This article is part of our College Football Fantasy Five series.
Even though there's no college football currently being played, it doesn't mean that we can't start preparing for the 2021 fantasy college football season. I've scrubbed the current headlines and here's a countdown of the top five stories with significant fantasy implications.
5.) ACC Returns to Normal Schedule with Notre Dame Independent
Schedules were released all over the college football world and I don't usually read much into these as we don't quite yet know what quality of opponents will bring. However, I think we can make some inferences from Notre Dame returning to their normal independent schedule with only five ACC games. When we look at their strength of schedule in 2020 (51st) compared to 2019 (31st), 2018 (20th) and 2017 (2nd), it's obvious that the independent schedule is much tougher. Some of their non-ACC match-ups that are not so fantasy-friendly include; Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Navy and Stanford. Thinking about the pace of play in those games has me StocK Up on running back Kyren Williams and Stock Down on pretty much anything involved with the Fighting Irish passing game.
4.) Running Back Eric Gray Transfers to Oklahoma
A key to winning college football fantasy contests is rostering Oklahoma playmakers as the Sooners have had top-ten offenses in each of the last six years, including the nation's top-scoring offense in 2018. Quarterback Spencer Rattler showed a ton of improvement during his first full season of action and the Sooners are primed to be one of the best teams in 2021. I'm sure this is why Gray chose to transfer to Oklahoma instead of Texas. Probably didn't hurt either that Oklahoma said bye to Rhamondre Stevenson (NFL) and T.J. Pledger (transferred to Utah) while Texas has a stud in Bijan Robinson. I do think Gray has upside as a pass-catcher in the Oklahoma offense, I'm just not sold he wins the job over Kennedy Brooks. There's also a potential for Gray not being cleared to play this upcoming season as he was reportedly involved in recruiting violations with former coach Jeremy Pruitt that kept him out of Tennessee's regular-season finale.
3.) Georgia Lands Two 5-Star QBs in Brock Vandagriff (2021) & Gunner Stockton (2022)
This is more of a long-term storyline as it's not likely that Vandagriff plays in 2021 with JT Daniels announcing his return earlier this month and Stockton won't even be on campus until the following season. What I do think this shows though is that Georgia is trending in an extremely positive direction with their offense. The Bulldogs have typically been known for their defense and strong run game, but landing a couple of five-star signal-callers shows that they know they need a productive passing game to compete with the likes of Alabama in the near future. For 2021, I'm still high on Zamir White, James Cook, and the Bulldogs' running game.
2.) USC Lands Texas Transfer RB Keaontay Ingram
The famous Trojans have fielded a top-50 scoring offense in each of the last two seasons and run an Air Raid-adjacent offense, so anytime they add offensive weapons, fantasy players should take notice. It's been a busy off-season for Clay Helton as he already snagged Colorado's WR K.D. Nixon and now adds Ingram who flashed at Texas, yet ultimately underwhelmed the last three years as a high-profile recruit. Ingram joins a loaded backfield with Vavae Malepeai, Stephen Carr, Kenan Christon, and Brandon Campbell. For this reason, I'm going stock down on all of the USC running backs and stock up on the passing game, particularly with Nixon, Drake London and Bru McCoy.
1.) Tennessee Hires Josh Heupel at Head Coach
And the number one storyline is the Vols' tremendous hire of Heupel. While Tennessee has always been able to attract talent, it's been some time since they have been able to show consistent offensive competence. Pair Heupel's track record (see below) with the SEC's recent trend away from defensive dominance and I think Tennessee skill players will be vastly underrated in fantasy drafts this upcoming season. Here's what Heupel has done with his offenses over the last six years:
2020 – UCF Head Coach – 42.2 points per game (8th in the Nation)
2019 – UCF Head Coach – 43.4 points per game (5th in the Nation)
2018 – UCF Head Coach – 43.2 points per game (6th in the Nation)
2017 – Missouri Offensive Coordinator – 37.5 points per game (14th in the Nation)
2016 – Missouri Offensive Coordinator – 31.4 points per game (48th in the Nation)
2015 - Utah State Offensive Coordinator – 29.0 points per game (64th in the Nation)
One of the first players I'm taking a deeper look at this off-season is Harrison Bailey who was the only existing quarterback to not enter the transfer portal with the coaching change. Heupel has an excellent history with quarterbacks including McKenzie Milton, Drew Lock, and even Sam Bradford if considering his time as QB coach at Oklahoma. Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker came over before the coaching change, however, I'm not sure how well he fits Heupel's mold at QB. Mark this down as a spring game to closely watch.
This of course means stock down for UCF and QB Dillon Gabriel who is considered by many to be a top-five pick in fantasy drafts next season. Although UCF will still be good, they won't reach the heights Heupel had them at over the last three seasons.