Team unit breakdown for Week 8

by | Rotowire.com
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Running backs

Buffalo (vs. Massachusetts): The Bulls backfield may be setting a record here. This will mark its third consecutive week featured in this column, and the first two times, they didn't disappoint. The Bulls rushed for 290 yards last week against Western Michigan and 228 yards two weeks ago against Eastern Michigan. This week, they face a UMASS defense that ranks 120th nationally against the run, allowing 247.3 yards per game. Led by a resurgent Branden Oliver, expect the Bulls to continue churning out impressive rushing statistics.

East Carolina (vs. Southern Miss): Using a Pirates backfield comes with some risk; given the team's pass happy offense. But the last time this author had a hunch to feature Vintavious Cooper and company was two weeks ago against North Carolina. Cooper ran for 186 yards that day, and while hindsight is 20-20, there's reason to expect another solid outing from Cooper and company. Cooper has scored three touchdowns in the last two weeks, and added 54 yards receiving. Southern Miss is surprisingly adequate against the pass, allowing just 178.8 yards per game. That's because you can drive a truck through their defensive front, to the tune of 201 yards weekly. This matchup looks like a gamble worth taking.

Syracuse (at Georgia Tech): Speaking of gambles, this matchup represents a solid defense versus a humming rushing attack. Syracuse has rushed for 221.7 yards per game and has posted 323 and 362 yards over its last two contests against Clemson and North Carolina State. Neither of those defenses are statistically as trustworthy to stop the run as the Yellow Jackets, as Georgia Tech allows just 132.2 yards per game. A lot of the Jackets' success is tied to their ball control offense. Assuming the Orange remain patient and go with their bread and butter, there is little reason to think Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley don't continue their hot streak in Atlanta.

Oklahoma (at Kansas): This matchup is simple. The Sooners are likely to be irate after an embarrassing showing last weekend against Texas, and they're a running team. Oklahoma features the nation's 18th-ranked rushing attack, churning out 226.7 yards per game. Expect Bob Stoops' crew to be angry and push an overmatched Kansas defense, which has only held pass-happy Texas Tech to less than 150 yards rushing this season. Brennan Clay, Damian Williams, Roy Finch and even Keith Ford are licking their chops for this bounce-back performance.

Michigan (vs. Indiana): This column is flowing perfectly through themes. From a few reasonable gambles, the Wolverines represent a second straight angry backfield. Coming off a disappointing loss at Penn State, look for a normally sound Michigan ground attack to bounce back against a Hoosier defense that ranks 110th against the run nationally, allowing 216.5 yards per game. Somehow, starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards a week ago. If he sees 27 carries this Saturday, he's likely to sniff 170 or more yards.

Ball State (at Western Michigan): The Cardinals offense takes us back to a "pass first, hope you guess right with the rushing attack" type of selection. The passing attack is virtually unstoppable; but look for quarterback Keith Wenning to defer a bit in Week 8 against a defense that ranks second-to-last nationally against the run. Jahwan Edwards failed to score on 11 carries last week against Kent State but had three touchdowns in three consecutive games prior to Week 7. He'll get back on track in an emphatic way this Saturday.

Wide receivers

Overall, there were few eye-popping mismatches in Week 8. There's a lot of chalk here, but the schedule dictates rolling with the big dogs.

SMU (at Memphis): The Mustangs rank seventh nationally in passing yards per game, as Texas transfer Garrett Gilbert averages 361.2 yards through five games. What's even more telling is that Gilbert has attempted at least 44 passes each week and has topped 60 attempts three times, 70 passes once. Coach June Jones has clearly brought his air raid offense to the mainland since leaving Hawaii, and a Tigers defense can only be so prepared for that many attempts. Receivers Jeremy Johnson and Darius Joseph should continue to pad their stats.

Colorado (vs. Charleston Southern): The Buffaloes represent the lone matchup this week against a second-tier opponent. Charleston Southern comes in 7-0 but hasn't faced an FBS team to date. The CU offense has struggled since facing real competition, but shined in the first two weeks, passing for 741 yards against Colorado State and Central Arkansas. The quarterback situation is in flux in Boulder, as Connor Wood was benched early at Arizona State a week ago, and freshman Sefo Liufau didn't fare much better. The controversy won't be settled this week, as both will likely play and play well, while receiver Paul Richardson continues to impress in his return from injury.

Oregon State (at California): Two weekly staples in this column. The Beavers leads the nation with 433.2 passing yards per week and has an amazing 25 touchdowns to date. They will face a Bears defense that can't stop neither the run nor the pass. Quarterback Sean Mannion will continue to hit receivers Brandin Cooks and Richard Mullaney in stride in route to another impressive performance.

Wyoming (vs. Colorado State): The Cowboys receiving unit features four pass catchers who have at least 20 receptions and 239 yards this season. Led by Robert Herron's 35 catches, 505 yards and three scores, the depth is provided by Dominic Rufran (42-458-6,) Tanner Gentry (27-297-0,) and Jalen Claiborne (20-239-4.) On the other side of the line, the Rams defense ranks 119th in passing yards allowed weekly, surrendering 307.3 yards each time out. Quarterback Brett Smith and company easily eclipse 300 yards in Week 8.

UNLV (at Fresno State): Fresno State continues to allow as many yards through the air as its quarterback Derek Carr can throw for. Ranked 116th nationally, Fresno State allows 301.4 passing yards a game. The Rebels offense continues to be an intriguing option, as it's led by quarterback-turned-wideout-turned-quarterback Caleb Herring. He tossed for a season-high 385 yards last weekend against Hawaii and might count as a wide receiver in some formats. That's just gravy when mixed in with standout receiver Devante Davis. He's totaled 614 yards and eight touchdowns on just 36 grabs and should be in line for another solid showing as UNLV hopes to keep pace with the Bulldogs.

South Alabama (vs. Kent St.): Statistically, the Jaguars are a bit of an abnormality. They average 288.6 yards per game through the air, good for 25th nationally, but have just six touchdown passes on the season. Led by Virginia transfer Ross Metheny, the first-year FBS school features four receivers who all have at least 16 catches and 229 yards. Shavarez Smith (20 grabs, 370 yards, one score,) leads the way as the Jags face a 82nd-ranked Golden Flashes defense that allows 242 yards a game. In a week with limited options, South Alabama is well worth the risk.

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