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College Football DFS: Week 3 DraftKings & FanDuel CFB Picks | Friday, 9/17/2021

Matt Gajewski

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Week 3 CFB College Football DFS Picks DraftKings FanDUel optimal lineup optimizer Louisville Illinois Micale Malik Cunningham

Week 3 action continues with a Friday slate, and DraftKings and FanDuel have great contests for these games. This CFB DFS breakdown will look at each team and provide information about each skill position player of note. The highlighted plays per game and pass rates will be from 2020. Make sure to check out our projections, depth charts and datasheets for more information. With that said, let us dive into the first iteration of the Week 3 college football DFS picks for Friday’s matchup.

College Football DFS: Week 3 Friday CFB Picks

UCF vs. Louisville

UCF (37.75 Implied Total)

Plays/Game – 88.0 (1st)

Pass Rate – 49.55% (44th)

The Gus Malzahn era at UCF began with a pair of wins over Boise State and Bethune-Cookman. Through one FBS game, UCF retained their uptempo pace with 88 plays against Boise State. They also remained balanced with a 45.5% pass rate. This team retained eight starters on offense and nine on defense, including every starter on the offensive line, which is a top-16 pass-blocking unit. Unfortunately, they have been outside the top 85 in pass rush and pass coverage, continuing their propensity for shootouts. With a 68.5-point total, this game has more stacking appeal.

Dillon Gabriel ($8,600) has continued his efficient play to open 2021. He is averaging 315 yards passing per game while completing 65.8% of his passes for 8.6 yards per attempt. Gabriel is fairly mobile and already had 107 yards rushing and an additional touchdown this year. Gabriel already has 300 yards passing in both games this year and will continue to put up big numbers in uptempo spots like this one.

UCF used former Northwestern running back Isaiah Bowser ($5,900) as their clear lead back in Week 1 before crushing Bethune-Cookman in Week 2. In the opener, Bowser registered 32 carries and four targets. Bowser already has 229 yards rushing and another 33 through the air this year. Johnny Richardson ($4,6000) functioned as the primary backup in Week 1. He was the only other running back to touch the ball besides Bowser. Trillion Coles ($3,000) also made his presence felt, with 11 carries for 78 yards and one catch for 15 yards. Coles is a former walk-on who did not play last year due to injury. Coles also missed Week 1, so he is likely to complement Bowser alongside Richardson moving forward.

The top three pass catchers are clearly Jaylon Robinson ($8,100), Ryan O’Keefe ($6,300) and Tennessee transfer Brandon Johnson ($5,000). Johnson and O’Keefe each have 16 targets this year. O’Keefe’s 139 yards receiving narrowly edge Johnson’s 128. Robinson ranked second on UCF in receiving last year, with 979 yards. All three will pop for big game, and no other pass catchers play enough to be worth a target here.

Louisville (30.75 Implied Total)

Plays/Game – 69.4 (90th)

Pass Rate – 44.95% (80th)

Louisville fell to Ole Miss before demolishing Eastern Kentucky in Week 2. Louisville will play with tempo and pass the ball frequently in the right game scripts. They ran 79 plays and passed 50.6% of the time in Week 1 against Ole Miss. This team lost a lot of offensive playmakers but returned seven starters on offense and six on defense. The offensive line is the strength of the team, but Ole Miss exposed the defense on multiple fronts.

At quarterback Louisville returns Malik Cunningham ($7,600). Cunningham has completed 61.7% of his passes for 7.8 yards per attempt to start the year. Both marks are a step back from last year, which makes sense. Cunningham lost his top three offensive weapons in Javian Hawkins, Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick. Cunningham still brings his rushing ability and has 108 yards through two games. This game looks like a potential shootout, putting Cunningham squarely in play.

At running back Jalen Mitchell ($4,900) has emerged as the lead rusher for Louisville. Mitchell has 30 carries for 139 yards through two games. He also has three targets in the pass game, which he turned into 30 yards receiving. Fortunately, Mitchell saw his carries jump from 12 to 18 in Week 2 with positive game script. Louisville is still a 7.5-point underdog, but Mitchell remains in play. Hassan Hall ($4,000) carried five times each in Louisville’s first two games. He will function as a strict change of pace.

At receiver Louisville is still figuring out its rotation. Tight end Marshon Ford ($3,500) is the only player to eclipse 70% of the team’s routes in their first two games. Tyler Harrell ($4,200) ran the second-most routes in Week 2 (53%), but he only has eight targets and 20 yards receiving on the year. Jordan Watkins ($5,900) ran the most routes in Week 1 outside of Ford (62%), but his routes dropped to 44% in Week 2. He has six targets on the year. Ahmari Huggins-Bruce ($3,400) leads the team with 11 targets overall, but he has not eclipsed 44% of the routes in either game for Louisville. Players like Josh Johnson ($3,700), Braden Smith ($4,800) and Justin Marshall ($4,600) all mix in as well. In order of most routes run, Louisville uses Ford, Watkins, Marshall, Harrell, Smith, Huggins-Bruce and Johnson. This offense is dart throws only.

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Maryland vs. Illinois

Maryland (34 Implied Total)

Plays/Game – 65.0 (113th)

Pass Rate – 53.85% (21st)

Maryland picked up an upset win over West Virginia in Week 1 before dismantling Howard in Week 2. Under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos, Maryland looks likely to increase their pace while playing with an elevated pass rate. In Week 1 they ran 82 plays and passed 46% of the time while playing with a lead through most of the game. Maryland has very strong trench play, including an offensive line that ranks seventh in pass blocking after a strong showing in 2020. They are also vastly improved on defense and have added five recruits rated four stars or higher.

Taulia Tagovailoa ($8,000) has averaged 303 yards passing per game through two weeks, with a 76.2% completion percentage and 9.6 yards per attempt. Tagovailoa only has 11 yards rushing this year, but he has shown decent mobility at times. This game environment is far less attractive, but Tagovailoa still warrants strong consideration as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

Tayon Fleet-Davis ($5,300) tentatively holds the RB1 role for Maryland, but the Terrapins project to use a committee. Fleet-Davis rushed 18 times for 123 yards against West Virginia in Week 1 while adding four receptions. Isaiah Jacobs ($3,700) also rushed 14 times for 50 yards and added three receptions. Jacobs missed Week 2 due to turf toe, but he is expected to play here. Peny Boone ($3,900) also returned to action in Week 2 after battling a concussion in the preseason. He is bigger back and rushed for 31 yards on eight carries. Jacobs, Boone and Fleet-Davis should all see work against Illinois.

Maryland has a clear top two at receiver, featuring Dontay Demus ($7,200) and former five-star sophomore Rakim Jarrett ($5,500). Demus has 261 yards on 16 targets (25% target share) this year. Jarrett has 188 yards on 15 targets (23.4% target share). They will continue to dominate targets and routes moving forward in this offense. Darryl Jones ($3,000) runs as the WR3 most of the time, but Jeshaun Jones ($4,500) and Brian Cobbs ($3,300) also mix in. Darryl Jones has four targets on the season, while Jeshaun Jones has six. Chigoziem Okonkwo ($3,600) operates as the main tight end after sitting out last season. He has become a legitimate red-zone weapon and ran a route on 90% of dropbacks in Week 1 before Maryland barely tried in Week 2.

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Illinois (26.5 Implied Total)

Plays/Game – 66.9 (103rd)

Pass Rate – 39.07% (114th)

Kicking off the Bret Bielema era with a win over Nebraska, Illinois has lost two straight to Texas-San Antonio and Virginia. Illinois is playing with a similar pace to Appalachian State last year under new offensive coordinator Tony Peterson (74.3 plays per game). However, they have been forced to pass 50.7% of the time due to negative game script. When given the choice, Illinois prefers a power rushing attack. Their offensive line has taken a step backwards after losing Kendrick Green to the NFL and Jordyn Slaughter for the season.

Brandon Peters ($5,700) is finally healthy again and named the starter after getting hurt early in Illinois’ game against Nebraska. Backup Artur Sitkowski ($6,400) was up and down in Peters’ place. Peters went 3-for-4 for 35 yards before leaving in Week 1. Last year he completed 48.8% of his passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns. He is somewhat mobile, with 213 and 136 yards rushing in back-to-back years before 2021. He does not have as much job security or talent as the other quarterbacks, making him a distant fourth in priority here.

Illinois’ backfield is challenging to predict. However, Mike Epstein will miss his second straight game. Last year’s leading rusher Chase Brown ($4,500) finally made an impact in Week 2, leading the running back group in snaps (37) and carrying seven times. He also saw four targets. Behind him, Reggie Love ($3,100) and Josh McCray ($3,000) each played 19 and 12 snaps. McCray seven carries himself but played limited snaps throughout. Illinois will be a committee at running back, but Brown appears to have asserted himself as the leader of the group.

Former quarterback Isaiah Williams ($4,700) is Illinois’ clear alpha receiver. Williams’ 31 targets equate to a 31.3% target share, and his 183 yards easily lead the team. Behind him Casey Washington ($3,000) and Donny Navarro ($4,300) are the next-most active receivers. Washington has 13 targets and 45 yards receiving, while Navarro checks in with 12 targets for 51 yards receiving. Daniel Barker ($3,800) is also active as a receiving tight end. He did not appear in Week 0, but he has a 75% route rate through Illinois’ last two games and is averaging 5.5 targets per game in that span.

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Looking for more CFB DFS picks content? We have loads of articles, data, DraftKings and FanDuel cheat sheets and more on the Awesemo CFB DFS home page.

Matt Gajewski graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Economics. Matt has worked in the fantasy industry for the past four years, focusing on DFS and Sports Betting. Matt specializes in NFL, College Football, College Basketball, XFL, and MMA. With GPP victories across the major sports, Matt also qualified for the DraftKings 2020 Sports Betting Championship and won a seat to the College Basketball Tourney Mania final.

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