This week gives us one reason I prefer fantasy college football to the professional variety. Not only is it championship week, but it's also rivalry week. Admit it, you have at least one guy on your roster because he plays for your team. And nothing is better than winning your league, while your alma mater takes down their arch rival at the same time. I don't often get to celebrate winning because Adrian Peterson trucked Clay Matthews twice on his way to paydirt, but I do get a chance to celebrate Alshon Jeffery's domination of a Clemson secondary while also winning a U-Sports league!
This week, we're going to take a little different approach to the customary waiver article. I won't totally bypass the wire, but we're also going to try and dig a little deeper, and find some true sleepers for your championship lineup. Some may be available, some may have been forgotten over the past 12 weeks, some may get featured again in a Sit/Start column in the coming days. And heck, some might throw up zeros come the weekend. But if for some reason you are struggling with starting Montee Ball against an 8th ranked rush defense from Happy Valley, and have fear of ridicule from your fellow owners, maybe some of the names here can provide some help. (Writer's note, if you sit Ball, you deserve to lose! He's averaging 141 yards rushing, and has scored seven times in three games against ranked opponents.)
Some guys I would give a look to on the wire this week include: Iowa State QB Jared Barnett, Hawaii QB David Graves, Rutgers RB Jawan Jamison, ECU WR Reese Wiggins, and if he was dropped previously, Texas Tech WR Darrin Moore.
This week's sleepers:
All things North Carolina State Wolfpack: This is pretty obvious, but the 'Pack haven't been a fantasy goldmine for 2011, so it's time for you to give them all a look. Playing a lowly Maryland team that is being gashed weekly, and needing a win to gain bowl eligibility should have head coach Tom O'Brien's team coming out aggressively. QB Mike Glennon has five games this year with at least three touchdowns, WR Tobias Palmer is emerging as a big play threat, and RB James Washington is as steady as they come in the ACC. Wake Forest ran for 194 yards last week against Maryland, the only team since an October 1st matchup against Towson that has failed to gain at least 200 on the ground against this defense. The 'Pack defense has also been stingy of late, and Maryland has averaged just 15.4 points in their last five tilts.
Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina: I really tried to keep a Gamecock off this list, but Shaw is just a little intriguing. You can't put much stock in last week's four-touchdown explosion simply because it came against the Citadel. What's interesting here is the running threat that Shaw has become. He's got six rushing scores in his previous four games, and he's posted 178 rushing yards in his last two. Clemson is giving up 184 rushing yards per game, and while RB Brandon Wilds has gone over 100 yards in three of his four games as a starter, he'll get some help from his quarterback's feet.
Kendial Lawrence, RB, Missouri: Similar to Maryland, doesn't everyone just run right through the Jayhawk defense? Quarterback James Franklin will clearly be the show stopper here, but Lawrence has been quietly effective since filling in for the injured Henry Josey, totaling 244 yards in a little more than 2 games.
Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: There's little doubt that Poole has been one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2011. Coming off a 1,034-yard, 11-score campaign, his 661-5 looks brutal. Poole had only gone over 100 yards twice prior to last weekend, with a high of just 70 yards. That changed Saturday as the Vols busted out a pistol formation against a 22nd-ranked Vanderbilt rush defense. The element of surprise is gone, but quarterback Tyler Bray is back, and a 100th-ranked Kentucky Wildcat rush defense is on the docket. Poole may make some owners' seasons over these two playoff weeks.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: In the midst of all these great rivalries, the Wildcats have a peculiar matchup with Louisiana-Lafayette. I'm confused but like Carey to build on last week's career-high 92 yards rushing and 47 yards receiving.
Josh Schaffer, WR, Western Michigan: I ignored Schaffer's success two weeks ago against Toledo because everyone that played on offense was successful in that shootout. But Schaffer followed up that 6-114-1 performance with a 7-94 outing against a decent Miami (OH) defense. He's become quarterback Alex Carder's second choice over the past two weeks, and that makes him worth the risk against Akron.
Theo Riddick, WR, Notre Dame: Yes, I am well aware of the fact that Riddick hasn't played in two weeks due to a hamstring injury. But I'm also aware that the Irish like using more than just one running back, have no clear replacement or "next man up" for injured Jonas Gray (to complement Cierre Wood), and want to point out Riddick is a former rusher. What if he gets 5-8 carries against Stanford, and also hauls in 2-4 passes? That would make for a truly sneaky wide receiver start wouldn't it?
Nelson Rosario, WR, UCLA: Rosario has been one of the more under-appreciated pass catchers this season, averaging 80.9 yards while only putting up one stinker. He needs 110 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark on the year, and all of a sudden, he's scored in two of his last three games.
Got some additional names you like? Let's hear 'em! Congrats to all you who are still playing, and hope you bring home the crown after stuffing your face on Thursday! My bird went into a brine solution this morning, and will hit the smoker around 7 am et - can't wait!