This article is part of our DraftKings College Football series.
We're treated to a great menu of games on this week's main slate with five games sporting totals of 60-or-more. 11 teams have implied totals north of 30 points and seven teams are expected to score more than 35 points. So even though North Carolina-Wake Forest stands out as the game to target, there are a lot of paths to building successful lineups this weekend.
Before we get into the defensive units to target, let's unpack UNC-Wake. The total sits at 76.5, with Wake Forest sporting the fifth-highest scoring offense in the nation (43.4) and North Carolina respectably at 22nd with 37 PPG. Sam Howell and Sam Hartman are tough to avoid on this slate as the top-priced quarterbacks on either side of what should be a high-scoring and competitive game. Again, both are pricey, but it's still possible to build a lineup using both that doesn't require you to go min-priced in a few other spots. Hartman channels most of his pass attempts to Jaquarii Roberson ($8,000) and A.T. Perry ($7,400) while Josh Downs ($8,700) is rightfully the top receiver on the board thanks to his target share over 40 percent. It will be hard to use more than one of these receivers if you go with both QBs from this game, but getting at least one of them is a must if you start your build that way.
Michigan State has the worst pass defense on the slate, allowing 286.1 passing yards per game and faces a Purdue team that's not afraid to throw it north of 40 times. Elsewhere, Tulsa's pass defense is suspect, which bodes well for Desmond Ridder. Maryland's pass defense is also a problem. TCU and Navy both allow over 9.0 YPA, too, so that could boost the projection for Gerry Bohanon and gulp Jack Coan.
I won't spend much time on Missouri's run defense here but I'll just leave it at this: it's bad. Hilariously bad. TCU, Ole Miss, Wake Forest and Illinois all have porous run defenses as well. Liberty is unlikely to take full advantage, but Baylor, UNC and Minnesota all have backfields worth exploring on this slate.
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Tanner Mordecai, SMU ($9,000) at Memphis
The SMU-Memphis game has the second-highest total on the slate and SMU holds the fifth-highest implied total at 37.25. Unlike some of the other high IT teams like Georgia, Ohio State and Cincinnati, SMU is expected to be in a competitive game as the Mustangs are just four-point favorites on the road. That means that SMU should have to keep its normal offensive philosophy throughout, which should lead to another productive outing from Mordecai.
The Oklahoma transfer ranks second in the nation in passing touchdowns (32) and sixth in passing yards per game (328). Now, Memphis is tough against the pass, having held opponents under 200 yards in four of its last five games (albeit one of those was against Navy). Even so, teams tend to run a lot of plays (77.4) against Memphis and SMU averages over 75 plays per game in its own right, so Mordecai should have plenty of bites at the apple in this setting.
Mordecai's top receiving options are all affordable parts of an SMU stack, too. Danny Gray, Rashee Rice and Reggie Roberson all check in between $6,200 and $5,600 and each of them averages five or more targets per game with YPTs of 9.1 or better.
Sean Clifford, Penn State ($6,000) at Maryland
I'm stunned to see Clifford's salary actually drop by $400 after he threw for over 300 yards on the road against Ohio State. He gets to face a much worse Maryland secondary that ranks 12th in the Big Ten against conference opponents.
Penn State simply cannot run the ball and even if it could, Maryland is actually decent against the run. There should be a funnel towards the pass for Penn State. Even though Clifford's YPA is just 7.6 and he's not running as well as he has in the past, he showed what he can do when healthy last week against a much tougher opponent. Clifford has the added bonus of having a narrow target tree with over 50 percent of his throws going to either Jahan Dotson or Parker Washington, and neither is cost-prohibitive, so this becomes a cheap passing stack option with some upside.
Others to Consider
Aidan O'Connell, Purdue ($5,600) vs. Michigan State
There's a reason O'Connell is priced down below $6,000. He's had some clunkers this season, even in games where he attempted 30-or-more attempts. He has just one game above 20 DK points all season, which came in the massive upset over Iowa.
That being said, this is a spot where O'Connell could return significant value and you don't even need that much from him to make it happen. O'Connell's Boilermakers have the eighth-highest pass play rate in the nation and the weather conditions are expected to cooperate, so he's in a position to test the Michigan State secondary upwards of 40 times. Michigan State has a woeful pass defense that could be its ultimate undoing later in the season. I'm not predicting an upset or anything, but Purdue is exactly the type of team that can put a scare into Sparty and O'Connell will be at the helm at a bargain-bin price.
Abram Smith, Baylor ($7,300) at TCU
Smith popped for 25.6 DK points last week and yet his salary only jumped $100 as he gets set to face the second-worst run defense on the slate in TCU, which is in a freefall and just parted ways with its legendary coach. The Horned Frogs surrender 210 rushing yards per game on 5.4 yards per carry. They've also allowed multiple rushing scores in every game since the opener against Duquesne, including three-or-more rushing TDs in four straight. In other words, they're a mess.
Smith, meanwhile, ranks ninth in the nation in rushing yards per game at 116 and 15th in YPC among qualified rushers at 7.38 YPC. He also has 11 rushing touchdowns. Baylor is starting to feed Smith more and more, too, as he's seen 20+ carries in back-to-back weeks. It's possible the Bears won't need to give him 20 carries Saturday but he'll still have more than enough volume to shred TCU on the ground.
James Cook ($5,900) and Kenny McIntosh, Georgia ($3,900) vs. Missouri
It's impossible to ignore Missouri's defense when it's on a slate. That run defense is one of the worst in recent memory, especially among Power 5 teams. The Tigers give up 283 rushing yards per game, nearly 10 yards worse than Arkansas State's 129th-ranked run defense.
Georgia is favored by a whopping 39.5 points, so it's unlikely that Zamir White and the starters will be needed for long in this one. Cook doesn't necessarily project for a heavy workload either, but the efficiency he could provide will make up for it. He averages 6.0 YPC and is the only Georgia running back with any pass-catching chops as he's reeled in 13 of 15 targets for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
McIntosh, a failed rec from last week, gets a chance to redeem himself here. He had just three carries for seven yards in his return from a hamstring injury and lost a fumble. As long as the fumble doesn't land him in the doghouse, McIntosh stands to see plenty of work in garbage time with White likely being rested and Kendall Milton (knee) still sidelined.
Ty Chandler, North Carolina ($6,500) vs. Wake Forest
Chandler represents an interesting way to get exposure to the game with the highest total on the slate as many DFS players will (understandably) be drawn to loading up on the passing games from both sides. Don't sleep on Chandler, though. He commands a 39 percent share of the rushes while averaging 5.5 YPC and he has punched in nine rushing touchdowns.
Wake Forest has the fourth-worst run defense on the slate, checking in with a 173 YPG/A mark against the run. The only drawback with Chandler is that Sam Howell eats into his fair share of the rushes with 36 percent of the team's rushing attempts. But perhaps that makes a Chandler-Howell pairing a viable pairing for a lineup as you'll corner the market on North Carolina's run game and passing yardage.
Mar'Keise Irving ($6,300) and Ky Thomas ($5,000), Minnesota vs. Illinois
Minnesota has now lost three starting running backs for the year (fights urge to make Spinal Tap Drummer joke) and yet the Gophers still have legit options in the backfield. Usually, I'd be worried about buying high on a pairing like this after both went over 100 yards last week against Northwestern as the Wildcats are almost as bad as Missouri against the run. However, Minnesota is still the most run-heavy team that doesn't run the triple option, checking in with a 71 percent run play percentage. There's the added bonus of playing at home as two-touchdown favorites against an Illinois defense that is bad but not terrible against the run.
Both Irving and Thomas went over 100 yards against the Wildcats and each saw 19-or-more carries. It's clear that both should see plenty of volume Saturday. If the reason behind Irving checking in at $1,300 more than Thomas is his two touchdowns to Thomas' zero, then I'm more inclined to take the savings and go with Thomas. Touchdowns are fickle and Thomas actually saw more carries with 21. Now, Irving is more explosive as his long run was 41 compared to Thomas' longest run coming in at 13 despite all that volume. Both are legitimate options this week and I'll have plenty of exposure to both, but Thomas at a discount is likely the direction I'll go in more often. Also, Thomas actually has more attempts (10 to 8) than Irving in the red zone for what it's worth.
Again, the workload split should be fairly even with strong volume for each player and touchdowns are a finicky thing to project out week-to-week.
Jahcour Pearson, Mississippi ($4,900) vs. Liberty
Liberty's defensive metrics to this point in the season are impressive with the Flames allowing 173 passing yards and 107 rushing yards per game. But that has been against the 123th-ranked schedule by SOS, and Vegas isn't buying the Flames in this spot either with Mississippi checking in with a 38.0 implied total.
Ole Miss' offense hasn't been as explosive in recent weeks with Matt Corral dinged up, but it's still in position to overpower Liberty at home after a tough loss to Auburn. What helps Pearson's case here is that Dontario Drummond and Braylon Sanders both questionable and Jonathan Mingo apparently still on the mend from his fractured left foot. This opened the door for Pearson, a Western Kentucky transfer with a good track record, to shine last week with seven grabs for 135 yards on nine targets. Even if one of the star receivers return, there should still be room for Pearson to see a healthy share of the targets from the slot. The statuses of Drummond and Sanders should be monitored before kickoff, but if either is out, Pearson is a strong value play against this Liberty defense.
Jahan Dotson ($7,600) and Parker Washington ($5,500), Penn State at Maryland
Penn State's passing game rounded back into form against Ohio State last week with a healthy Sean Clifford throwing for over 300 yards against the Buckeyes. Most of that production was channeled to Dotson and Washington as each saw double-digit targets. Dotson specifically had his third game with at least 14 targets, reeling in 11 of 16 targets for 127 yards. Washington, who has flown under the radar this year, broke out for nine grabs for 108 yards on 10 targets.
The sledding should be much easier this week against a Maryland secondary that is tough against the run (not that Penn State can run the ball) and weak against the pass, allowing 260 passing yards per game. Big 10 passers are averaging 9.1 YPA against the Terps with a 10:1 TD:INT through five conference games.
Dotson and Washington are both in line for good target volume against a bad secondary and we can have some semblance of confidence that Clifford will be able to take advantage. The added beauty of the Penn State passing stack is that this is a game that might be underutilized on this slate given much of the pass game attention will be drawn to Wake Forest-UNC and the Ohio State side of OSU-Nebraska.
Antoine Green, North Carolina ($4,300) vs. Wake Forest
It's hard to find value in either of these passing games as Josh Downs commands an absurd 41 percent target share for the Tar Heels and nearly 50% of Wake Forest's targets are tied up in Jaquarii Roberson and A.T. Perry. All of those guys are great plays this week in a vacuum but they can complicate the rest of your build given their salaries ($7,400-$8,700), especially if you're using one of the QBs from this game.
That's where Green comes in. With Emery Simmons in the transfer portal, North Carolina is now tasked with replacing one of its starting receivers. Simmons was out last week and Green picked up the slack with five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Downs is option 1A, 1B and 1C when Sam Howell drops back to pass, but Green should still get his on Saturday given the utter lack of other proven receiving options in this offense. I will point out that tight end Kamari Morales ($3,600) is second on the team in receiving touchdowns with four and could be a viable, cheap dart throw in GPPs.
David Bell, Purdue ($7,400) vs. Michigan State
Last week I wondered whether Michigan would test Michigan State's porous secondary after averaging 189 passing yards per game with a grand total of seven passing touchdowns through seven games. Well, it did to the tune of 406 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Question answered.
We know for a fact Purdue will test Sparty through the air with its 60 percent pass play rate that ranks eighth-highest in the nation. Purdue attempts 44 passes per game, seven more than any other team in the Big Ten. When healthy, Bell commands a 26 percent share of those targets. With Payne Durham likely out, that share could jump even higher for Bell. Not only is the volume there, but the efficiency is, too. Bell gets peppered with targets and teams know the ball is going his way and yet he still averages over 10.3 YPT.
Look for Bell to get heavy volume against the worst pass defense in the Big Ten by a significant margin (300.5 YPG/A).