minutes as they vie for the top-seed in the College Football Playoff? Will Georgia finally be forced to throw the ball in a game they are highly unlikely to dominate the trenches in? Will UCF's backup quarterback be able to pick up where McKenzie Milton left off and lead the Knights to victory? When all is said and done on Saturday night, these questions will be answered. However, there is money to be made by getting these answers correct before the action starts. Best of luck to everyone in this final DFS slate prior to bowl season!
*EDIT FRIDAY 11/30/2018 AT 3:00PM TO WIDE RECEIVERS "ALSO WORTH CONSIDERING" SECTION*
Listed here are the most notable games for DFS purposes. In green are games with the highest projected totals, according to betting markets, and in red are the games with the lowest projected totals on the slate. Try to avoid using too many players in any single lineup from the game(s) in red. On the other hand, the game(s) in green should provide enough points and fantasy points across the board to make multiple pieces on each team viable for fantasy lineups.
- TEXAS @ OKLAHOMA (NEUTRAL SITE)| OKLAHOMA (-7.5), GAME TOTAL; 78
- MEMPHIS @ CENTRAL FLORIDA | CENTRAL FLORIDA (-3), GAME TOTAL: 64.5
- FRESNO STATE @ BOISE STATE | BOISE STATE (-2.5), GAME TOTAL: 50.5
Kyler Murray | $10,200 | OKLAHOMA vs. Texas
Kyler Murray has managed to do the unthinkable over the latter-half of the season: make it a competitive Heisman race. After the first-half of the season it was all but decided that Tua Tagovailoa would hoist the Heisman Trophy in New York City come December 8th (barring injury, of course.) Murray’s performance since the loss to Texas earlier in the season in the Red River Rivalry has been second-to-none. The first-year starter has been sensational both on the ground and through the air, fully utlizing both en route to 39.5 DraftKings points in 4 of Oklahoma’s final 6 games. In the second-round of the Red River Rivalry, fans should expect more of the same fireworks seen in Week 6’s battle of Big 12 powerhouses. The Big 12 Conference Championship game is projected to total a slate-high 78 points (more on that later,) and the second-highest total sits nearly 2 touchdowns below this mark at 64.5 points. There will be no shortage of offensive production, and Kyler Murray will be involved in almost all of Oklahoma’s offense. In cash-games, overthinking the QB1 by fading Kyler Murray may prove to be a fatal mistake. Even in GPPs, fading such a high-floor and high-ceiling player like Murray is not for the faint of heart.
Tua Tagovailoa | $8,600 | ALABAMA vs. Georgia
Last weekend, this very article mentioned that the Iron Bowl, Alabama’s final regular season game against in-state rival Auburn, may finally be the game the features a full four quarters of Tua Tagovailoa. While that prediction did not materialize, Tua did throw his first fourth quarter passes of the season (the second of which resulted in a touchdown and subsequently Tua Tagovailoa’s removal from the game.) In a shade over three quarters of action, Tua Tagovailoa posted a monsterous 44.56 DraftKings points. This week, in the SEC Championship game, Tagovailoa has a much more feasible opportunity to play his first full game of the season. Taking on Georgia in a rematch of last season’s national championship game, Alabama is forecasted to win by just two touchdowns by the betting markets. If the game stays that close, Alabama may need a full game of maximum production out of Tua Tagovailoa to secure the number one overall seed in the 2018-19 College Football Playoffs. Tua makes for a strong, but risky GPP pivot away from Kyler Murray this weekend. As stated above, Kyler Murray will be the most popular quarterback in all formats this weekend, and that is for good reason. However, in GPPs this weekend, Tagovailoa offers a slightly cheaper ($1,600 in savings) option for exposure to one of college football’s most prolific offenses. To this point in the season, Georgia’s pass defense has played very well, but the Bulldogs have not faced a quarterback that nears Tua Tagovailoa’s talent-level. Georgia’s relatively untested secondary has bailed out a below-average pass rush (UGA ranks 78th in the nation in sack-rate in 2018) by preventing big plays throughout the season. Opposing quarterbacks have completed over 61 percent of their passes against Georgia, and if Tua Tagovailoa is able to operate at a comparable level of efficiency it will surely be a long day for Georgia’s defensive backs. A potential full-game of Tua Tagovailoa may end up being the difference-maker on a slate filled with elite quarterback options.
Darriel Mack, Jr. | $6,800 | UCF vs. Memphis
Unfortunately, Central Florida’s starting quarterback and likely-AAC Player of Year McKenzie Milton went down last week with a gruesome, potentially career-ending, injury. Following his injury, Darriel Mack, Jr. was forced into action of the team’s final game on their path to an undefeated regualr season against in-state rivals South Florida. Mack, Jr. certainly did not light the world on fire in his time under-center, but he did enough to secure the victory and get Central Florida into the Conference Championship with a glimmer of hope to make it into the College Football Playoff. Mack, Jr., a redshirt-freshman, is a dual-threat quarterback that will likely look to use his legs as a safety blanket when in trouble. Last week in about 2.5 quarters of action Mack, Jr. ran the ball 9 times for 55 yards, not including sacks. Through the air he accumulated a measly 81 yards on 14 attempts, as the Knights relied heavily on the run-game to secure a victory over the Bulls. Following a full week of preparation as the starter and a gameplan tailored to his strengths, expect a much stronger showing from Darriel Mack, Jr. against Memphis’ 86th-ranked pass defense, according to S&P+. The main draw to Mack, Jr. on this loaded slate is his price. At just $6,800 Mack, Jr. allows for flexibility throughout the lineup, as well as at the other potential quarterback position in DraftKings lineups. Darriel Mack, Jr. is a viable option in all formats- in cash-games his floor of production on the ground offers relative safety compared to similarly-priced players. In GPPs, Mack, Jr.’s price does not require any world-beating performance to reach (and potentially exceed) vaue on this slate. Do not overlook the youngster making his second career start in potentially UCF’s biggest game of the season.
ALSO WORTH CONSIDERING: Dwayne Haskins vs. Northwestern, Clayton Thorson vs. Ohio State, Sam Ehlinger vs. Oklahoma (see: Game Stack)
Travis Etienne | $8,700 | CLEMSON vs. Pittsburgh
Travis Etienne, Clemson’s star running back, is likely to be one of the least-rostered studs on the DraftKings main slate this weekend. Given the matchups of the top-priced options at quarterback and wide receiver this week, attention will likely be drawn away from Etienne’s equally favorable matchup. Clemson is favored by nearly four touchdowns over Pittsburgh, which should lead to a heavy dose of Etienne throughout the entire game. Pittsburgh sports the 115th ranked defense in limiting explosive running plays, and ranks 65th overall against the run. Clemson Tigers should have no issue dominating the trenches, leading to another big game for Etienne. Travis Etienne has posted at least 20 DraftKings points in 8 of his previous 10 games, and this game will likely be no different. A lineup built around paying up for Etienne at the running back position will likely be very unique construction that works perfectly for GPPs this weekend.
Brenden Knox | $5,100 | MARSHALL vs. Virginia Tech
Marshall’s run offense as a whole has been nothing to write home about this season. The Thundering Herd’s 69th ranked running game had yet to feature Brenden Knox until just three games ago against Charlotte. Knox was called upon due to injuries elsewhere on the Marshall depth chart and his viability here in the team’s rescheduled game against Virginia Tech is dependent upon the availability of Keion Davis and Tyler King. Injury news and information has been hard to come by with Marshall this season. Tyler King and Keion Davis were announced to be inactive just 30 minutes prior to kickoff last week and this information came via one sole beat writer on twitter (thank you, Grant Traylor!) Coupling Knox’s strong performance with the lack of information surrounding King and Davis’ respective availabilities, this is operating under the assumption that Knox is Marshall’s number-one running back on Saturday afternoon. Marshall kicks off against Virginia Tech at 12pm EST with the first group of games on the DraftKings main slate. As long as the final information regarding King and Davis is released prior to kickoff, it will provide time to pivot away from Knox if necessary. Knox will be going up against Virginia Tech’s 108th-ranked rush defense, according to S&P+, in this final game of the regular season. In Knox’s three prior games only one of those defenses (Florida International) rated worse than Virginia Tech does against the run. When lineups lock on Saturday, Virginia Tech vs. Marshall may be a game that flies under-the-radar, as it does not feature a high-profile team this season and the game also lacks conference championship implications. Knox is one of the top options in cash lineups as well as GPPs this weekend as long as Keion Davis and Tyler King are inactive once again in the final regular season game of the year.
Tony Pollard | $5,500 | MEMPHIS vs. UCF
Tony Pollard has appeared once or twice in previous editions of this article, and he has produced as expected each time. There is no argument to be had: Tony Pollard is one of the most electric players on Memphis' roster when the ball is in his hands. In the final game of the regular season against Houston, Pollard was targeted 11 times en route to a 36.9-point performance on DraftKings. This may have been a result of a slightly dinged-up Damonte Coxie, but the results speak for themselves: good things happen when Memphis gets the ball to Tony Pollard. In a recent investigation into UCF's defense, Anthony Lenahan found that the Knights have been especially susceptible over the middle of the field. The primary receivers for Memphis over the middle are the two tight ends, Joey Magnifico and Sean Dykes, along with Tony Pollard. If Memphis is going to pull off an upset over the UCF Knights, look for Tony Pollard to be heavily involved in the offense, both through the air and on the ground. In DFS lineups, Pollard will likely be extremely popular in both cash and GPP formats on this final slate before bowl season kicks off.
ALSO WORTH CONSIDERING: Isaiah Bowser vs. Ohio State, Ronnie Rivers vs. Boise State, Trey Sermon vs. Texas (see: Game Stack)
KeeSean Johnson | $6,900 | FRESNO STATE v. Boise State
KeeSean Johnson is the undoubted number-one receiver in the Fresno State offense. Commanding at least 8 targets in every game except for 1 (a 49-27 drubbing of Toledo, in which 40 percent of snaps came in analytic-garbage time,) KeeSean Johnson’s floor of production is amongst the highest on the slate. Boise State’s defense is a very pedestrian group, ranking 55th in the nation in S&P+ allowed against the pass. In the previous matchup between Boise and Fresno taking place just 22 days prior to this clash, KeeSean Johnson hauled in 8 of his 11 targets for 95 yards and 1 touchdown. This prior matchup simply serves to display the fact that Boise State’s defense certainly does not have a lock-down defense prepared to take Johnson out of the game entirely. At the wide receiver position, KeeSean Johnson is the premier option under $7,000, especially in GPPs where a player in the game with the lowest forecasted total may go overlooked.
Collin Johnson | $6,000 | TEXAS vs. Oklahoma
On the flip side of the Red River Rivalry, Colin Johnson entered the season as Texas’ number-one wide receiver. Johnson averaged over nine targets per game prior to injuring his knee and missing a game against Texas Tech. In his immediate return from injury, Johnson was targeted just 4 times. However, in his second, and most recent outing, since returning to action Johnson climbed back up to 8 targets against Kansas in a game that featured just 28 pass attempts from Texas. This shootout totalling nearly 80 points between Big 12 rivals will almost certainly be the hotbed for DFS production this weekend. In the Week 6 meeting between Texas and Oklahoma, Texas attempted a whopping 37 pass attempts. There is no reason to believe that Collin Johnson’s level of involvement and market share of team targets will diminish in an action-filled matchup such as this one. Look for Collin Johnson to re-establish himself as Texas’ best wide receiver in the Big 12 Championship Game, and ultimately he should far exceed the expectations of a typical $6,000 wide receiver.
Flynn Nagel | $5,200 | NORTHWESTERN vs. Ohio State
Flynn Nagel missed Northwestern’s final game of the regular season, seemingly to rest for the Big 10 Championship Game against Ohio State. As always, keep an eye out for any late news regarding his availability, but at the moment Nagel is expected to play for the Wildcats come Saturday night. Flynn Nagel, when healthy, is Northwestern’s undoubted number-one wide receiver. Nagel registered at least 10 targets in 4 straight games between Week 6 and 10 of the college football season. All other Northwestern wide receivers have totaled 10 or more targets in just 4 games all season. Ohio State’s pass defense has been far below average this season. The Buckeyes’ schedule has been very kind to them, facing just one top-25 pass offense (according to S&P+) all season. The expected game-script for Northwestern favors a pass-heavy gameplan as well. As 14-point underdogs, Northwestern is expected to be playing catch-up for the majority of the game on Saturday night, leading to increased opportunity for Flynn Nagel to make good on his middle-of-the-road price tag. At $5,200, Nagel’s expected level of involvement in Northwestern’s offense and Ohio State’s inability to defend the pass make him one of the top overall receiving options on the slate.
ALSO WORTH CONSIDERING: All Texas/Oklahoma wide receivers mentioned in Game Stack, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vs. California, Riley Ridley vs. Alabama
EDIT: Bennett Skowronek vs. Ohio State ($3,500) is worth considering. Northwestern's increased volume through the air will bump up Skowronek's value. At $3,500, not much production is needed for him to reach value & the salary relief on this slate may be important.
OKLAHOMA vs. TEXAS | OKLAHOMA (-7.5), GAME TOTAL: 78
In the second meeting of these Big 12 rivals, Oklahoma is seeking to avenge its lone loss of the season and put one final positive mark on its resume to be submitted to the College Football Playoff Committee. The first battle between the teams totaled over 90 points, and this one is projected to total nearly 80. As the game with the highest projected total on the slate, many DFS players will flock to this game to fill out their lineups, however finding the correct spots will be critical. The previously mentioned Kyler Murray & Collin Johnson are elite plays from this game, but the list of viable options does not stop there. Sam Ehlinger posted a season-high 50.96 DraftKings points in the first matchup of these two teams, and while it will be extremely difficult to reach that total once again, he should still post a stat line worthy of making an appearance in DFS lineups. It is difficult to fit he and Kyler Murray into one lineup, but in a GPP either a pivot off of Murray to Ehlinger or stacking both and paying down elsewhere is a solid strategy. At running back, Trey Sermon could be a sneaky option this weekend. Kennedy Brooks has been very effective in games where Sermon has not been entirely healthy, but Sermon seems to be trending upwards this week and should be good-to-go for Saturday's game. Sermon may not get the lion's share of carries like he did earlier in the season, but at $4,700 he does not need the lion's share to be a viable option this week. However, if any news comes out prior to the game saying Sermon is not fully healthy, then he should be faded with confidence. Keaontay Ingram for Texas has been another highly-effective and under-utilized running back in the Big 12. Tre Watson popped up on the injury report this week for Texas, and if he is less-than 100 percent for this game it could mean an increased workload for Ingram. Ingram has received 10+ carries in 8 straight games. While Ingram is likely a shade too expensive ($5,900) to be a cash-game option with Watson in the lineup, if Watson is not able to play Keaontay Ingram instantly becomes one of the top options at running back in cash games and GPPs on this slate. Finally, at wide receiver, the top two wide receivers for Oklahoma are the place to focus. Below Marquise Brown & CeeDee Lamb there is not much to like. Brown is certainly the safer cash-game option to be stacked with Kyler Murray because of his extremely high volume and big-play ability. Lamb, on the other hand, has not seen the consistent usage in the offense that Brown has, but he must be considered. In cash-games, Lamb is quite risky, as he has gone 4 games without eclipsing 10.5 DraftKings points. In a GPP, Lambs low floor of production is less of an. issue. He is the second-best wide receiver in the offense expected to score the most on the entire slate. To summarize Oklahoma's wide receiver situation, Brown is the safer play for a cash-games, but his ceiling will make him a very popular GPP option as well. Lamb has a significantly lower floor of production than Brown, making him a far riskier option in cash-games, but his GPP ceiling remains unchanged as a 30-to-40-point player, potentially. In Texas' receiving corps, Lil'Jordan Humphrey is simply too expensive to warrant much consideration in cash-games. In a GPP, it will be a very contrarian way to get exposure to Texas' passing game, but the ceiling is unlikely to match what is needed from a player at his $7,400 price-point. Devin Duvernay is the big-play threat in Texas' offense. His price has risen slightly up to $4,700, but his ceiling is that of a $5,000-$6,000 player. This is not a sharp cash-game option, as his value is derived mostly from explosive plays, but in GPPs, Duvernay is a fantastic leverage play.
Thanks all, and best of luck in your DFS contests this weekend! If you have any questions or want to hold any further discussion on this final week of College Football action before bowl season, you can find me on twitter @ThaGreatZambino!