The Scholar’s Surreptitious CFF Starters: Week 1

By John Laub
John Laub



      The Scholar’s Surreptitious Starters

                 College Fantasy Football: Week 1





Jake Bentley, South Carolina vs. Coastal Carolina: O/U: 54.5 & South Carolina -29.5

Coastal Carolina made the jump to the FBS last year in the Sun Belt Conference, finishing 3-9. The Chanticleers travel to South Carolina and face a huge challenge. The Gamecocks have an explosive wide receiver duo—Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards—and an overlooked quarterback—Jake Bentley—pitching the pigskin. The 6-foot-4 and 223-pound junior has started the last 20 games for South Carolina and earned the 2018 Outback Bowl MVP. The Gamecocks easily post over 35 points as Bentley tosses three touchdowns for over 275 yards.

DraftKings: $9,100

Cole McDonald, Hawaii vs. Navy: O/U: 54 & Colorado State -7

The Run-and-Shoot offense is back. Watching the Rainbows tear apart the Colorado State pass defense on Saturday night made my weekend and kicked off the College Football crusade. A dual-threat playmaker, Cole McDonald passed for 418 yards, rushed for 96 yards and totaled five touchdowns. Hawaii welcomes Navy on campus this weekend, and the 6-foot-4 and 205-pound passer will easily record another four touchdowns against the Midshipmen.

Sam Ehlinger, Texas at Maryland: O/U: 58 & Texas -13

Before being hired at Texas, Coach Tom Herman guided Houston’s offense among the top in the nation, scoring 40.4 and 35.8 ppg in back-to-back campaigns. In Herman’s first season on campus last year, the Longhorns posted a 7-6 record while scoring only 29.5 ppg. Sophomore Sam Ehlinger beat out Shane Buechele for the starting position in training camp, and the dual-threat playmaker owns the skills to jump start the Texas attack. In 2017, Maryland surrendered 37.1 points per game and 419 yards per game, and the defense does not appear improved this year. Ehlinger opens the season with four total touchdowns as the Longhorns wallop the Terrapins.

DraftKings: $8,800


Steven Montez, Colorado at Colorado State: O/U: 62 & Colorado State -7

The junior field general was named to the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award. At 6-foot-5 and 225-pounds, Montez looks like a prototypical passer with a strong arm and quick delivery. After watching Hawaii carve up the Rams’ pass defense, the Buffalos should be able to push the ball down the field. Montez likely passes for over 300 yards and three aerial strikes.

Running Backs

Kennedy McKoy, West Virginia vs. Tennessee: O/U: 62 & WVU -10

Considering that Kennedy McKoy starts for one of the Top 20 teams in possibly the most explosive offense in the nation, the junior ball carrier garners very little interest from CFF diehards. At 6-foot-0 and 198 pounds, McKoy has a nice amalgam of size, strength, vision and speed. He has good lateral cutting ability and finds creases in traffic. The Volunteers run defense finished fifth worst in the nation last year, surrendering over 250 yards per game and 29 rushing touchdowns. Tennessee must stop Heisman candidate Will Grier and the aerial assault, which will open running lanes for McKoy. The Mountaineers ball carrier totals over 125 yards from scrimmage and scores twice on Saturday.

DraftKings: $5,700

Greg Bell, Nebraska vs. Akron: O/U: 55.5 & Nebraska -21

Suffering knee problems from a lifetime running the football, Tre Bryant retired from the game during training camp. Now, Greg Bell is listed as a co-starter in Coach Scott Frost’s explosive scheme. A JUCO transfer, Bell rambled for over 1,200 yards at Arizona Western last year and totaled 95 yards from scrimmage in the Red-White Spring game. Akron surrendered nearly 200 yards per game last year and 19 touchdowns on the ground. With a freshman (Adrian Martinez) at quarterback, Coach Frost likely leans on the running game against the Zips, and Bell begins his career with an eye-opening CFF performance.

Mike Epstein, Illinois vs. Kent State:  O/U: 55 & ILL -16

A foot injury against Iowa in the fifth game derailed Mike Epstein’s freshman season; nonetheless, he rushed for 346 yards, grabbed four passes for 59 yards and scored four touchdowns. Healthy now, Epstein opens the season as the starter and faces Kent State in the opener. The Golden Flashes finished the 2017 season ranked 117th against the run, allowing 213 yards per game and surrendering 31 touchdowns. Epstein easily surpasses 100 yards rushing and scores twice against Kent State.


Wide Receivers


Theo Howard, UCLA vs. Cincinnati: O/U: 57 & UCLA -16.5

While at Oregon, Coach Chip Kelly orchestrated one of the most exciting offenses, and he expects to replicate his success in the Rose Bowl. In the Kelly passing game, the Split End is the go-to receiver, and Theo Howard stands atop the depth chart at the fantasy-friendly position. At 6-foot-0 and 182 pounds, the junior playmaker is an explosive athlete with great speed and good technique. In 2017, the Bearcats were burned for 23 aerial strikes and allowed 236.1 passing yards per game. Kelly schemes Howard open on a few deep routes, and he easily reaches the end zone once beyond 40 yards.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC vs. UNLV: O/U: 61 & USC -25.5

I’m old enough to remember when Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree burst onto the national landscape as freshmen in 2007. The following season I played CFF for the first time and drafted both players; unfortunately, neither repeated their first-year production on campus. Historically, freshmen receivers have not made an impact immediately but Amon-Ra St. Brown might be the exception to the rule. CFF diehards cannot ignore the buzz out of Los Angeles regarding St. Brown during training camp. At the team’s first scrimmage at the Coliseum, he caught three of four touchdowns from quarterback J.T. Daniels. At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, St. Brown combines awesome athleticism and great body control and is ready mentally and physically to play. The coaching staff plans on employing St. Brown all over the gridiron: In the slot and on the outside. He is the high school teammate of fellow freshman QB J.T. Daniels, who was named the starter, and the two have a great connection on the field. If the newest Trojans’ star is on the waiver wire, he should be picked up immediately.  

DraftKings: $4,800

Gabriel Davis, UCF at UConn: O/U: 70 & UCF – 23.5

Until proven otherwise, I am going to insert quarterbacks and wide receivers facing the Huskies. Last year, UConn finished dead last in the FBS in passing defense, surrendering over 330 yards per game and 34 touchdowns. The Knights beat the Huskies 49-24 last season, and McKenzie Milton passed for 311 yards and two touchdowns. In the game, Gabriel Davis torched the Huskies with 9 catches for 95 yards. The sophomore will likely duplicate his production on Thursday night at the Rent.

DraftKings: $6,500

Additional CFF Sleepers:

QB Ben Hicks, SMU at North Texas: O/U 73 & North Texas -4


QB Keytaon Thompson, Miss. State vs. SF Austin

RB Nico Evans, Wyoming vs. Washington State: O/U 47 & WASSU -3.5


RB Michael Warren II, Cincinnati at UCLA: O/U: 57 & UCLA -16.5 

WR Cedric Byrd, Hawaii vs. Navy: O/U: 54 & Colorado State -7

WR Michael Lawrence, North Texas vs. SMU: O/U 73 & North Texas -4


Defensive Rankings to Exploit

  Total  Defense   Passing Defense   Rushing Defense  
  Team PPG/G Team P-YRDS/G P-TDs Team R-YRDS/G R-TDs
1 East Carolina 45.0 UConn 333.9 34 San Jose State 285.4 40
2 Kansas 43.4 Kansas State 310.3 21 UCLA 282.7 31
3 Oregon State 43.0 UL Monroe 299.3 32 Tulsa 265.0 32
4 San Jose State 41.7 Texas State 297.3 21 Bowling Green 253.3 35
5 UL Monroe 41.0 Kansas 296.8 31 Tennessee 251.3 29
6 Ball State 40.7 East Carolina 295.2 31 East Carolina 246.5 36
7 Louisiana 40.0 Texas Tech 279.8 29 Ole Miss 245.3 29
8 Bowling Green 38.0 Memphis 279.4 29 Air Force 243.1 31
9 UConn 37.9 Arizona 276.9 21 UNLV 238.9 32
10 Tulsa 37.5 SMU 273.4 23 Louisiana 236.6 39

Highest Over/Under Totals

  Visitor Home O/U Total Favorite
1 SMU UNT 73 UNT -3
2 BGSU ORE 73 ORE -33
3 UCF UCONN 70 UCF -23
4 MISS TTU 67 TTU -2
5 FAU OKLA 66 OKLA -21
6 SYR WMU 65 SYR -6