Start or Sit: Week 11
Saturday night, the biggest evening in Texas Tech’s football history, was even sweet for longtime fantasy owners. Ever since the great Mike Leach took over the program in 2000 the Red Raiders have been the New York Yankees, Manchester United, and Dallas Cowboys to college fantasy football fans, even if traditional college football fans only knew them as the school that scored lots of points and stuff. Their prolific offense has made this team the one to watch. Hell I know owners who ordered ESPN Gameplan specifically to watch Tech’s games. Fantasy dweebs (and I include myself in this category) won championship trophies on the arms and legs of Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, Wes Welker, Taurean Henderson and many others. The team’s games often mirrored pinball games rather than gridiron battles. And while it’s easy to dislike programs that win games 72-3, there have always been a couple of reasons to love the Red Raiders.
Up until this season Tech really had not been able to play defense. Sure, they’d try, but then the poor defenders would spend a preponderance of the game on the field and just run out of gas. College football observers would take a preseason look at Texas Tech, talk about their prolific offense, look at their defense, and then move on to another program, one that played "real" football. They were the gifted kids that also ate the paste. They did so many things well, but something just was not right. And we loved them, in part because the coach is equally as lovable.
Mike Leach has a law degree from Pepperdine. He also has a degree from some place called the United States Sports Academy. He reads books that have more than x’s and o’s in them. He’s never screamed, “I’m a MAN!” and he:
Gives Dating Advice
and has a weird fascination with pirates:
And now Leach's boys are not only running wild with Crabtree and Harrell, but they're making big plays on defense and receiving national acclaim. And the fantasy owners who rode this program to fantasy glory over the years are telling their more socially-adjusted friends with real lives that they knew them when. Hit'em! Wreck'em, Texas Tech!
One only need know that I included Kodi Burns on last week’s start list (and he wasn’t my worst start performer) to understand how miserable the week turned out. Thanks to my brilliant advice to sit Julian Edelman (42 points), my sits outperformed my starts by a score of 22.80 to 18.89.
Not to be outdone, my running back sits outperformed my starts by a score of 23.01 to 17.24. Advising to sit Kory Sheets (34 points) will not go down as one of my finer moments, but on the positive side I did tell the masses to start Jake Sharp, and he busted out to the tune of 41 points.
My start receivers outperformed my sitters, but even this should come with an asterisk, as Jock Sanders (three touchdowns) was on the sit list. Not even a big game from Jeff Moturi was consolation. I stunk up the joint Pigpen style, and now it’s time to make amends. After all it’s playoff time, and we’ve spent an extra amount of time compiling our Week 11 player rankings.
As a kid I remember those Saturday morning infomercials where Wayne Root, along with a bunch of smarmy looking guys, would yell out his handicapping selections. He’d offer his picks for about $50, and then he’d offer to give the pathetic viewer the rest of his season's picks if he didn’t hit a certain percentage. Even as a young lad I’d wonder why anyone would want his picks if he cost him a bunch of money that one time. It's this thinking that earned me Middle School Valedictorian at Coolidge Junior High School in Ferndale, Michigan. And here I am, giving you my start and sit picks following a horrible week. What have I become? Do I need to slick back my hair, don a grey pinstripe suit, and begin screaming? You bettcha. And if my predictions below don't hit at an 80% clip I will continue to provide you, our loyal reader, this quasi-incoherent drivel at no charge. You can't lose!
This week I’m going to shake things up a little bit. I’m going to pick two quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers from each of the categories, and I’m going to make an argument why one will outscore the other. Some dudes I favor may actually be ranked below their counterpart. Again, this is not a dig on our player rankings in which we (translation: Alex) invest a ton of time. It’s a gut feeling from a champion fantasy guru (Big Ten Title, 2007) who raises his game come playoff time.
Start and Sit Matchups
QB1: Juice Williams vs. Western Michigan and Zac Robinson at Texas Tech
Two dual-threat quarterbacks will be facing off in games that are expected to be shootouts. Juice travels to Detroit to take on Tim Hiller and his Western Michigan Broncos, while Robinson heads to Lubbock to face a sky-high Red Raider squad that will be fighting the letdown urge.
The Bronco and Red Raider defensive units aren’t impressive, and they’ve each allowed about 23 points per game on the season. And both Juice and Robinson will be playing teams with motivation, though Texas Tech is obviously playing for much bigger stakes.
The fantasy edge goes to Robinson. Yes, Mike Leach’s boys did a nice job containing the Texas Colt, but it’s one thing to stop a pocket passer who runs on occasion. It’s another to stop an offensive unit whose quarterback will look to run with great regularity. Bryant sprints down the field, Hunter heads toward the sideline and Pettigrew runs a deep post. And Zac Robinson will be running for a long time.
QB2: Todd Reesing at Nebraska and Mark Sanchez vs. Cal
News out of Lincoln has Nebraska’s coach Bo Pelini coming to terms with his anger issues. Clearly St. Tom Osborne doesn’t approve of Pelini screaming and yelling, especially while his squad is getting run off the field, so the first-year coach is going to try and yell less. And asking Pelini to stay calm while playing Kansas this weekend will be the equivalent of sending a dieter to the Cheesecake Factory. The odds of staying on the wagon aren’t very good.
Jake Sharp’s emergence will open up the passing game for Reesing, and the inconsistent signal caller will make the Cornhuskers pay.
Mark Sanchez takes on Cal, and the respect for Tedford and the Golden Bears will cause the Trojans to play a little smash mouth, and they may utilize all 15 five-star running backs on their roster. Sanchez will certainly see opportunities with play action, and he’ll certainly hit a big play or two. And while the Cal defense doesn’t have USC speed, it does have Pac-10 speed. And after USC spent last week running by Washington defenders who’d struggle to outrun Bill Buckner, there will be an adjustment, comparable to seeing a diet of Brad Lidge fastballs following a bunch of Wakefield knuckleballs.
Reesing outshines his west coast counterpart.
QB3: Stephen Garcia vs. Arkansas and Diondre Borel at Boise State
Two young quarterbacks will each be looking to take another step this week: Borel will look to lead his upstart squad to a stunning upset, and Garcia will look to perform like a Spurrier quarterback from yesteryear. The ball coach spent the better part of his week thinking up snappy comments regarding his buddy Phil Fulmer, and he’ll welcome a defensively challenged Razorback squad to Columbia this weekend.
Diondre Borel is at the Robert Griffin young pup stage. He’s playful and fun to watch, but he’s also likely to pee on the carpet on occasion, and this week the carpet will be the blue turf in Boise. Borel will show sparks, but he’ll also see his struggles.
Stephen Garcia set a site record for number of player news blurbs before seeing the field, and it’s nice to see the mercurial quarterback making news on the field. We’re a long way removed from Danny Weurffel, but this Spurrier quarterback will have a big game on Saturday.
Start and Sit Matchups
RB1: Javon Ringer vs. Purdue and Kory Sheets at Michigan State
Javon Ringer was held to 54 yards last week, however he still mustered 16 fantasy points. Kory Sheets gained over 160 yards from scrimmage, and he put up nearly 35 points. The Wisconsin defense pounded Ringer and the Spartans, and the Michigan defense gave Sheets handwritten directions to the end zone. And now Purdue and Michigan State square off, yet only one team is playing for something more than pride.
Purdue is going to play with nothing to lose, and the Spartans may play not to lose. Each defense will have difficulty stopping the run, yet Ringer will see more carries. Both backs should go for six a couple of times, but Ringer’s yardage will give him a slight edge in fantasy points.
RB2: Michael Smith vs. South Carolina and DeMarco Murray at Texas A&M
Owners have love/hate relationships with the home run backs, the guys that can run for 2, -1, and –2 before going for 88. Both Smith and Murray fit the bill, however for the past few weeks Smith has been a fantasy rarity: a home run back that has been surprisingly consistent. He’s scored a touchdown in five straight, and last week broke a string of four straight games with more than 100 yards.
My buddy owns DeMarco Murray, and over the course of the season I’ve received an equal number of texts that said “I H8 DeMarco” and “I heart DeMarco”. Lately, his love for DeMarco has been a strong love. Lucky #7 has scored nine times (yes, nine times) over the past three games, and so the law of averages says that it’s time for Chris Brown to take his turn. Not quite. And I’m going to use some stats to back this one up.
Smith is facing a Gamecocks’ defense that is only allowing 3.1 yards per carry. Murray is facing an Aggies’ defense that gives up 4.9 yards per pop. This is good enough for me. Murray rolls. Smith kinda rolls.
RB3: Nicolas Grigsby vs. Washington State and Jahvid Best vs. USC
I’ve always like Wazzu. Much like my alma mater, their in-state rivals have historically overshadowed the Cougars. I remember Drew Bledsoe tossing Apple Cup touchdowns in the snow.
I loved Jason Gesser:
and I thought Ryan Leaf would be a much better pro quarterback than Peyton Manning:
And now I’m left to see my adopted Cougars struggle through what may be the worst season in recent BCS history. Arizona will score at least 50, and Grigsby will hang on to the ball.
Meanwhile Best will struggle to find room against a robust USC defense with a chip on its shoulder following their perceived BCS snub.
Grigsby rolls, while Best struggles.
Start and Sit Matchups
WR1: Michael Crabtree vs. Oklahoma State and Dez Bryant at Texas Tech
The national emphasis will be on two terrific teams each led by a dynamic quarterback, and while the receivers will certainly get their Saturday morning hype, it’s easy to overlook just how productive these two youngsters have been this season. They’ve combined for an unreal 130 catches, 1975 receiving yards and 32 scores on the campaign. Opposing defenders and coordinators know where the ball is going, and they’ve been unable to stop bad things from happening to their team. And now these defenses are going up against the same type of receiver that they see every day in practice.
Now I realize that if you have both of these receivers then you’re likely your league leader in points, and there’s no debate that each has started every game. Heck, you’ve likely given each consideration on bye weeks. And there’s little doubt that each will score at least once this week. And I like Crabtree to outscore his counterpart from Stillwater.
Texas Tech has run the ball more effectively than they have in recent years, and they’ve the stats to back it up. Still, when the game needs to be won, Graham Harrell will drop back, have all day, and pick defenses apart. Meanwhile when Zac Robinson drops back he has all day, then tucks it and runs for a long time.
Go to your favorite school’s game on Saturday. Have dinner while watching the end of the Saban Bowl and the Penn State vs. Iowa slug fest. But be sure you’re seated in your comfy chair at 8:00 in order to watch two receivers who may go down as the most explosive BCS fantasy receivers in history.
WR:2 Jeff Moturi at Louisiana-Lafayette and Eric Decker vs. Michigan
Like many owners I’ve been waiting for UTEP’s Moturi to return to his form from 2007, when he went for 65-891-13. Many, including me, were this close to dumping this high draft pick, and then the Rice Owls came along last week and made everything all better. Moturi awoke to the tune of 5-109-3, but now he faces a LA-Lafayette defense that isn’t horrible against the pass. In fact they’re only allowing 210 passing yards per game.
Minnesota’s Eric Decker, he who may be hitting MLB fastballs in a few years, is the straw that stirs the Gophers’ drink. Yet he’s dealing with a tweaked ankle. But his team is playing Michigan, and opponents are chomping at the bit, fired up about getting Michigan while the getting is good. The gutty Decker should play, and he should play well.
Last week began what should be a great close to Moturi’s season, and I like the UTEP wide out to continue to roll, and he’ll outperform the Gopher leader.
WR3: James Rodgers at UCLA and Michael Floyd at Boston College
We’ll pit two of the nation’s top young wide receivers against each other as they play games on opposite coasts. His younger brother has out shined James, however big brother is still a threat to score every single time he gets his hands on the ball. Last week only saw Rodgers get one touch in the ground game, and this should change against the Bruins. The Beavers are playing for a legitimate bowl game, and they’re even telling themselves a Rose Bowl birth is a possibility. Key for an OSU win will be getting the ball in the hands of someone with the surname of Rodgers.
Don’t look now but Michael Floyd is emerging as the best freshman wide receiver in the country. Yes Julio Jones, A.J. Green and DeAndre Brown have all shown flashes, but this 6’3” wide out in South Bend has averaged 100 yards and a touchdown over the past six weeks. He’s a matchup nightmare who has developed an instant rapport with Jimmy Clausen. And while those that tuned in last week and only saw the Irish offense in overtime may vehemently disagree, this unit can move the ball, provided they don’t try to force the running game when it’s not there.
Rodgers will get his touches, but he’ll struggle to find paydirt. Floyd will see fewer touches, but he’ll keep up his impressive scoring pace of late.
Keep an Eye On…
Kickers & Defenses
Kevin Kelly could be the key to Penn State’s undefeated season, and he should get his chances in an expected ground battle.
Matt Eller is a nice play, kicking in a climate-controlled dome.
Grant Mahoney should get his chances in Boulder.
Dustin Keys will prove a difference-maker in the game with Maryland.
Look for Tennessee to step up for its coach, and Wyoming’s offense (starting an inexperienced QB) will have a hard time moving the ball.
Auburn will take out some season-long aggression against Tennessee-Martin.
It’s hard to imagine any team in Washington moving the ball, so Arizona State and Arizona will make for excellent filler defenses.
Remember, whether you’ve made it easily or just snuck your way into the playoffs, you’re in the second season. Ride your horses, but don’t be afraid to trust your instinct and play a matchup.
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