Thursday College Football DFS Picks & Strategy for Tulane vs. SMU, Florida Atlantic vs. Charlotte, San Jose State vs. UNLV & More (Oct. 21)

Thursday College Football DFS Picks & Strategy for Tulane vs. SMU, Florida Atlantic vs. Charlotte, San Jose State vs. UNLV & More (Oct. 21) article feature image

From top left: Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Tim Warner/Getty Images and Dustin Satloff/Getty Images. Pictured from top left: SMU wide receiver Danny Gray (5), Florida Atlantic quarterback N’Kosi Perry (7), Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis (1) and running back Chris Smith (21), and San Jose State running back Kairee Robinson (32).

Thursday College Football DFS Breakdown

Our friends at theCFFsite have provided their CFB DFS breakdown for Thursday night's four-game college football slate, featuring:

Time (ET)
7:30 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
11 p.m.
Click the logos for one of the matchups above to jump to theCFFsite's analysis for a specific game.

College fantasy football die-hards, CFB DFS players and college football player prop degenerates should all glean expert insight and analysis from this DFS Showdown Slate breakdown to help you make some money on Thursday evening.

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Tulane vs. No. 21 SMU

college football-tulane-green wave-logo
Thursday, Oct. 21
7:30 p.m. ET
college football-smu-mustangs-logo
Tulane Odds
-110o / -110u
SMU Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.
draftkings-sportsbook-online sports betting-odds

Tulane Green Wave (1-5)

One key statistic effectively explains Tulane's position at the bottom of the American Athletic Conference standings: Turnovers.

Through just six games, the Green Wave has already committed more turnovers (15) than in all 12 games of last season (14).

Unfortunately, second-year quarterback Michael Pratt ($7,300 / $9,500) has been the source of 10 of those turnovers.

Pratt has thrown five interceptions and is credited with five fumbles, according to Pro Football Focus.

Pratt has thrown 13 touchdowns through six games, on pace to surpass last year’s totals, and is up to 227.3 yards per game under new offensive coordinator Chip Long.

A weapon with his legs last season, Pratt has just 69 yards on 66 attempts on the ground in 2021 after averaging nearly 23 yards a game rushing last year.

Quarterbacks have found success at times against SMU this season, averaging 26.7 FPPG and ranking 74th in Pass Play Success Rate.

After leading the conference in rushing in 2020, Tulane now sits ninth in the AAC at just 140 yards per game on the ground.

A true threat hasn’t emerged in the backfield as Tulane has rotated between Cameron Carroll ($5,500 / $7,400), Tyjae Spears ($4,100 / $5,300) and Ygenio Booker ($4,200 / $5,400) for much of the season.

But the offensive line has been the cause for the struggles running the football.

The Wave are 103rd in Stuff Rate, 109th in Line Yards and 96th in Rush Play Success Rate this season, according to College Football Data (CFBD).

SMU has allowed just five rushing touchdowns in 2021 — the best mark in the AAC.

Don’t feel the need to roster any of them with a negative game script as a near two-touchdown dog.

Deuce Watts ($4,500 / $6,000) didn’t play a single snap in Week 6 vs. Houston, with the team’s SB Nation site tweeting out that he was on crutches on the sidelines.

Of course, no mention of it from the Tulane beat writer in the main New Orleans newspaper, so maybe we can get an edge there as he doesn’t have an injury tag on DraftKings.

If Deuce Watts is out, primary receivers look to be Shae Wyatt ($4,300 / $6,400), Jaetavian Toles ($4,100 / $5,800) and Phat Watts ($3,300 / $5,600), who combined to play 77% of the snaps vs. Houston.

Wyatt led the way with five receptions on eight targets.

Tight end Tyrick James ($5,400 / $7,000) has been the most consistent pass-catcher in this dismal season, leading the team in targets (29), receptions (22) and touchdowns (3).

Weather Forecast: Tulane at SMU
76°11%7 mph
Forecasted weather conditions reported as of Wednesday evening.

SMU Mustangs (6-0)

It’s been a seamless transition at quarterback for the Mustangs from last year’s starter Shane Buechele to Tanner Mordecai ($10,000 / $12,000), who is tied for first in the country in touchdown passes thrown (26) in just six games and is averaging over 315 yards a contest.

Don’t be afraid to spend up for Mordecai as he’s topped 30 fantasy points in five of the six games played this season. He also has a favorable matchup as Tulane is allowing the second-most FPPG to opposing quarterbacks in the country.

It helps when you have one of the best wide receiver corps in the country with Danny Gray ($6,200 / $9,600), Reggie Roberson Jr. ($7,100 / $8,600) and Rashee Rice ($5,900 / $8,900). They have combined for 64% of the team’s production and 17 total touchdowns between them.

I can understand why Roberson is the highest-priced of the three given that he’s scored a touchdown in each of the last four games, but he is third amongst the trio in targets and total TDs.

The portal also benefitted SMU at the tight end position, where former Oklahoma transfer Grant Calcaterra ($4,900 / $5,400) is fourth on the team with 19 receptions and three scores.

A pregame storyline to monitor will be the injury status of starting running back Ulysses Bentley IV ($6,000 / $9,400), who sat out against South Florida in Week 5 and was then limited to just two carries the following week vs. Navy.

According to 247Sports beat writer Bill Embody, neither Bentley nor receiver Jordan Kerley ($4,000 / $5,500) practiced last week during the bye, but neither player was seen with a brace or sleeve either.

Should Bentley be unavailable or limited (do they even need him vs. Tulane?), former North Texas transfer Tre Siggers ($4,900 / $7,800) has filled in admirably with a rushing touchdown in each of the last two games.

Regardless of who starts in the backfield, SMU should find success against a Tulane rush defense that is 10th in the conference, allowing 197 yards per game on the ground and 16 rushing scores.

Florida Atlantic vs. Charlotte

college football-florida atlantic-logo
Thursday, Oct. 21
7:30 p.m. ET
college football-charlotte 49ers-logo
Florida Atlantic Odds
-110o / -110u
Charlotte Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.
draftkings-sportsbook-online sports betting-odds

Florida Atlantic Owls (3-3)

Quarterback N’Kosi Perry

Head coach Willie Taggart confirmed that QB1 N’Kosi Perry ($6,500 / $8,500) would start for the Owls on Thursday after being in and out of practice during the bye week.

It has been a tale of two seasons for Perry in 2021, depending on the opponent faced. We’ll allow the struggles against Florida in the opener, where the Miami transfer had just 12 fantasy points.

Perry had a season-low 78 yards passing against Air Force in Week 4, but the Falcons are ranked 12th in the nation in scoring defense.

Last time out against UAB, three turnovers did him in, including a pick-six to end the half. The Blazers are currently No. 1 in C-USA in scoring defense.

Now to the other side of the coin. Against Georgia Southern, Florida International and Fordham — none of which play a lick of defense — Perry is averaging 30.3 FPPG, topping 28 points in each game.

Charlotte is included in the latter group defensively, allowing over 445 yards per game and giving up 30.8 FPPG to opposing QBs this season.

Florida Atlantic Running Backs

Tough to figure out this FAU rotation in the backfield with the snap counts fluctuating each week.

Johnny Ford ($5,300 / $6,700) is easily the best playmaker of the bunch — with a team high 311 yards on 58 carries — and did see a season-high six targets in the loss to UAB in Week 6.

Malcolm Davidson ($3,000 / $5,200) is second on the team with 225 rushing yards, but has been ineffective the last three games — hence why his snap counts have also decreased.

James Charles ($3,500 / $5,100), Larry McCammon III ($3,900 / $5,700) and Kelvin Dean Jr. ($3,300 / $5,000) are rotational pieces in the FAU backfield, but don’t see consistent snaps or carries.

Metrics indicate this should be a matchup where FAU should find success on the ground — it ranks 38th in Line Yards and 30th in Rush Play PPA — as it takes on the worst rush defense in the conference.

Florida Atlantic Receivers

Sophomore slot receiver LaJohntay Webster ($5,700 / $7,000) has been a tremendous find as a speedy former track star, leading the team with 31 receptions on 46 targets (24% share) and at least seven targets in five of the six games played.

6-foot-4 Brandon Robinson ($3,900 / $5,400) sits second on the team and targets (30), though hasn’t found the end-zone since the opening week.

He is probably underpriced at $3,900 for someone who sees the field just as much as Webster.

Another track star in Je’Quan Burton ($4,700 / $6,200) has locked up the second outside spot opposite Robinson. He's currently second on the team with 263 yards and two scores.

His snap counts have steadily risen since the second week of the season.

As a result, former Clemson transfer TJ Chase ($4,000 / $5,300) has fallen out of the starting rotation and is a distant fifth on the team in targets (17).

If ranking the FAU pass catchers, it would be:

  1. LaJohntay Webster
  2. Je'Quan Burton
  3. Brandon Robinson
  4. John Mitchell ($4,300 / $5,500)
  5. TJ Chase
Weather Forecast: Florida Atlantic at Charlotte
71°13%7 mph
Forecasted weather conditions reported as of Wednesday evening.

Charlotte 49ers (4-2)

Massive home game for the 49ers as they look to remain atop the C-USA standings against inter-division foe FAU.

I feel like we’ve seen Charlotte on a DFS slate enough this season where we know what to expect here.

Chris Reynolds ($8,000 / $9,700) has had a bounce-back season now that he’s fully healthy, averaging nearly 30 FPPG on the season with 18 total touchdowns.

His passing volume is down slightly but he is sitting right at eight carries a game, which is right where he was at in 2020.

I was initially tempted to fade Reynolds, given FAU is second in the conference in pass defense and are 16th nationally in Pass Play Success Rate, but then you look at their schedule — Georgia Southern, Fordham, FIU and Air Force.

That’s a long list of mediocre QBs and a pair of triple-option teams.

This is a true split backfield between Shadrick Byrd ($4,600 / $6,500) and Calvin Camp ($4,500 / $6,200), where there is minimal difference in snap counts and carries, and now there is just a $100 difference in salary between the two.

Byrd gets the slight edge in both categories and has a 10-6 advantage in targets, so would lean towards rostering him now that the separation in pricing is minimal.

Finding success against the Owls' defense is far easier on the ground where FAU is 11th in C-USA, allowing over 200 yards a game rushing and is 113th in Rush Defense Success Rate.

The backs' upside is capped because of the 50-50 split as neither player has topped 20 fantasy points this season.

Targets are consolidated with Victor Tucker ($6,900 / $7,800) and Grant Dubose ($5,900 / $8,400) accounting for 52% of the total team share.

DraftKings gives Tucker the slight salary bump here because he’s found the end zone in each of the last two games, though it’s Dubose with the higher FPPG output because of his team-high four TDs.

WR3 Elijah Spencer ($4,000 / $5,900) was a popular punt play the last time Charlotte was on a slate. He comes into the FIU matchup with touchdowns in three straight games.

That streak was broken, but Spencer saw about 48% of snaps which is near his season average.

Taylor Thompson ($3,500 / $5,100) averages just over three targets per game and found the end-zone for the first time against FIU.

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Louisiana vs. Arkansas State

college football-louisiana lafayette-ragin cajuns-logo
Thursday, Oct. 21
7:30 p.m. ET
college football-arkansas state-red wolves-logo
Louisiana Odds
-115o / -105u
Arkansas State Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.
draftkings-sportsbook-online sports betting-odds

Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (5-1)

I hate this matchup because typically, with any team facing this woeful Arkansas State defense, we’re firing up any and all players possible.

But Louisiana is one of the more difficult teams to decipher which players to target as they rotate RBs and WRs more than planet Earth.

Levi Lewis ($8,500 / $10,000) is way too expensive for my taste at $8,500, especially for a player that has topped 20 fantasy points just twice this season and may not need to throw the football against the second-worst rush defense in the country.

That said, Lewis will not see high ownership and Arkansas State can’t stop the pass either as the Wolves are allowing 34.6 FPPG to opposing QBs and are 112th in Pass Play Success Rate defensively.

No Louisiana WR is worth rostering for CFF or DFS purposes as it is a pure guessing game as to which will pop in a given week, barring we get some sort of injury news (I don’t know of any).

Seven different receivers have between 11 and 21 targets in 2021.

If choosing, I’d lean toward the outside receivers in Kyren Lacy ($5,200 / $6,800), Michael Jefferson ($5,000 / $6,500) and John Stephens Jr. ($4,100 / $6,000), as they combine for seven of the team’s nine receiving TDs this season.

And then there is the UL backfield which is another mess in itself.

Just as we are thinking that Chris Smith ($6,600 / $8,800) is going to give way to the underclassmen in Montrell Johnson ($5,800 / $7,200) and Emani Bailey ($4,400 / $6,100), the junior running back goes on to find the end zone twice on 13 carries in the win over Appalachian State.

Snap counts were even across the boards — 26 / 21 / 20 — in favor of Smith, which has been consistent for much of the season.

Still , it feels like order of priority here is Smith > Johnston > Bailey, but all three are in the mix facing a defense that has allowed north of 200 rushing yards in each of the last five games.

Weather Forecast: Louisiana at Arkansas State
65°1%8 mph
Forecasted weather conditions reported as of Wednesday evening.

Arkansas State (1-5)

Layne Hatcher ($5,000 / $7,500) going to have the highest ownership percentage of the slate at just $5K?

Seems as though both DraftKings and PrizePicks (o/u line started the week at 184.5 passing yards) did not realize that James Blackman was out this week due to injury.

Hatcher came on in relief of Blackman against Coastal Carolina and threw for three touchdowns in garbage time as the game was already decided at that point.

While the Arkansas State passing game is not as prolific as it was a year ago, they’re not that far off the pace, averaging 358.3 YPG, which is tops in the Sun Belt.

Hatcher’s backup would be Freshman Wyatt Begeal ($4,500 / $4,000) who the team prefers to redshirt, so we should see the junior quarterback the entire way.

The Cajuns have the 16th best mark in the country allowing just 17.2 FPPG to opposing quarterbacks this season, but are nowhere near as good as they were a year ago defending the pass, ranking 76th in Pass Play Success Rate.

There is zero interest in the Arkansas State running game, as it ranks 128th in the country at just 82 YPG and it hasn't had a running back top nine carries in a game since Week 2.

Lincoln Pare ($4,300 / $6,300) appears to be the RB1 as of right now, seeing the most snaps in the last two games, but he is not someone we need to prioritize whatsoever.

Arkansas State runs the football just 31% of the time — 128th nationally.

We’ll have to monitor Corey Rucker’s ($6,700 / $8,000) status on Thursday just to be certain, but nothing has indicated that he wouldn’t play yet.

Rucker suffered an injury vs. Coastal Carolina and was playing through a quad injury, according to HC Butch Jones.

The sophomore wide receiver sits atop the charts for Arkansas State in targets (53) and touchdowns (7).

In Week 4 against Tulsa, it appeared as though Te’Vailance Hunt ($5,600 / $7,500) was losing his hold on a starting job with Dahu Green ($4,200 / $5,600) healthy again.

Not the case as Hunt led the team in targets (10) vs. Coastal Carolina, topping 130 receiving yards with a TD.

We saw a three-way split at the LWR spot opposite Hunt with Green, Jeff Foreman ($4,800 / $7,100) and Adam Jones ($3,300 / $5,500) rotating in and out, with each receiver tallying four targets on the night.

Foreman led the team in targets (10) and receiving yards (83) the prior week against Georgia Southern despite being out-snapped by Jones.

Tight end Emmanual Stevenson’s ($3,200 / $4,900) targets (2) have fallen off completely over the last two weeks.

San Jose State vs. UNLV

college football-san jose state-spartans-logo
Thursday, Oct. 21
11 p.m. ET
college football-unlv-rebels-logo
San Jose State Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.
draftkings-sportsbook-online sports betting-odds

San Jose State Spartans (3-4)

We’ll play the same game this week monitoring pregame reports to see whether or not Nick Starkel ($5,800 / $6,900) will return from the injury that’s kept him out the last three games.

As if letting us know will make a difference or not with San Jose State amidst a two-game losing streak.

Nick Nash ($5,700 / $6,900) started his third straight and unsurprisingly had his worst performance against a stingy SDSU defense. He completed just 46% of his throws with two turnovers.

As long as it’s just one QB and not any kind of rotation, I think Nash/Starkel will be a viable option against the second-worst pass defense in the Mountain West. UNLV is allowing over 34 FPPG to opposing QBs this year.

Running back Tyler Nevens ($5,100 / $7,000) shouldered the bulk of the carries for the first time all year with 28 attempts on 46 snaps. Backup Kairee Robinson ($3,600 / $5,100) was on the field for 31 snaps but that resulted in just five carries.

UNLV is significantly better at stopping the run this season, limiting opponents to under four yards a carry in each of the last three games.

Receivers Isaiah Hamilton ($5,100 / $6,100), Charles Ross ($3,500 / $5,500) and Jermaine Braddock ($4,300 / $5,900) were on the field a combined 80% of the time last week vs. San Diego State, with Ross/Braddock playing over 90% of the snaps. No other receiver saw more than 10 snaps.

Target share distribution between the three is minimal, with Hamilton leading the way at 22 receptions on 37 targets.

I don’t see any advantage in selecting one SJSU receiver over the other, aside from pricing, where Ross (second in targets) is a relative bargain at $3,500.

Tight end Derrick Deese Jr. ($6,400 / $7,200) is option No. 1 in the Spartans’ passing game, particularly with Nash at the helm, as 28 of his 43 targets have come in the last three weeks.

The only tight end of any relevance that faced UNLV this year, Charlie Kolar, scored 16 fantasy points.

Weather Forecast: San Jose State at UNLV
68°0%4 mph
Forecasted weather conditions reported as of Wednesday evening.

UNLV Rebels (0-6)

The Rebels may be winless, but have played better as of late. Over the last three games, they have averaged 24 PPG and suffered narrow losses to a pair of ranked opponents in UTSA and Fresno State.

UNLV has exceeded 150 passing yards just twice this season and have utilized multiple quarterbacks in all six games. That's why our interest in the quarterback is minimal here.

Sophomore Doug Brumfield ($5,500 / $6,500) is day-to-day, per head coach Marcus Arroyo, with a back injury he suffered three weeks ago.

Last week’s starter, Cameron Friel ($5,300 / $5,400) left in the fourth quarter due to injury and was ineffective when in the game.

Justin Rogers ($4,500 / $6,000) and Tate Martell ($5,100 / $5,000) split reps in practice so far this week, with Friel looking questionable for Friday.

I’ve now spent way too much time talking about UNLV quarterbacks.

The only receiver of interest here for us is Kyle Williams ($4,600 / $5,700), who accounts for 26% of the target share, including eight targets in the last two games.

Williams, Steve Jenkins ($4,000 / $5,800) and slot receiver Kilinahe Mendiola-Jensen ($3,700 / $4,700) have dominated the snap counts the last two games.

Mendiola-Jensen has nine receptions on 15 targets over that span, so I suppose he’d be a viable option in a full-point PPR format like DraftKings.

Charles Williams ($8,200 / $8,500) remains the centerpiece of the offense with three 100-yard rushing performances, coming off a season-high 221 yards against Utah State.

I'm not sure that kind of performance is repeatable against a San Jose State defense that just held San Diego State to under two yards a carry last week.

The Spartans are allowing just 11.0 FPPG to opposing RB1s on the season, 12th-best in the country and are 38th in Rush Play Success Rate defensively.

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