After back-to-back wins against top-25 opponents, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 6-0 and ranked fifth in the latest AP Poll. They return home to South Bend for a game against Pittsburgh before their bye week. Here is who I think you should start and sit in college fantasy football this weekend.
Through six weeks of the 2018 season, Notre Dame looks every bit the part of a College Football Playoff team. This has become increasingly more evident after the decision was made to start Ian Book at quarterback.
The Irish displayed impressive poise and resilience last weekend as they pulled away in the second half of their game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. This week, they return to South Bend to face another ACC opponent, the Pittsburgh Panthers.
There are a handful of players on the Notre Dame offense that have become relevant in college fantasy football. This should come as no surprise, since the offense is averaging 44 points per game over the last three weeks.
I expect that high output to continue this week against a Pittsburgh defense that is ranked 99th in points per game allowed and 76th in defensive efficiency. Here are my starts and sits for week seven.
Ian Book (QB)
In his first three starts this season, Ian Book has thrown for 874 yards and eight touchdowns. The Notre Dame passing offense looks rejuvenated with Book taking the snaps. There is no reason to expect that to change this week, as Pittsburgh’s defense comes into South Bend ranked 90th in yards per pass attempt allowed.
Book has also ran for 90 yards and three touchdowns over that same span. All of that rushing production came in two games (Wake Forest and Stanford). While you should not count on Ian Book to score on a rushing touchdown every week, it is a part of his game that elevates his ceiling in fantasy football.
While Book has not yet entered the top tier of quarterbacks in college fantasy football, he is knocking on the door. You can feel confident starting him for the rest of the 2018 season.
Miles Boykin (WR)
Over the last two weeks, Boykin has solidified himself as the team’s clear number one receiver. His spike in production can be partially attributed to the play of quarterback Ian Book and the return of running back Dexter Williams. However, he has been playing extremely well.
I was hesitant to start Boykin last week because his stat lines had been up and down. After stringing together two impressive performances in big games, I think it is safe to say that Boykin is a viable wide receiver or flex option in college fantasy football.
In the last two games, Boykin has 19 catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns. I like his chances to find the endzone again this Saturday against a suspect Pittsburgh defense.
Notre Dame Defense (DST)
I have said it before and I will say it again: this Notre Dame defense is the real deal. In a close game on the road, the Irish had to do without Daelin Hayes (stinger) and Julian Okwara (ejected) in the second half. In that half, they forced a turnover and held Virginia Tech to just seven points.
Through six games this season, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett has thrown five interceptions and been sacked 13 times. The Notre Dame defensive line should be able to generate consistent pressure on Pickett this Saturday. If they can do that, they have a great chance at creating some turnovers.
One final argument for starting the Notre Dame defense this week is that the Pittsburgh offense is not a threat to score a bunch of points. They are currently ranked 91st in points per game. This gives the Irish defense a pretty high floor in college fantasy football this weekend.
Dexter Williams (RB)
Much like my decision to sit Ian Book last week, this one is a gut feel. Given how well the offense is playing, that is the best argument I can give at this point.
I do not think that Dexter Williams will have a bad game against Pittsburgh. I think he could fail to score a touchdown in the game — limiting his fantasy football upside.
It is possible that Notre Dame will jump out to a significant lead thanks to Ian Book and the passing game. If that happens, I could see Brian Kelly being quick to pull the starters out of the game.
With the bye week in sight, the coaching staff wants nothing more than to finish this game with a win and no significant injuries. Given the nature of the running back position, I can see the offense leaning more on Tony Jones Jr. and Avery Davis in the second half if they have a big lead.
Alize Mack (TE)
We may have seen the ceiling of Alize Mack. Over the past three weeks, Mack has 13 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. It has been the best three-game stretch in Mack’s career at Notre Dame. Those numbers are good enough to make him a solid backup tight end in college fantasy football with the upside of a starting tight end.
I am not entirely convinced that Mack can maintain this pace of production in the second half of the season. In his second game back from a high ankle sprain, tight end Cole Kmet had three catches.
As Kmet works his way back to 100 percent health and becomes more in sync with Ian Book, we can start saying bye bye bye to Mack’s fantasy football value. It looks like Kmet wants to proclaim that, “it’s gonna be me” that will be the team’s top receiving threat at tight end. For our editor J.P. Scott, who has Mack on his fantasy team, I am sure this trend is tearin’ up his heart.
(Editor’s note: we apologize for the NSync reference and assure you that it will never happen again.)