Daily Blog - Thursday September 3rd

Last year on CBS College Sports I did a weekly segment every Thursday in which I picked a surprise QB, RB, WR and Defense of the week plus gave them my upset pick of the week. I did quite well with these picks and in fact the last week we did the show my defense of the week was Ole Miss and they had the best defensive performance of any team in the FBS last year when facing an FBS foe when they allowed just 37 TOTAL yards offense to their rival Miss St including MINUS 51 yards rushing. I am not sure if I am doing the show again this year (we started week 2 last season) but I had fun doing the research and will do the same thing for everyone here on PhilSteele.com every Thursday! Here are my picks for top QB (with reasoning), RB, WR and Defenses of the week plus an upset special. I also give you reasoning on 3 or 4 others worth noting.

PhilSteele.com is teaming up with CFFinsider.com to bring you college fantasy football information every week this year. Our friends at CFFinsider.com are giving us their top fantasy starters at each position for week 1 which are listed below my picks for this week.


MY PICK: Juice Williams, Illinois - In ‘07 Williams was KO’d out of the game after an apparent hit to the head but last year he threw for 456 yds & 5 TD’s in a 52-42 loss to the #6 Tigers. MU LB Weatherspoon tweeted some trash talk over the summer claiming that he was going to “squeeze the pulp out of Juice” to add a little spark to this game. Williams and my #2 receiving corps will take aim at a Missouri defense which returns just 4 starters with only 1 starter back in the secondary. Missouri also has a new defensive coordinator and Illinois has my #2 rated receiving corps in the country. This game is in a dome so conditions are perfect and Juice is making his 4th appearance in the St Louis dome.

BO LEVI MITCHELL, SMU - I have done about 320 radio shows so far this year and I am not sure if Mitchell’s name came up in the conversation a single time! Since no one is talking about him on the national level, even though in my mind it is a no brainer that he will put up big yards this week, he fits into one of my surprise QB’s this week. A couple of notes on head coach June Jones. He loves to pass the ball and even when up big in the 4Q he is passing the ball. His team was 1-11 last year and needs confidence. Mitchell was a TRUE frosh last year and threw for just 2,865 yds and should top 4,000 yds this year. SMU suspended their top 2 WR’s for the last two games last year and they are back and part of my #13 rated receiving corps this year. SF Austin was 4-8 last year in the FCS and allowed 437 ypg overall.

Kellen Moore, Boise St - Boise hasn’t lost a regular season home game since 2001 (49-0) and I think that Boise will continue their home win streak. Moore averaged 268 pass ypg with a 25-10 ratio last year and threw for 386 yds (66.7%) with a 3-1 ratio vs Oregon last year. The Ducks have 2 new starters in their secondary and only 5 defensive starters back overall. Last year Oregon allowed 270 ypg passing per game and lost two 2nd round draft picks in the secondary. The surprise part to this pick is that Boise is taking on a team that finished #10 in the AP poll last year.

Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame - Clausen struggled in the 2H of last season but the light bulb went on in bowl practices and vs WAC member Hawaii he hit 24 of 28 for 413 yards with all 4 incompletions being dropped passes. This year he has my #5 rated offensive line in front of him and my #1 set of WR’s to work with. Weis called the plays for the bowl and has taken over the offensive coordinator duties this year (good move). Nevada had an excellent defense vs the run last year allowing just 89 ypg but teams threw for an average of 312 ypg on them. Look for Clausen to have a bigger opening game than most expect.

Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP - Vittatoe is 1 of the NCAA’s most unheralded QB’s throwing for 6,375 yds and 58 TD’s the last 2 years. He returns to lead a Miners offense which returns 8 starters and they take on a Buffalo pass defense which ranked #90 in the NCAA last year allowing 235 ypg (66%) with an 18-8 ratio. Last year UTEP had one of the biggest home games in their history on deck (Texas) and travelled to play the Bulls on a Thursday night of Labor Day weekend in front of an announced crowd of 16,656. It was tied at 14 with the Bulls throwing a 34 yd TD pass with :30 left 2Q and they put the game away in the 2H with Vittatoe throwing for 199 yds & 3 int. Vittatoe welcomes back the nation’s leading TD reception duo in Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi (101 rec for 1613 yds & 23 TD in ‘08) and the Miners may want revenge after last year’s disappointing performance. Vittatoe put up those stats last year despite an ankle injury which hurt his mechanics and he is now 100% healthy.


MY PICK: Jahvid Best, Cal - Best led the Pac-10 in rushing in ‘08 with 1,580 yds (8.1). Maryland only allowed 147 rush ypg (3.9) but only has 4 defensive starters back with only 1 back on the DL. In Best’s final 3 games last year he rushed for 201 vs Stanford, 311 vs Washington and then 186 vs a very tough Miami, FL defense. Last year Maryland took advantage of a 9 AM PST start (12 noon East Coast) and jumped out to a big lead and took Best out of the game. The reason this can be labeled a surprise is that Maryland is a bowl team from last year that held Best to 25 yards rushing on 10 carries in last year’s game. This one starts at 10 pm EST as Cal now has the coast to coast travel edge and the time edge with the game ending at 1 am body clock time for the Terps. Cal is playing with legitimate revenge and Best should have a big game.

Toby Gerhart, Stanford - Once again I have done over 300 radio shows this summer and I think I remember one brief question about Stanford on one show where I mentioned Gerhart but not a single radio personality or caller mentioned him. He turned down a shot at MLB because he was not drafted high enough. That made coach Harbaugh very happy. Last year against the Cougars he rushed for 132 yards and had FOUR TD’s and Wash St has ONE starter back on their defensive line. Gerhart has publicly stated his goal is 2,000 yards this year and this is a game where he could get a huge jump on that number. Harbaugh is thankful that he opted to return and may want to keep him happy and pointed towards that goal.

Richard Samuel, Georgia - OC Mike Bobo said Samuel has the best breakaway speed of any RB he’s coached or played with at UGA. He said he might even be “a little bit faster” than Robert Edwards. With QB Cox making his first road start (just 2nd start overall), expect UGA to keep it on the ground. OSU allowed 138 ypg rush (4.3) last year but allowed 187 (4.9) to Oklahoma and 307 (7.7) to Oregon in their last 2 gms. They do have an improved defensive front 7 but are switching schemes under a new defensive coordinator and that might take a couple of games to get the defense playing as a unit.

DeJuan Harris, Troy - Bowling Green lost their entire defensive front from last year and has just 1 of the defensive front 7 back. Most college football fans have never even heard of Harris but he was 1st Team Sun Belt last year rushing for 1,077 yards with 5.1 ypc. In the opener last year vs Middle Tennessee St he rushed for 148 yards on 19 carries.

Charles Scott, LSU - Scott rushed for 1,174 yds (5.4) last year as one of the top RB’s in the SEC and faces Washington’s defense which allowed 241 rush ypg (5.7) in ‘08. LSU has a young QB and this game could be tighter than most expect which may have Miles relying on Scott a little more than usual.

Evan Royster, Penn St - With the loss of their top WR’s from last year, Royster figures to be more of a focal point of the offense. My computer shows Penn St with 275 yards rushing in this game and they may want to use him more to keep Akron’s pass attack off the field. I feel he will lead the Big Ten in rushing and it starts right here.


MY PICK: Michael Floyd, Notre Dame - Floyd set Irish frosh receiving records despite missing nearly 3 games last year. He returns along with Golden Tate and TE Kyle Rudolph to form the foundation of my top rated receiving corps. Floyd has the size (6’3”) and speed which will cause matchup problems vs a Wolf Pack defense which ranked dead last in the NCAA in ‘08 allowing 312 pass ypg (54%) with a 31-16 ratio.

Travis Benjamin, Miami, FL - Benjamin’s not the biggest receiver (5’10” 170) but he is one of the fastest with 4.26 speed. Last year vs rival FSU, Benjamin was all over the field with 274 all-purpose yds which was the most by a Miami player since Edgerrin James in 1998 (310 vs UCLA). Benjamin had 3 rec for 71 yds with a TD on a 51 yd HB pass from Graig Cooper and scored a TD on an 18 yd reverse plus had 185 yds on 6 KR’s (30.8). All that hard work last year still resulted in a 2 pt loss to FSU, but that will have Benjamin and the rest of Miami especially fired up for this one.

Rutgers WR combo Tim Brown and Mohamed Sanu - Rutgers may start a true frosh at QB here so not much will be expected and these two COMBINED for 27 receptions last year with all of them by Brown (less than 3 rec per game) as Sanu is an unheralded true frosh (PS#109). Sanu is 6’2” and Brown is 5’8” and a speed burner. They take on a Cincinnati defense that has just one starter back, so I look for unexpected success for these two. Sanu has been the talk of August and Brown averaged 20.9 ypc last year.

AJ Green, Georgia - I have Oklahoma St rated in my Top 25 on both the defensive line and linebackers but not in the secondary. Joe Cox is not a fuzzy faced freshman but a 5th year senior and as mentioned OSU has new schemes on defense. If I was an inexperienced QB I would throw it to someone I could count on to make plays and AJ Green is one of the top receivers in the country.

Arrelious Benn, Illinois - Read my pick for QB and note that Benn is my 1st Team AA WR and Williams’ top target.

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M - Tannehill gave Jerrod Johnson a spirited battle for the starting QB job this spring and fall before being edged out as Mike Sherman’s starter. Instead Tannehill will return to play WR where he set an Aggies’ frosh record with 55 rec for 844 yds. My computer predicts that Johnson will throw for 318 yds vs a Lobos defense which returns just 3 starters and loses guru Rocky Long and A&M QB Johnson’s former combatant should be his primary target.

Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss - McCluster takes over as the SEC’s top all-purpose back after Percy Harvin left early for the NFL. McCluster had 655 rush (6.0) and 635 rec yds (14.2) LY and rival Memphis’ DL has only 1 returning starter (7 back overall on defense). This is a nationally televised game on Sunday.


MY PICK: UTEP - As mentioned I like to go out on a limb. Let’s take a team that allowed 470 ypg on defense last year which ranked #115th in the NCAA! Their opponent is the defending MAC champ which averaged 30.3 ppg and 370 ypg offense. Last year Buffalo roasted the UTEP defense for 484 yards and 42 points! Based on the above numbers you would think the Miners would allow about 450+ yards this week. While they may not have had the best defensive numbers last year, they will have the most unexpected performance here. UTEP was extremely banged up on defense last year and this season they have 7 starters back plus get back Braxton Amy who was their best defensive player heading into ‘08 but missed the year with injury. They will be well motivated after last year’s embarrassing effort. Buffalo lost QB Willy to graduation and RB Starks to injury and has just two starters back on the offensive line.

Alabama - The Tide have my #2 rated defense and it is not often that you hold the #7 team in the country to under 300 total yards but that is what I expect here. My computer projected 257 yards for Virginia Tech and that was before RB Evans was lost to injury. This should be a tight low scoring game and the team that makes fewer mistakes will win.

Auburn - Auburn has 8 starters back on defense including 3 of 4 defensive linemen. New HC Gene Chizik was the former DC at Auburn and produced some hard-hitting, stingy defenses in his time and then moved on to Texas and did the same there. Chizik hired Ted Roof as his DC and Roof helped Minnesota’s defense improve from allowing 36.7 ppg in ‘07 to 24.8 ppg last year. Louisiana Tech’s offense has been pretty one-dimensional the last few years with a strong running game, but will be no match for a fired up Tiger team in their home opener under the new coaching staff.

Ole Miss - The Rebels have received a lot of attention in the offseason and open the year in a nationally televised Sunday game vs one of their rivals Memphis (schools are only about 85 miles apart). Though the defense loses 4 of the top 5 tacklers including AA DT Peria Jerry, they have 8 defensive starters back including top tackler FS Kendrick Lewis. Ole Miss returns 3 DL starters and also get a healthy DE Greg Hardy who had 8.5 sks in limited duty last year. Memphis is fielding a young OL replacing 4 starters from last year. Ole Miss overpowered Miss St’s OL in the regular season finale last year allowing just 24 total yds with 11 sacks and could be just as stout on D this year.


OHIO over Connecticut - Ohio was just 4-8 last year and takes on a Connecticut team that won their bowl game 38-20 last year over the MAC champs. I think the Bobcats pull the upset at home. UC lost the focal point of their offense in RB Donald Brown and will be moving to an offense that relies on the pass but has only average receivers. They also lost 3 additional 2nd round draft picks at LT, DE and CB. Ohio is my #2 Most Improved Team in the country and is at home for this and should be sky high. Ohio also rates the edge on special teams.


Here is the complete list from CFFinsider.com of their top fantasy starters at each position for week 1.


Top 20 QBs:
Top 20 RBs:
Top 20 WRs:
1) Joe Webb, UAB vs RICE
2) Jimmy Clausen, ND vs NEV
3) Case Keenum, HOU vs NWST
4) Taylor Potts, TXTC vs NDAK
5) Austin Davis, SMISS vs ALCR
6) Terrelle Pryor, OSU vs NAVY
7) Colin Kaepernick, NEV @ ND
8) Todd Reesing, KAN vs NCOL
9) Jarrett Brown, WVU vs LIB
10) Tim Tebow, FLA vs CHASO
11) Colt McCoy, TEX vs LAMO
12) Greg Alexander, HAW vs CARK
13) Matt Grothe, SOFL vs WOFF
14) Kellen Moore, BOST vs ORE
15) Zac Lee, NEB vs FAU
16) Dan LeFevour, CMCH @ ARZ
17) Daryll Clark, PSU vs AKRN
18) Sam Bradford, OKLA @ BYU
19) Ryan Mallett, ARK vs MOST
20) Bo Levi Mitchell, SMU vs SFA
1) Toby Gerhart, STAN @ WAST
2) MiQuale Lewis, BLST vs NOTX
3) DuJuan Harris, TROY @ BGSU
4) Evan Royster, PSU vs AKRN
5) LeGarrette Blount, ORE @ BOST
6) Eugene Jarvis, KENT vs COCAR
7) Charles Scott, LSU @ WASH
8) Roy Helu Jr., NEB vs FAU
9) Jahvid Best, CAL vs MYLD
10) Andre Anderson, TUL vs TULSA
11) Noel Devine, WVU vs LIB
12) Michael Smith, ARK vs MOST
13) Victor Anderson, LOU vs INST
14) Moise Plancher, SOFL vs WOFF
15) Brandon Thermilus, BUFF @ UTEP
16) Jonathan Dwyer, GTCH vs JAXST
17) C.J. Spiller, CLEM vs MDTN
18) Deonte Jackson, IDAH @ NMSU
19) Duane Bennett, MINN @ SYR
20) Jake Sharp, KAN vs NCOL
1) Dezmon Briscoe, KAN vs NCOL
2) Dexter McCluster, MISS @ MEM
3) Arrelious Benn, ILL @ MO
4) Michael Floyd, ND vs NEV
5) Golden Tate, ND vs NEV
6) Dez Bryant, OKST vs GA
7) Randall Cobb, KTKY @ MIOH
8) Naaman Roosevelt, BUFF @ UTEP
9) James Rodgers, ORST vs PRTST
10) Jeremy Williams, TUL vs TULSA
11) Jamar Bryant, ECU vs APST
12) Jock Sanders, WVU vs LIB
13) Damaris Johnson, TULSA @ TUL
14) Mardy Gilyard, CIN @ RUT
15) Emmanuel Sanders, SMU vs SFA
16) Jerrel Jernigan, TROY @ BGSU
17) Ryan Wolfe, UNLV vs SACST
18) A.J. Green, GA @ OKST
19) Aldrick Robinson, SMU vs SFA
20) Brandon Banks, KNST vs MASS
Top 10 TEs:
Top 10 Ks:
Top 10 Defenses:
1) Cody Slate, MRSH vs SOILL
2) Jermaine Gresham, OKLA @ BYU
3) Garrett Graham, WIS vs NIU
4) Collin Franklin, IWST vs NDKST
5) Josh LeDuc, EMCH vs ARMY
6) D.J. Williams, ARK vs MOST
7) Jamie McCoy, TXAM vs NMEX
8) Kyle Nelson, NMSU vs IDAH
9) Andrew Jones, MO @ ILL
10) Mike McNeill, NEB vs FAU

1) Kyle Brotzman, BOST vs ORE
2) Sam Glusman, TROY @ BGSU
3) Brett Swenson, MIST vs MONST
4) Jonathan Phillips, FLA vs CHASO
5) Daniel Murray, IOWA vs NIOWA
6) Blair Walsh, GA @ OKST
7) Josh Arauco, AKST vs MVSU
8) Matt Williams, TXTC vs NDAK
9) Trey Ragland, UAB vs RICE
10) Tyler Bitancurt, WVU vs LIB

1) Florida Gators, FLA vs CHASO
2) South Fla Bulls, SOFL vs WOFF
3) Iowa Hawkeyes, IOWA sv NIOWA
4) Pittsburgh Panthers, PITT vs YNGST
5) Air Force Falcons, AF vs NICST
6) SMiss Golden Eagles, SMISS vs ALCR
7) Vanderbilt Commodores, VNDY vs WCAR
8) UNC Tar Heels, UNC vs CIT
9) Ga Tech Yellowjackets, GTCH vs JAXST
10) Boston Coll Eagles, BC vs NEAST