Mark Lindquist

Weekly Update

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Match-ups Mixer: Week 13

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Shooting Stars


Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald vs. Ole Miss (Thursday) -- It’s been an underwhelming season for Fitzgerald, who has already matched the 10 interceptions he threw all of last year. He’s going to finish with more than 1,000 yards on the ground -- with his 101 yards on the ground against Arkansas on Saturday, he’s now sitting at 968 rushing yards for the campaign -- at least, and that’s where he’ll make his lunch money on Saturday. The Rebs rank as one of the nation’s worst run-defenses. We like the Bulldogs to run all over Ole Miss in what will be the final game of a trying calendar year in Oxford. Fitzgerald has topped 100 yards rushing six times for the campaign.


Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke vs. Rutgers -- Well that was some kind of a performance in Saturday’s win over Maryland. Some kind of a performance. Lewerke managed to complete just 2-of-14 passes for 20 yards versus the Terps. It’s not the first stinker he’s put up this year (the less said about his performance against Ohio State, the better), but at his peak, in back-to-back games against Northwestern and Penn State, Lewerke threw for 400-plus yards in each with a 6/1 TD/INT ratio. He’s very much a boom/bust proposition in a favorable spot. Rutgers has played respectably but shouldn’t put a scare into him and we like a rebound performance.


Kentucky RB Benjamin Snell vs. Louisville -- We’ve run hot and cold on Snell for much of the season, but we expect him to end on a high note versus the Cardinals. Louisville boasts a bizarre stat profile with some whopping discrepancies which can basically be summed up as the Lamar Jackson effect. Louisville can score with anybody. They are also prone to allow anybody to run rough-shot over them. By S&P+ standards, Louisville ranks 96th in run defense. That’s actually their good side. They’re even worse against the pass. Snell has been held under 100 yards rushing in only five games this season. He’s scored in all but three of them, most recently posting a respectable 94 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Georgia on Saturday.


TCU RB Kyle Hicks vs. Baylor (Friday) -- What might have been. Fresh off a 1,042-yard, 12-touchdown showcase in 2016, injuries early in the campaign limited Hicks and led to the rise of Darius Anderson. Even after Hicks returned to full health or an approximation of it, the backfield remained in timeshare. Anderson, however, suffered a season-ending right foot injury in a loss to Oklahoma earlier this month, leaving the door open for Hicks to finish up strong. He posted 81 yards rushing against Texas Tech on Saturday and should be able to improve on that fine performance versus the Bears, who rank as the 31st defense against the run in the FBS on a per-game basis. We like Hicks to continue to reassert himself as lead actor.


Memphis WR Anthony Miller vs. East Carolina -- Miller just destroyed SMU with a 8-163-2 receiving line and he’s got himself a ripe opportunity in front of him with the Pirates, now. ECU possesses perhaps the worst pass defense in the country, trailing only UConn with just over 305 yards allowed through the air while ranking 130th in that S&P+ metric. When Miller’s on, he is as capable of a monster performance as anybody. Three of his four games over 100 yards receiving have seen him go off for at least 175 yards, with Saturday’s falling just short of that mark.


Miami (OH) WR James Gardner vs. Ball State (Tuesday) -- Another Group of 5 wideout who could be in for a huge day. Gardner is currently the owner of a 45-899-10 receiving line with four games of at least 100 yards receiving. While Ball State is not UConn or ECU bad at defending the pass by traditional metrics -- they rank 47th worst on a per-game average -- they’re considerably worse on S&P+, where they sit at No. 107 against the aerial game. Gardner helps to kick off the Thanksgiving slate with a big game on Tuesday after disappearing for just one 13-yard catch against Eastern Michigan this week.


Kansas WR Steven Sims vs. Oklahoma State -- Perhaps the ultimate roll of the dice, Sims is capable of the huge (9-233-1 against Kansas State) and the scant (negative yardage against TCU, one catch for six yards against Iowa State). The Cowboys have proven vulnerable on passing downs -- 40th by S&P+ standards -- and vulnerable at volume, surrendering just over 284 aerial yards on average. That latter mark stands/sits as the ninth-worst in the country. Given the offense that he calls home, Sims is no guarantee for big numbers, but we like him to cap off another lost campaign for the Jayhawks in style.

 

****

 

Falling Stars


Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett vs. Michigan -- This game has lost its shine for a number of reasons, including OSU’s fall from real Playoff relevancy coupled with a slight reloading year for the Wolverines. Barrett has played like a Heisman contender at times this season, but he proved less-than-impressive against Iowa in the Buckeyes’ biggest loss of the year. For all of their issues (mostly on offense), Michigan remains one of the best defensive teams in all the land -- tops in clamping down the passing game on average, tops in defensive success rate versus the pass by S&P+ -- and they completely shut down Barrett a year ago. In that narrow win by the Buckeyes in 2016, he was picked off twice and rushed for just 11 yards. We envision similar for The Game this time around.


Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham vs. Alabama -- Stid the Kid has played fantastically down the stretch to keep the Tigers hanging around the Playoff picture, with arguably his best performance of the year coming against Georgia two weekends ago. In that upset, Stidham threw for three touchdowns. He owns an 8/1 TD/INT ratio over his last three games. And we want nothing to do with him, here. There’s just so little room for upside against the Crimson Tide, even if Stidham manages to do something, anything. And managing to do something against Alabama typically boils down to relatively sparse statistics to begin with for all not named Deshaun Watson.


Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson vs. Alabama -- We’ll double up here, though it might be to our detriment. The last time we foresaw a problematic game for Johnson, it was against Georgia. He finished with 167 yards rushing, plus two catches for 66 yards and a score versus the Bulldogs. Count us wrong on that one, friends. But once more into the breach. As tends to be the case with Nick Saban’s crew, Alabama is third in the country in average rushing yards allowed per game (they’re surrendering just over 85) and likewise third in the country against the run by S&P+ standards. We like the symmetry. Beyond that, we like them to shut this Tiger attack down. Auburn managed to spring the upset on Georgia and will try for an even bigger one in the Iron Bowl, but we imagine that Saban spent the previous practice week in advance of the win over Mercer focusing very much on this game.


Rutgers RB Gus Edwards vs. Michigan State -- We really like what Edwards has shown since coming over from Miami via transfer this offseason. He’s rushed for 703 yards on the year, including a trio of games over 90 yards on the ground. It’s been relatively modest work compared to some of the bigger boys, but it’s also been the best work of his career. Sparty will clamp him down, though. They’ve been fantastic against the ground game any way you slice it, ranking No. 7 on S&P+ and No. 10 on a raw statistical basis. No go for Edwards, here, but again, a nice season on the whole.


Washington State WR Tavares Martin vs. Washington -- There shall be no apple picking in the Apple Cup for Martin, who has had himself an up-and-down season even setting aside his next opponent. He was suspended for one game in October due to a violation of team rules and has been held under 70 yards receiving in eight contests this year. And then there’s the fact that he’s facing a Washington team which has been rock solid versus aerial attacks, if not quite up to their standards of a year ago. This is as much a play against Martin as it is for Washington, though.


Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk vs. LSU -- We’ve now landed Kirk in this place several times this year. One for the road, then, one for the road. The talented wideout did flash against New Mexico two weekends ago, catching four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, but that was just his second 100-yard showing of the season and LSU isn’t going to allow him to notch No. 3. The Tigers still make their money on defense, ranking as a top-10 unit against aerial bombardment on S&P+. In perhaps their best showing versus the pass this year, they held Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown to just four catches for 39 yards. They should be able to handle the Aggies’ hit/miss passing game without issue while swallowing up Kirk.


Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson vs. Fresno State -- Ced’s one of our favorite players in the country and has served as the most consistent player in a BSU passing offense which has wavered at times this season. That being said, consider this a no-fly zone. The Bulldogs rank just behind Clemson in terms of raw passing yardage allowed. They’re slightly wobblier by S&P+ (ranking 66th), but they also rank as the second most explosive defensive unit per S&P+, a flashing red light for Boise State’s inconsistent offense. Prior to putting up 107 yards against Air Force on Saturday, Wilson had not topped 100 yards receiving since the end of September.






Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.
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