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College Fantasy Football: Running backs to watch for Week 1

Justice Hill
Justice Hill

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Week 1 of college football is finally here. Let’s get to some recommendations for who could have a huge opening week at running back to help your college fantasy football team.

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Hill rushed for 1,467 yards with 15 touchdowns on 268 carries last season and that was in an Oklahoma State offense with quarterback Mason Rudolph and receivers James Washington, Marcell Ateman and others. With a new quarterback in place and not as many high-end receivers, Hill could be an even bigger target in the Cowboys’ offense. And this is against a Missouri State team that gave up 73 points to Missouri in last year’s season opener. Hill must be a top priority in Week 1.

A lot of factors are lining up for Taylor to have a huge opener against Western Kentucky - even bigger than normal. Two of the Badgers’ top receivers in Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis are out because of legal issues and suspension, respectively, so the passing attack won’t be as stellar. Plus, if Western Kentucky’s defense has a strength, it’s in the secondary so Wisconsin could focus on running the ball even more. Taylor had 299 carries for 1,977 yards and 13 scores a year ago. He should have plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers in Game 1.

Dillon carried the ball 300 times for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and he’s going to be once again the focal point of the Eagles’ offense. Quarterback Anthony Brown is coming back from a knee injury, so he probably won’t be running much and a strong receiving corps should keep defenses at least a little bit honest. UMass’ defensive front is questionable, so don’t be tricked by the Minutemen giving up only 130 rushing yards to Duquesne in the season opener. Duquesne is not even close to what UMass will see from Dillon.

After playing second fiddle to Ronald Jones last season, Carr should take over the lead running back duties for the Trojans with Jones now in the NFL. This is also a very good setup for Carr and the Trojans’ rushing attack since USC will be breaking in a new quarterback - probably freshman JT Daniels - and UNLV’s defense was horrendous against the run last season allowing 239 yards per game and 32 rushing touchdowns. Carr is going to pick up Jones’ slack in a big way and should put up impressive numbers each week.

On Monday, Oregon’s Justin Herbert was on the quarterbacks-to-play list for Week 1 and now Brooks-James makes the cut at running back. A theme is emerging here: The Ducks should blow out Bowling Green by a wide margin and the skill players should have a huge day. Bowling Green allowed 3,039 rushing yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 35 rushing scores last season. The group will be overhauled with a bunch of new coaches but this task is far too much for Bowling Green to slow down.

Also consider ...

J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

Coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games, but that should not stop Ohio State’s offense against a below-average Oregon State defense that allowed 5.5 yards per carry last season and 35 rushing touchdowns. If anything, my prediction is the Buckeyes pour it on even more to feel better about themselves. If there’s a concern, Dobbins will be presumably splitting time with Mike Weber in the backfield but Dobbins should still have many chances to put fantasy points on the board.

Devwah Whaley, Arkansas

As Arkansas transitions to a completely new offensive, look things could be clunky for a while but Whaley seems like a sure thing - the Razorbacks are going to want to establish the run and he put up impressive numbers last season with 559 yards and seven touchdowns. At least in Week 1 against Eastern Illinois, which allowed 3.8 yards per carry and 20 rushing touchdowns last season against average competition, Whaley could post big numbers. If not, then it could be time to worry about Arkansas’ offense for the SEC schedule.

John Lovett, Baylor

Lovett led the Bears last season in rushing with 445 yards and five touchdowns on only 98 carries. Against an outmatched Abilene Christian squad, he could be ready for a big performance as Baylor tries to bounce back after a miserable 1-11 season. There will be a running-back-by-committee approach which could draw down Lovett’s numbers but Abilene Christian allowed 4.8 yards per rush and 18 rushing TDs last season, so Baylor’s ground attack should be way, way too much. Lovett should have plenty of opportunities.