Notre Dame football is 11-0 and one win away from a berth in the College Football Playoff. It is also championship week for all college fantasy football leagues.
Notre Dame football is heading to the West Coast for a regular season finale against the University of Southern California. The Irish look to remain unbeaten and punch their ticket to the 2018 College Football Playoff. Irish fans’ anxiety will surely reach its highest point of the season. In the words of Faith Hill, “just breathe.”
The USC Trojans have had a rough season. They are currently 5-6 and need a win to become bowl eligible. Head coach Clay Helton’s seat has become hotter as the season has progressed, but the Athletic Department is in a precarious situation since they agreed to a contract extension this past February. This game could either buy Helton another year or be the final nail in his coffin.
Clay Helton is not the only one with a lot riding on this weekend. The championships for college fantasy football leagues will also be taking place. In the Slap the Sign league, the two teams in the championship are owned by Carlee North and myself. Both teams defeated higher seeds in the semifinal round to advance to the championship.
Given the pressure of a one-week fantasy football championship, many people tend to overthink their roster decisions. In the fantasy football playoffs, there is one rule I try to abide by: Dance with the one(s) that brought you. Trust the players that have produced for you all season long. Do not over-analyze individual matchups. Start your studs.
Dexter Williams (RB)
When I say, “start your studs,” Dexter Williams should be one of the first names to come to mind. His nickname is “juice” and he has all the juice right now. Two weeks in a row, Williams has thrown up the deuces in a defenders face as he raced towards the endzone. That is the kind of guy I want in my starting lineup for championship week.
He has a favorable matchup this week. The USC defense is currently ranked 69th in yards per rush attempt allowed.
Williams has been up and down over the past six games. His rushing yards in each of those games was: 178, 31, 142, 56, 202, and 74. Following that pattern, Williams is due for a big performance this weekend.
As extra motivation, Williams has a chance to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for the season. Right now, he is just 156 yards away from that milestone. Williams has already had three games this season in which he rushed for over 156 yards.
Ian Book (QB)
Book currently has the second best completion percentage in the country. He would own the top percentage if not for two straight games in which he completed less than 65 percent of his passes.
I think we can forgive Book for those last two performances. He suffered a rib injury in the first half of the Northwestern game. He had the toughness and pain tolerance to play the rest of that game, but he was sidelined the next week. Though he was cleared to play against Syracuse, I think the injury was probably still nagging him a bit.
Book should be closer to full health this week as the Irish head to the Los Angeles Coliseum for their final regular season game. USC’s pass defense has been pretty formidable this season, though. They currently rank 28th in yards per pass attempt allowed.
The Trojans could be a top 15 defense in yards per pass attempt allowed and I would still start Ian Book. Why? Because of my rule. The Irish offense has come alive with Book at the helm. They know what is on the line this weekend, and they will come out ready to play in one of college football’s greatest rivalry games.
I expect Book to finish with about 300 yards passing, three touchdowns, and a completion percentage in the mid-70s.
Miles Boykin (WR)
Miles Boykin’s six-game touchdown streak came to an end last weekend in Notre Dame’s game against Syracuse. However, he still had seven catches for 76 yards. At this point in the season, Boykin’s role in the offense and chemistry with Ian Book gives him a high floor in fantasy football.
If I think Book will have a good game, chances are I think Boykin will have a good game as well. Of all the pass-catchers on Notre Dame’s offense, I think Book trusts Boykin the most. That is in no way a slight to any of the other receivers or tight ends, but rather a testament to Boykin’s talent.
I mentioned that USC has a good pass defense. However, I do not think that will dissuade Chip Long from calling plenty of passing plays or dissuade Ian Book from slinging it all over the Coliseum yard. I can see Boykin hauling in seven passes in this game and finding the endzone at least once.
Alize Mack (TE)
I thought that Mack’s two touchdown performance against Florida State might might have been his breakout game this season. It is looking more like that was his ceiling instead of a stepping stone that elevated his game to another level.
Mack plays a big role in this offense – both in the passing game and the running game. Unfortunately, his role does not always translate to good fantasy football production.
Mack only has three games this season in which he caught more than three balls. We could look past the lower number of targets if he was more of a threat in the redzone.
With Ian Book at quarterback, however, Mack has not had much production in that area. Through 11 games, he only has three touchdown receptions. Because of that, he should not be starting for you fantasy football team this week.
Chase Claypool (WR)
I wanted to include Claypool in this week’s article to show that he is very much in the mix of viable starting wide receivers in college fantasy football. He is listed as a sit this week mainly because he has to share a field with Miles Boykin.
Claypool’s role in the Notre Dame offense has grown in the second half of the season. In his last five games, he has 25 catches for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
A case can certainly be made to start Claypool at the flex position in college fantasy football. However, during championship week, the criteria shifts. You either need consistent performers or players with a really high ceiling. I am not sure that Claypool comfortably clears either of those benchmarks.