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Pigs get Fed, Hogs get Slaughtered - Week Zero DFS
VP takes a look at the week zero slate of match ups
A pig's belly knows no bounds
- Medieval Proverb
What?! VP does DFS content too?!
That’s right, a pig’s belly knows no bounds, as they say. If DFS isn’t your jam, no worries, I’ll only occasionally be doing DFS content throughout the season. But I would like to expand my audience, and what better way to do so then to kick things off with a week zero DFS slate?
Week zero is unique in that there are not very many games played, so the options at our disposal are limited. Upon writing this article, I found that I had a lot of exposure to the Ohio Bobcats in their matchup vs. SDSU—specifically, the big three (QB, RB1, WR1).
I didn’t really plan for that going in, but given that QB Kurtis Rourke’s price tag is one of the cheapest of the starting QBs, it just sort of worked out that way. And if we’re going to bet on the QB popping off, might as well throw in his WR1 too. I also like RB Sieh Bangura in this slate, despite SDSU’s reputation as an elite defence at the G5 level. The Bang-man is the only alpha RB on the slate that we can feel semi-confident in getting the touch volume this weekend. He’s also a dangerous player in the air as well as the ground, so if the run-game is bottled up, he’s still live for a couple of scores.
Kurtis Rourke (Ohio) vs. San Diego State — $5,500 (DK)
Normally, when MWC teams play against MAC teams, I roll with the MWC side as the team that will be in the driver’s seat. However, Ohio could very well be the best team in the MAC this year, and there are a lot of question marks regarding SDSU (on and off the field).
Rourke, of course, is generously priced at 5500 for a reason. He tore his ACL late last year in MACtion, and no-one knows how he’ll be on his return. But if he does return to form, he offers an extremely high upside. Out of the 11 games he played last season, Rourke eclipsed 30 points in a game five times. He eclipsed 40 points twice, nearly reaching 50 in one of those (49.98 vs. Fordham). He finished 2022 with a total of 29 TDs to only 8 turnovers (includes INTs and FLs). His season high in rushing was 64 yards on seven carries vs. NIU—I include that just to note that he is a good runner, though not as good as his older brother was.
The O/U on this game is set at 49, which is not an exceptionally high scoring affair, and the line is at SDSU -2 (according to Sports Interaction). It’s hard to imagine a competitive game between these two teams where Kurtis Rourke is not scoring multiple TDs. I think the bigger question mark for me is regarding SDSU’s offence. While the long journey from Athens, Ohio to San Diego does worry me a bit, I actually think the Bobcats are the better team.
Diego Pavia (New Mexico) vs. UMASS — $7,400
Upon reflection, I really didn't expect New Mexico’s Diego Pavia to be the most expensive player that I’d highlight, but alas, he we are. Pavia raised eye brows late last season with back-to-back performances of 53.2 and 41.05 points. A dual threat weapon, Pavia finished 2022 with 508 yards and 6 TDs on 98 carries. All told, he finished the season averaging 16.2 FPG. His passing completion was shocking at times, often finishing in the 30s and 40s.
New Mexico actually played UMass last year too. In that game, Pavia finished with a decent 23.3 points scored. That’s OK, but not to the level we’re hoping for. With this play, we’re banking on Pavia carrying the momentum from late last season into week zero. We’re also banking on Pavia being able to move the ball against a porous UMass team. The Lobos are likely to be a bottom-dweller once again in 2023, but UMass might be one of the few FBS programs that could actually be worse.
The current line is set at New Mexico -6.5 with an O/U of 45. Again, the odds makers don’t expect it to be a very high scoring affair, but then—hardly any of the games on the week zero slate are.
Sieh Bangura (Ohio) vs. SDSU — $7,200
The reasoning for highlighting Bangura is straightforward—the Bang man is the only alpha RB on the slate. While the matchup isn’t ideal, it’s not terrible either. It’s not like SDSU is some overpowering P5 team, they’re still a G5 program and Ohio should be able to move the ball against them. I expect this game to be competitive, and I expect Ohio to lean on Bangura, in addition to Rourke’s arm to carry them. In the 12 games he played in last season, Bangura only failed to score in three of them. I don’t know if he’ll cross 100 yards, but I feel pretty good about his chances of scoring at least one TD, and there aren’t many (actually any) other RBs on the slate that I can say that about.
As a refresher, in 2022 Bangura accounted for 1304 yards from scrimmage and 15 total TDs on 249 total touches. As with all MAC players, however, the true story of their CFF value lies within their MAC play, and this is where Bangura’s numbers pop off the page. In eight games of MAC play (seven regular season and the MAC championship) Bangura averaged just over 22 touches a game and scored a total of 13 TDs. Simply put, he was a monster in MAC play. Notably, he did also manage to score once vs. Penn State early in the year.
The concern with Bangura is returning RB O’Shawn Allison, who missed all of 2022 (the Bang man’s breakout campaign), should be back for this matchup. It remains to be seen how involved Allison will be, and he could potentially eat into Bang’s carry volume.
Tylan Hines (Hawaii) vs. Vanderbilt — $4,700
A rising sophomore out of Mount Pleasant, TX, Hines showed he could be a dangerous weapon in this offence last season as he ran for 634 yards and 2 TDs on 83 attempts (7.6 ypc!) and was targeted 18 times, of which he caught 9 passes for 82 yards.
Those are good numbers considering he was RB2 behind Dedrick Parson, who rushed for 830 yards himself, while tallying 11 scores on 183 attempts and catching 30 passes (36 targets) for an additional 171 yards and a score. Parson departs the roster and with that leaves a production vacancy for Hines to slide into.
Not only does the team’s leading runner depart, so does WR1 Zion Bowens. That leaves a significant gap for the younger pups to fill, and Hines seems best positioned to fill in as the next leader. Hines’ leading competitor is RB Nasjzae Bryant, who was supposed to be the RB2 last season behind Parson but ultimately lost that spot to Hines. Bryant still finished with 245 yards rushing and 3 scores on 45 carries. Despite that, the pathway to volume pig status appears open both as a runner and as a receiver for Hines. The early signs from spring suggest he’ll be utilized heavily in each capacity, too.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the latest reports on Hawaii’s spring camp:
Sophomore Tylan Hines, the Rainbow Warriors’ most established back, who rushed 83 times for 634 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman, is splitting his practice reps evenly between running back and slotback. He caught nine passes for 82 yards in UH’s hybrid RPO system in 2022.
When asked about the plan for him in 2023, Hines had this to say:
The plan is to maximize my potential . . . however far they want me to go with it, I’m going to go with it.
Apparently, HC Chang plans to bring back the old shovel pass to the RB too. It would appear that that is good news for Hines:
I hope everybody gets tickled by it. It’s nostalgic . . . It’s a good feeling when you see those guys catch it. I think Nate (Ilaoa, former Hawaii back) averaged about 30 yards per carry on that thing. So it’ll be in the playbook.
Nate Ilaoa, who Chang is referencing in that quote, had an absurd senior season for the Rainbows back in 2006 when he accounted for over 1800 total yards and 18 TDs as a rusher and receiver.
While the matchup vs. Vanderbilt isn’t ideal, it’s not horrible either. Vandy is an SEC school, but they’re a textbook bottom feeder in their conference, and while they will likely still push lowly Hawaii around, the Rainbows should be able to operate their offence to some effect also. Hines offers flexibility in that he will likely be used as both a runner and a receiver, so even if Hawaii finds themselves in a hole early on, Hines can do damage. When these two teams played last year, Hawaii managed just 10 points. That’s not great, but if they do score, Hines feels like the most likely candidate (whether it be a rushing or passing TD).
There just aren’t a lot of great options at RB this week.
Will Sheppard (Vanderbilt) vs. Hawaii — $5,000
Sheppard being priced at $5000 while his teammate—Jayden McGowan sits at $6,400 can only be explained as early season hijinks. Shepp was the WR1 of this program last year, doing considerable damage in the early OOC slate in particular. Last year, Sheppard scored seven TDs in his first four games, including a two-TD performance vs. Hawaii in Week Zero netting 18.9 points. The QB play should be improved this year with incumbent starter AJ Swann entering into his second season.
I like Sheppard here, he feels likely to see several targets this game and score at least one TD against an inferior opponent, and at a cheaper price than his teammate, he feels like a solid play. While Vanderbilt is an SEC program, they’re not a dominant program, and this game feels like it should be competitive enough to keep Sheppard in for the full 60.
Smoke Harris (Lousiana Tech) vs. FIU — $6,600
The price is a bit exorbitant here, but there are few options available on the week zero slate that have been as consistent volume pigs in their program than LTech’s Smoke Harris. In the last two seasons, Harris has seen over 100 targets each. With LTech’s WR1 Tre Harris leaving for Ole Miss in the offseason, Smoke feels likely to take on an even larger role.
FIU is another G5 program in C-USA, and finished with a poor 4-8 record in 2022. A lot changes during the offseason in CFB, so I won’t put much emphasis on the teams’ performances last season, but LTech was one of the few programs to finish with a worse record than FIU.
This game should be competitive, and with LTech’s RB1—Marquis Crosby being inactive for this game, the passing game will have to pick up the slack. Fellow WR Cyrus Allen also figures to be involved and offload some of the vacated targets left behind by Tre, but I like Harris’ floor better. The QB play is a bit of a question mark with new starter Hank Bachmeier (formerly of Boise State—he wasn’t that good…).
Sam Wiglusz (Ohio) vs. SDSU — $7,100
Choosing Wiglusz felt appropriate given that I had already highlighted Rourke. After all, if Rourke is going to throw some TD passes someone is going to have to catch them, and who better than his favourite target from a year ago?
The Wig-man scored 20 or more FPs in a game six times out of 14 games last season, garnering a total of 99 targets in the season (just over seven a game). He finished the year with 73 catches for 877 yards and 11 TDs. He also attempted two rushes, of which he ran for 23 yards.
As I’ve mentioned with the above two players, the matchup is not a complete cupcake. That could be a good and bad thing, though. On the good side, this should be a competitive game that forces Ohio to keep their foot on the accelerator all game. On the other hand, SDSU’s defence could stymy this attack more than we’re hoping for.
Brenden Rice (USC) vs. SJSU — $6,200
Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat—Rice is listed as a co-starter on USC’s latest depth chart with redshirt sophomore Kyron Hudson. USC’s WR room is crowded AF, and it’s anybody’s guess at this point who the alpha will be (or even that there will be an alpha, it’s not as likely as you think…). The other elephant in the room is that USC vs. SJSU is threatening to be an absolute blood bath. If I were the USC coaches, I’d be looking to shut this game down ASAP and get the golden goose QB outta there on a one way express to hit the showers. Furthermore, I’d probably use this game to demonstrate the defensive improvement that’s been talked about all offseason.
Then there’s our man Brenden Rice (yes, he’s the son of that legendary WR). Last season, Rice had his best games vs. USC’s cupcake opponents. In his final game of the season vs. Tulane, he caught 6 passes (on 9 targets) for 174 yards and 2 scores (35 FPs). In the rest of the season, Rice only went over 10 FPs three times (vs. Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State). At 6’3 and 210 pounds, he’s potentially a match-up nightmare for any of SJSU’s DBs, and he might not be perceived as important enough to be taken out of the game early on. This feels like a game where Rice could nab himself a score, or two, late.
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