Welcome to Week 12 of the 2021 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discusses the slate of Thanksgiving Day games and college football rivalry weekend.
Bears at Lions
Matt Waldman: Answer one of the questions below.
- Which will be greater? Roquan Smith tackles or D'Andre Swift receptions?
- Who will be the most surprisingly productive Bear and Lion for fantasy this week, IDP included?
- What will you be cooking and/or eating when this game is on?
Give us the low-down.
Dave Kluge: No disrespect or ill will is implied here, but Smith will almost assuredly have more tackles than Swift has receptions on Thursday. On the year, Smith’s totaled an obscene 110 tackles through 10 games, tied for third-most in the league. Although Swift’s pass-catching abilities are objectively very good, he’s had 53 receptions in 10 games. Impressive, yes. But he’s averaging less than half as many receptions as Smith averages in tackles.
Jordan McNamara: I'm with Dave on this and think Roquan Smith will record more tackles than Swift's receptions. Over the past two weeks, Swift has the second most carries in the league (47) and only 6 receptions, in what appears to be a concerted effort to change to a more run-centric offensive approach with input from Head Coach Dan Campbell. With a lot of rushing attempts from Swift, there will be a high supply of Roquan Smith tackles.
Also, Los Angeles’ pass rate over expectation was higher than their previous four-game sample (9.0% vs. 5.0%). Beckham just needs time to get integrated into the offense. His early involvement was a positive sign, but he needs to get in rhythm with Matthew Stafford. Timing and synchronicity defined his early-season success with Cooper Kupp. They’ll need to use the bye week for Beckham to start producing and get the Rams’ offense back on track.
Dan Hindery: I am going to follow Dave here, which is not surprising since he is our resident Bears expert. First, he is correct in noting that the weekly average for Smith’s tackles per game (10.5) is twice Swift’s number of receptions per game (5.3). It does not help Swift that he will be matched up against Smith in coverage because Smith is a top coverage linebacker.
Scott Bischoff: As others have said, the answer is Smith. Swift is a very talented pass-catching back, and he is currently the Lions' offense from a practical standpoint. Tight end T.J. Hockenson is talented, but the Lions are having a hard time consistently getting him the ball. Smith is tasked to stop the run, and he will be dropping into coverage to make plays near the line of scrimmage. The Lions' passing attack is not challenging defenses down the field. Instead, they are settling on short throws to minimize risk and move the chains. Smith may have a monster game from a tackle outlook. Also, the game script here looks favorable for a slow, grind-it-out affair which helps Smith and could reduce the need for the Lions to play catch up, throwing screen passes to Swift to mitigate pressure.
Drew Davenport: I can't disagree with anything my colleagues have said about Smith and Swift. I would split hairs with Dave and say that he's had 67 tackles and 42 assists, so Matt if you are talking solo tackles it is a much closer call. However, even at 6.7 solo tackles a game it would be a tough task for Swift to hit 7 receptions, a total he's only hit 3 times this year. I'm with everyone else that the bet should be on Smith for this one.
Waldman: And yes, Drew, that is something I should have clarified — solo tackles was the data point. I'll also note that what led me to ask this question is that Swift's three games with at least 7 tackles were close affairs against San Francisco, Baltimore, and the Rams. I'm anticipating that Andy Dalton starting and the recent operational mess with the rumors over Matt Nagy's firing could create some real issues for this Bears' offense.
In the last game against Detroit, Smith had 8 solo tackles — one of them on a Swift reception and only three tackles on pass receptions overall. In fact, Smith was used to rush the passer and cover T.J. Hockenson. If this game follows suit, I could see Swift targeted away on the opposite side of the field and often enough that he has a shot. Swift had four receptions in the last game. We'll see if he earns more in this contest.
While I agree that Smith is the easy favorite for this question, if Swift has a high-reception game I think he'll outpace Smith, who only had three tackles in the last game
Mark Schofield: I will wholeheartedly endorse the Smith recommendations regardless of solo or solo and assisted tackles as the data point. Smith is finally growing into the kind of player the Chicago Bears envisioned when drafting him a few years ago, and he is coming off his best game of the season, where he notched 13 solo tackles and 17 combined tackles, both of which stand as season-high marks. Swift might see a lot of targets, but he is not going to see those kinds of numbers.
Waldman: What are your thoughts on the rest of the game-related questions?
Davenport: As a surprise on the Chicago side of the ball I'm looking at Cole Kmet. He had a poor performance (just 1 catch for 12 yards) in Week 11, but in the month prior to that he averaged 6.3 targets per game and was a Top 10 fantasy TE in PPR leagues. At this point Robinson's availability for the game is in serious doubt again, so Kmet could once again see 5-8 targets all against a poor Lions defense.
For the Lions, Kalif Raymond is a name to remember. He's been an inconsistent option this year, having four games of two or fewer targets. But this week he gets a Bears pass rush minus Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, and a secondary that has allowed the 6th most points to wide receivers in PPR leagues. If he gets 6-8 targets then putting together 10+ fantasy points is in his range.
Schofield: A player that might put up big numbers in this game is Darnell Mooney. He shattered his previous season-high mark of targets last week in Chicago's loss to the Baltimore Ravens when he was targeted 16 times. While he caught five passes, he turned those into 121 yards and a touchdown. Of those 16 targets, 12 came with Andy Dalton in the game.
Kluge: I’m expecting Allen Robinson (hamstring) to surprise people if he’s active in this game. He has been a fantasy football bust just about any way that you look at it. Since Justin Fields took over as quarterback, the Bears have leaned heavily on the run, and Fields has spread the ball out. In Week 1, the only full game we saw Robinson and Andy Dalton play together, Robinson saw a season-high 11 targets. Robinson and Dalton got a lot of reps together in the offseason, and the veteran quarterback made a career of peppering AJ Green with a mammoth target share. I expect to see him treat Robinson in a similar fashion, and 10-plus targets shouldn’t be out of the question.
McNamara: I'll take Marquise Goodwin as a surprise player this week. In using the League Dominator last week, I found Goodwin on a few waiver wires and was able to plug him into some lineups and reap the rewards of his 4-reception, 104-yard, 1-touchdown performance against the Ravens in Allen Robinson's absence. If Robinson misses this week, I like Goodwin to provide some fantasy value.
Hindery: I like the Allen Robinson call quite a bit if he's ready to go. Dalton does tend to hone in on his top target more than the average quarterback and Robinson can make good on heavy volume.
Bischoff: Kmet could have a nice day tomorrow. I agree with the others that wide receiver Allen Robinson could have a nice day if he plays, but I think the tight ends emerge as significant factors in the plan tomorrow. Hockenson should be productive in this contest as well.
Waldman: Nice. I'm expecting Josh Reynolds to surprise as Jared Goff's top option. They had a rapport in L.A. and I think Reynolds is healthy enough to roll. Whether it's garbage-time points or aggressively targeting Reynolds early, I think we'll see 100 yards and a score.
As for what's happening at the Waldman household, I've been cooking turkeys almost annually since I was 24 — fried, confit, baked, spatchcocked, you name it. With our daughter stationed in Hawaii and a friend of ours opting to stay in town, we're having him over and I ordered the works from Katz's Delicatessen — Pastrami, Corned Beef, Babka, Knishes, Matzoh Ball Soup, Pickles, Sourkraut, and Russian dressing.
We told him to arrive at 1 pm because, during the season, I work a late shift. I'll be recording all three games but we won't be watching any of them. Neither Alicia nor our friend is a football fan. The closest thing to the Lions we'll see is perhaps Alicia laughing about her first exposure to the Tiger King last weekend, a show that has Will Ferrell dumbstruck at the thought of reality mimicking fiction.
What's happening in your households during this early Thanksgiving game?
Kluge: Considering this is the early game, I’ll probably be scarfing down dips and snacks at this point, filling my stomach before the big feast. It’s a mistake I make almost every year but have yet to learn my lesson.
Waldman: Save room for that pie Emily is making. That crust she shared on Twitter was a work of art. Shoutout to her biz, the Hills Have Pies.
Cinnamon swirl pie crust, anyone?ðŸ˜Ž pic.twitter.com/VlmxDhNYPV— Emily Kluge (@hills_have_pies) November 24, 2021
Kluge: No doubt!
McNamara: My Thanksgiving is a multiple stop endeavor with my wife and two kids (4 and 1 years old). The early stop is with my family before a late afternoon stop at my wife's mom's side of the family. I gave up meat and dairy two years ago, so it can make Thanksgiving a bit difficult. My dad and my side of the family are not entirely sure what to do with me. That said, at this early stop, I'll fend for myself around some shrimp cocktails (still eat seafood), mashed potatoes, and dressing. I'm still scouting out a possible seafood-centric meal to cook that I may add to the table.
Waldman: Understood. It can be weird for family occasions if you're strict but you do you.
Hindery: We are trying to get together with two different groups for Thanksgiving this year, so we are doing an early brunch with one group of extended family. I will just be finishing up a breakfast casserole around kickoff.
Davenport: I'm definitely not one of the cooks in the Davenport house. Unless you want a mean grilled cheese. My lovely mother will be cooking, but when the Lions and Bears are on we usually miss most of the game. Our big meal is about 1 or 1:30 p.m. ET so I'll have to miss the glitz and glam of the Andy Dalton versus Jared Goff second-half showdown for turkey, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, and stuffing. As you can see, we go right up the middle with our thanksgiving foods in the Davenport house. I'll be tuned back in for the 4 p.m. kickoff.
Waldman: Mark, I know you burn in the kitchen, what's on tap, brother?
Schofield: Our family typically sits down for our Thanksgiving meal around 1:00 on the east coast, so we'll largely be at the dining room table during this...contest of professional football. The menu? Turkey (the Martha Stewart way with lots of butter and white wine), two different kinds of stuffing, sweet potatoes, Alton Brown's green bean casserole, sour cream, and chive mashed potatoes, and all the rest. Plus, cranberry "sauce" from the can, as intended.
Waldman: I made cranberry sauce without the can for the first time last year but that's just a product of me getting bored with the usual routine — something I thought I'd never get bored with but here I am eating with deli food in my fridge.
Schofield: Not a bad alternative.
Bischoff: I am attending the game with the family, and I am in the middle of a diet, so I will not be eating much tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a difficult day to try to stay on this diet after hearing about these spreads. Wish me luck!
Raiders at Cowboys
Waldman: Answer the following...
- Who will have more tackles, Jonathan Abram or Denzel Perryman?
- With Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb likely out, who are the non-QB fantasy options to use as a desperation start this week for Dallas' offense? You may pick one among Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, Ezekiel Elliott, and Tony Pollard and you must pick one who isn't a part of this list.
- Will you be missing this game due to your meal or is the meal not yet ready?
Where do you stand?
Davenport: Matt, our readers need an IDP lesson from me like they need a fourth piece of pie — unless it's from Emily Kluge — I'll give it to you but you might regret it. In all seriousness, I don't think Abram will be able to beat out Perryman. While Abram is having a nice year, Perryman is a machine, churning out some strong tackle totals. The way to attack the Raiders defense to this point in the year has been on the ground, so I don't see the Cowboys deviating from that pattern enough for Abram to get the edge. Give me Perryman here.
It's hard to argue against taking Gallup as a start this week without the top two options. However, I want to throw my weight behind Schultz. He's only had two games below five targets all year long and the Cowboys will need to use him even more with their personnel deficit at receiver. The Raiders, to boot, are one of the worst in the league at defending the tight end position, so Schultz is in a position to have a big day.
Outside of the obvious choices, Cedrick Wilson stands out to me. He struggled a bit with drops last week, but saw the second-most snaps on the team with Amari Cooper out and garnered 7 targets. Wilson makes a nice deep league play this week.
The 4 p.m. time slot is my favorite one of the day. Our big meal is done, and we have already been outside to throw the football around before the Cowboys kickoff. So I'll be settling in with pie already when this game is getting underway.
Bischoff: A tricky question here as I could see Abram having to be more involved with the Cowboys up and running in this game. Abram is better deployed near the line of scrimmage as a box safety, and I think the Raiders will need to stack the box to deal with the Cowboys' ground game. As much as the numbers seem to say, Perryman, I am leaning Abram as long as he can stay in this game. He tends to make dirty hits utilizing his head, and I could see him looking to make a big hit with this game alone on national television. I do think it will be close, though.
Down the roster, it looks like wide receivers Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson are next in line with Lamb potentially out and Cooper out. Wilson has earned more looks this season, and he should run a healthy number of routes in this game. Wilson is a bigger receiver playing more of a possession game, and he will have the opportunity to help the Cowboys move the chains in this game.
Tomorrow I will be eating 3.5 ounces of protein and an apple. That is it, so it is not getting in the way of anything.
Schofield: Perryman is going to get more tackles here, as this might be a heavy Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard game with Cooper out and Lamb potentially out as well. As far as the rest of the Dallas offense, Schultz has quietly been a big part of their passing game this season. While he has not scored since back in Week 4, he saw eight targets a week ago, and with those two receivers likely out, he might see a similar number.
Of the options not listed here, I'd recommend Cedrick Wilson. Wilson has consistently been the fourth option for Dallas behind their talented trio of receivers, and the seven targets he saw in Week 11 matched his season-high. Dak Prescott has been willing to look his way in the past, even in scramble-drill moments, and that should continue Thursday.
During this game, our family will likely be tackling dessert. I'm trying to recreate the Reese's Thanksgiving Day "Pie," and I'll let everyone know how that goes.
Hindery: Give me Perryman here. He has been more productive on the season and I expect we see a heavy dose of Elliott and Pollard in this game, which should lead to a busy day for the linebackers.
As just mentioned, this feels like a spot where Elliott should have a huge game. Las Vegas gave up 123 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns to Joe Mixon last week. The week before that, they allowed 144 total yards and a touchdown to Darrel Williams. In Week 9, Devontae Booker put up 122 total yards. This is a defense that can be exploited in the run game. I like Noah Brown as a sleeper this week. He played 85% of his snaps on the outside last week against the Chiefs last week while Wilson was primarily used in the slot. Brown was a clutch performer at Ohio State and a go-to target in the red zone. Given all the other injuries, I like Brown’s chances of cashing in on a touchdown on Thursday.
I will be finishing up the two side dishes that I make every year for Thanksgiving around the time this one kicks off. Both are easy to make. I use a recipe similar to this one for a corn casserole (though I prefer frozen corn to canned). I also make stuffing with a recipe similar to this one. I like to add a little bit of cream of chicken soup to the mix to help keep the stuffing moist while cooking and to help things stick together.
McNamara: I think the Dallas offense could exert their will on the Raiders, and with some recent struggles from the Vegas offense, I think Dallas has a good shot at controlling the game offensively. Perryman has helped the Raiders defense take a step forward this season and is averaging 11.4 tackles per game to only 8.4 for Abram. Given a solid edge, I'll go base rates and take Perryman.
I will take old reliable with Elliott. Las Vegas has given up the ninth-most points per game to opposing running backs through 11 weeks, and Elliott has a reliable source of volume this season. Elliott was limited on the early week practice reports and his status should be monitored, but I expect he will play and produce well. As an alternative option, I like Cedrick Wilson. Both Wilson and Noah Brown played 63% of Dallas's offensive snaps in Week 11, but it has been Wilson who leads the two in snaps and targets on the season.
Here is the tricky part of the Thanksgiving road trip, as I have to make the move between stops at this time of the afternoon. The travel time is not that long, so I hope to make it at the end of the Detroit game and make it in time for the Dallas kickoff. At the second stop, there will be some really good Oyster Stuffing and a dessert contest, that I plan on judging.
Waldman: Sounds like a tough endeavor with a lot of people who will want to assist.
McNamara: No happening. I got first dibs.
Kluge: TI highlighted Roquan Smith’s total tackles this year being third-most in the league earlier. The two guys that are ahead of him? Bobby Wagner and Perryman. Abram is putting together a strong campaign in Las Vegas this year, but Perryman has been one of the best in the league and locating the ball and ending plays. Perryman has had more tackles than Abram in every game they’ve played this year, and I don’t expect that trend to change.
As for the Cowboys’ banged-up pass-catchers, Gallup is the most likely to see an increased workload. He’s got the talent to be a premier wide receiver in this league and will finally get his chance to shine on a big stage this week. He hits free agency after this season and could step into a WR1 role on a handful of teams. He should be treating this game as an audition for a colossal payday in the offseason, and I expect him to take full advantage. Getting a bit deeper though, Cedrick Wilson Jr. is someone I’ll be keeping an eye on. Although not exceptionally fast, Wilson is a big-bodied possession receiver that can make plays after the catch. Despite being buried on Dallas’s depth chart for all 70 games of his career, he’s been able to step up when called upon. He could walk into the Cooper role and see some decent opportunity on Thursday.
Dinner will likely be served by this point, but the game will absolutely be on. Thanksgiving with my family revolves around football, and we’ll be eating in front of the television no matter how bad the game is.
Waldman: The odds are likely Alicia will be napping on the couch and I'll be joining our friend, who is bringing his dog with him, for a walk around the neighborhood.
Bills at Saints
Waldman: Share your thoughts on these topics:
- With Alvin Kamara likely out, is Matt Breida a surprising and legitimate threat to lead all running backs in yardage this week?
- Adam Trautman was arguably a player on the rise after a three-week stretch of 14 receptions, 137 yards, and a score. An MCL injury will sideline him for at least a month. Who picks up the slack in the Saints' offense this week against a Bills defense that allows the least fantasy points per game in the NFL to QBs and RBs; is among the stingiest against TEs; and, is, oddly enough, allowing the third-most per game to WRs?
- Will you be watching this game, eating at the family table, or will you be in a Turkey coma?
Bring it home, now.
Kluge: Breida has been surprising over the last few weeks, but he’s still in a frustrating timeshare. Last week Devin Singletary led the team with a 38-percent snap share. Breida was behind him with 32 percent. Zack Moss was close behind both with 29 percent. That is a fantasy football nightmare of a backfield. Conversely, Ingram saw 72-percent of the snaps last week. Not only did he see a big slice of opportunity, but he was pretty efficient with it, rushing for 5.5 yards per carry. It’s in Breida’s range of outcomes to lead the game in rushing, but I’m putting my chips on Ingram. The Saints seem more than comfortable giving him the workload in Kamara’s absence.
As for the pass-catchers in New Orleans, I wish I could quit Tre’Quan Smith, but he keeps pulling me back in! He’s led the Saints in targets in back-to-back weeks. Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris have shown some promise this year, but Smith is the receiver that is most suited to step into the Michael Thomas X-receiver role. After rejoining the team in Week 8, it took him a couple of weeks to get up to speed. But he’s cruising now and looking to be the favorite target of Trevor Siemian. After being a dynasty rookie darling in 2018, Smith has failed to live up to the hype. But with Trautman out and Siemian looking his way, we could finally see him produce this season. Despite playing in just five games and having a slow ramp-up, he’s already nearly halfway to his career-high for receiving yards in a season.
By this point in the day, I’ll likely be sprawled out on the couch, fighting to keep my eyes open until the game clock hits 0:00.
McNamara: I am a big Breida fan and his uptick in usage the past two weeks is encouraging but with only 8 carries and 79 yards, I need to wait and see it. The Buffalo backfield is a low upside logjam of a committee that I do not trust against the Saints' defense. I like Mark Ingram II to lead the game in non-QB rushing yards, particularly after he carried 80% of the running back carries last week.
The fact the Saints are 14th in points scored per game (25.1) with this set of offensive weapons should go high on Sean Payton's Hall of Fame resume. Without Trautman or Kamara, and on a backup quarterback, I do not trust anyone in the passing game. This is a Payton offense, so they will move the ball, but I cannot trust anyone specifically. If forced, I'll take Deonte Harris, as he has been efficient on his lower route volume this season.
I'll make sure I'm awake for this game to watch my Bills play. The key to this game will be to properly navigate the bedtimes of my kids on the transportation between my wife's family and my house. I will hopefully have them asleep in the car and down in bed before the game kicks off, but it will be tricky. I've learned the long way home is sometimes needed to execute this play. I then plan to have a cup of coffee, jump on my indoor bike trainer, and watch the Bills get back on track.
King: Moore’s slide will continue. Moore is only averaging 49% of snaps and 4 targets a game this season. Even with Hopkins being out of the lineup, Moore’s target share and usage haven’t changed. Unfortunately, the inconsistent usage is the reason the slide will continue.
Harris' rise will end. With the emergence of Rhamondre Stevenson, Harris may lose touches and goal-line work. Also, the Patriots may continue to utilize their RBBC in order to keep their backs as healthy as possible. Harris also scored a touchdown in each game from Weeks 5-9, which will be difficult to sustain going forward.
Hindery: I am not buying into Breida’s chances to have a big game on Thursday. His season-high in snaps is 18 and that came in a game where the Bills fell behind early. This matchup should play out differently against an undermanned Saints team. This is a backfield that is better to avoid since they are rotating so heavily and the offense skews so pass-heavy.
Perhaps the answer to who picks up the slack is, nobody. While Sean Payton is a wizard, this offense lacks talent and consistent playmakers. This is a game where the Bills' defense could dominate. If I had to take a shot on someone, it would be Marquez Callaway who has at least shown a knack for getting into the end zone. He has scored six touchdowns in his last eight games, including a score in three straight.
As a parent of young kids, I will likely be reading a bedtime book that involves talking animals or magical woodland creatures around the time this one is kicking off.
Schofield: Breida is definitely an option in this one. The Buffalo Bills are struggling to run the football, but those who cover the Bills have been clamoring for Bredia to get more opportunities in both the running game and the passing game. On a short week, I'd expect him to get that chance against a banged-up Saints team.
Waldman: Especially when considering that Breida earned most of his touches in last week's game when it was still a contest and the "season-high snaps are 18" that Dan brought up has come one of only two games he's been active all year. If he was on the active roster all year, that argument would have merit but now that Breida is active, he's generating an impression that is leading to more action.
Schofield: The Saints are going to be without a number of key players on offense, and as such, I think Taysom Hill is going to be a focal point Thursday. There is a small -- but growing -- thought in my head that Sean Payton comes out and runs something akin to a 1970s style Nebraska Cornhuskers offense at the Bills, trying to attack a run defense that is certainly Buffalo's weakness. Hill might be running the triple option Thursday evening.
By this point in the proceedings, the extended family has gone home, our children are settling into bed, and I'm struggling to stay awake. We'll see if I last until halftime.
Bischoff: Breida is a very flashy runner, and it is entertaining to watch him move. However, he would need a sizeable workload to lead backs in rushing in Week 12, and I do not see that happening. I agree with the others regarding the Buffalo running-back committee, and also that Ingram is the likeliest running back to lead this game in rushing yards.
I will echo Dan's thoughts with Callaway because of his ability to get into the end zone. That's enough for me to think it will be him, but as the others have pointed out, there may not be a great answer to this question. I am not confident enough to play any of the Saints receiving options in any format tomorrow.
I will watch this game very hungry. And crabby.
Waldman: I am almost feeling about asking these questions every time I get around to you, but then I just laugh because I know you.
Bischoff: Haha, don't mind me, I like punishing myself.
Davenport: I'm not as bullish on Breida as some. He produced a big day in Week 10 on only 6 touches and 14% of the snaps. In Week 11 his snaps increased, but he touched the ball only six times yet again. One of the Saints' options would be my guess for who has the most yardage this week.
Matt, I think you put us on the right track in your question about the Saints' passing game. The Bills, to date, have been generous to wide receivers, and the guy I've been talking about a lot recently is Smith. People's eyes tend to glaze over when you say his name these days and that's understandable, but he's quietly dominating the wide receiver opportunities in New Orleans recently. Over the last three games, as he's worked himself back into shape and into relevance, the Saints have given him the most snaps, targets, and routes run among all Saints receivers. This has led to 11.6 PPR points per game over the last month. He should get the opportunity to produce again this week.
Most of my family will have departed for their respective homes at the time of this game. Considering how heavily I'm invested in the Bills offense this year I will be DVRing the game while I get my kids into bed and starting the game later on. I will, however, accompany the game with some leftovers and yet another piece of pie.
Waldman: I think Ingram is the winner, but Breida makes it closer than many think. Smith is a good call. I think Nick Vannett could be the shocker here because he's a vet and Trevor Siemian is good at targeting tight ends.
At this point of the day at the Waldman household, I'm sure we'll be having seconds or thirds of everything and watching a movie. I'm anticipating our guest will likely call it quits somewhere between 8-11 pm and I'll retire to my office to spend the next 3-4 hours practicing. I have saxophone and bass lessons this Friday. One I'm driving to and the other is a Skype lesson with an L.A. musician who just returned from a tour of Germany.
College Football Rivalry Weekend
Waldman: I know this question could be biased by writer location and college, but tell me about the ballgame you look forward to seeing this weekend that features college rivals and give me a player you look forward to watching who has NFL potential.
Davenport: Writer location is definitely going to give me a bias here. I am an Indiana Hoosier alum so the game I like is Indiana-Purdue. However, with the Boilermakers set to put a whooping on my boys I'm honestly more excited about the Ohio State-Michigan contest. As an Ohio resident, I've been inundated with the importance of this game since I can remember watching football as a kid. It still holds that appeal to me, and the Michigan futility in the last 20 years in the series is an interesting storyline.
The player that has lost some luster this year but who I'm still excited to watch is Chris Olave. I'm not a film expert or Devy guy, but I love watching this kid play and this game looks like an awesome one. Can't wait!
Waldman: If he's lost any luster, he hasn't with me. I like him more than Garrett Wilson, who seemingly gained esteem from what I've seen early this year. One of my close friends is a Boilermaker, so my condolences to you, Drew.
Bischoff: Easily, it is the Michigan and Ohio State matchup for me. I am not delusional enough to think Michigan has anything other than a puncher's chance in this game, but there is a lot of NFL talent for both teams on both sides of the ball. The player I am most interested in is Michigan defensive end, Aiden Hutchinson. He has a huge task ahead of him, and he can cement himself in the top-10 of the 2022 NFL draft with a strong performance in this game. Hutchinson needs to consistently threaten as a pass rusher while playing stout as a run defender. It will be a treat to watch him go against Ohio State's offensive tackles.
Waldman: Good call. My favorite story about that rivalry comes from one of my all-time favorite players, Chris Spielman, an Ohio native who once graced the Wheaties box in high school. During his junior or senior year, Spielman's dad asked him where he was going to college. Spielman answered Michigan. His dad responded, "If you go to Michigan, don't ever plan on coming back here." This is Spielman's story for choosing Ohio State.
As a family member with several Buckeye alumni, Spielman chose wisely. Even if Bob Henry is gritting his teeth right now.
Schofield: As a product of a Division III school whose season ended a few weeks ago (although the Wesleyan University women's soccer team plays on Friday, December 3rd in their first-ever Final Four. Go Wes!) I find myself without a true rivalry game to look forward to this weekend.
However, that does not mean there are no options. The Egg Bowl between Mississippi and Mississippi State is always a good time, keep an eye on the quarterback in that one, Matt Corral from Mississippi in particular. UNC versus NC State is another one to watch, as Sam Howell has quietly put himself back in the first-round discussion after a tough start in the season opener.
Finally, on Saturday night when Nevada travels to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State, two players who could sneak into the first round take the field. Carson Strong, the Nevada quarterback, has a cannon for an arm but will face some medical questions thanks to a history of surgeries on his right knee. Then there is Colorado State tight end Trey McBride, who is in the TE1 discussion.
Hindery: I am biased here as a Buckeye but even so, there is only one correct answer here: The Game. Not only is it the best rivalry in sports, but this year’s matchup will determine the Big Ten East champion and likely catapult the winner into the college football playoff.
I cannot Sophie’s Choice any of the Buckeyes star skill position players. Quarterback C.J. Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson, and wide receivers Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are all future first-round picks who I am looking forward to watching again this weekend. I will give a little extra nod to Henderson here, however. He is one of those rare running back talents where from the first game as a true freshman you knew you were seeing something special. He is still a couple of years away from being NFL Draft eligible but is going to be a first-round dynasty startup pick in 2024 and beyond.
McNamara: Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh. For years, Syracuse played Boston College on Thanksgiving weekend, but recently they have been playing Pittsburgh. Syracuse struggles at football, but the basketball rivalry is strong enough that any victory over Pittsburgh really matters.
Sean Tucker is one of the nation's best running backs and is 2023 draft-eligible so definitely check him out. I do have to give an obligatory mention to the 17th anniversary of the best two-way performance I've seen in a football game. Syracuse faced the Matt Ryan-led Boston College team that was ranked 17th in the nation at the time.
Early in the game, running back Damien Rhodes, starting in place of an injured Walter Reyes, was himself injured, forcing Syracuse to turn to Diamond Ferri at running back. Ferri started his college career as a running back but converted to safety and was Syracuse's starting safety in the game. In relief of Rhodes, Ferri played almost every snap on both sides of the ball, rushing 28 times for 141 yards and two rushing touchdowns, while adding six tackles, and a game-sealing pick-6 of Matt Ryan in an upset victory on his Senior Day.
Waldman: Nice memory there. I remember Rhodes and Reyes. Rhodes had a stint with the Colts.
As a Georgia alumnus, Georgia-Georgia Tech is a historic rivalry without much recent history of note. As a part of a family of several Ohio State alumni, I grew up on the Big Game. And as a Miami matriculate, I watched the epic UM-FSU matchups from the late-1980s and early-1990s that were some of the best games I ever saw but they never played on rivalry weekend.
While I'm half-kidding when I say that the average SEC game has more public fervor than the Ohio State-Michigan game, which is often the biggest Big Ten game of the year, I make the point to underscore how much of a religious experience that football is in the South. Perhaps the epicenter of that fervor is the Iron Bowl, Alabama-Auburn.
Although 6-5 Auburn has lost three straight and is a definite underdog to 10-1 Alabama, if you know anything about the history of this rivalry, then you know Auburn will approach this contest as if they are fighting to defend the planet. Their star tailback Tank Bigsby is an impressive sophomore, at least from casual viewing.
I've had several people ask me after the Penn State game if I've studied Bigsby. While it won't happen this weekend because Bigsby isn't draft-eligible, I always make it a priority to record a game where a top player faces a stiff defense like the Crimson Tide. Stats don't matter to my evaluations as much as players putting themselves and their teammates in a position to generate positive plays.
I'll be looking forward to seeing how Bigsby fares.
On behalf of our staff at Footballguys, whether it's a big and traditional spread filled with family or something simple with a precious few, we hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving.