Could College Football Have Fantasy Value?
By Zack Shelby
In a few weeks, thousands of football fans will be engaging in their fantasy football drafts in hopes of crafting a core of players to dominate friends, coworkers and total strangers alike en route to championship glory, bragging rights, and in may cases, a cash payout.
Said fans will be hoping targeted players will fall to them in the draft. They will seek out players who are believed to have value. They will take shots in the dark in hopes of finding hidden gems. Of course this all refers to the National Football League - 32 teams divided evenly into eight divisions. Two conferences with 16 teams each. But, what if your only major football decision on any given weekend wasn't limited to "Should I start Tom Brady against the Seahawks' ferocious defense or Matt Cassel against the Packers' shaky defense?"
What if you were in a fantasy football league for college football? You're setting your lineup for the week of Sept. 6. Jameis Winston is your QB1. Florida State is taking on Citadel. Justin Thomas is your QB2. Georgia Tech is visiting Tulane. Who do you start? Sure Winston should decimate the Citadel. But, the game might be so lopsided by halftime that Jimbo Fisher yanks Winston and all those second-half points you would have accumulated. Conversely, Thomas might be in a much closer game. He may be scoring you points through the air and on the ground. What is a team manager to do?
Now that we have fantasized about having to make such decisions for college players, let's get real for a second. In the FBS alone, there are 128 teams. So, for the sake of continuing, let's say you wouldn't mix divisions of college football in a proposed fantasy football. In fact, let's just limit it to FBS.
There are 11 conferences in FBS which have between 10 and 15 teams each. There are also four independent teams in FBS. Schedules are unbalanced. Teams are often greatly mismatched. These are all advantages the NFL holds over college. But, does it mean that college fantasy football couldn't work? Not necessarily.
Maybe leagues could be divided into conferences. Sure, unlike the NFL, college teams don't all play each other in every conference and their out-of-conference schedule is drastically different, but that could just all be stuff fantasy managers would have to take into consideration. Mismatches may lead star players to the bench in blowouts, infuriating their owners along the way. Again, that could just add to the strategy needed to be a great college fantasy football player.
Dividing fantasy leagues into conferences could work well for a group of buddies who work together. Maybe they all have a "9-to-5" job in Alabama somewhere and could start an Southeastern Conference league. Or, there could also be leagues where all caution is thrown to the wind. You want to find the best value? Look for it on 128 college rosters. Prove you are that hardcore of a fan. Maybe you know the quarterback at Ball State University is a rising star that will light up a bunch of Swiss cheese defenses in the Mid-American Conference. Perhaps you have the foresight to know that this Ball State quarterback who's name I couldn't tell you, will be in high-scoring games because his own defense isn't very good either. Throw in a few five-overtime affairs where this budding fantasy phenom is scoring touchdown after touchdown and... Boom! You've got your college fantasy football sleeper!
Everything is nice and symmetrical in the NFL and almost nothing in college football is, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. In fact, the inequality that college football brings to the table could provide multiple and decisive edges NFL fantasy footballers look for over its opponents. Only now, such edges could come in many more colors and sizes.
My fantasy sleeper would come from the smallish school I attended from 2012-2013, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Maybe you've heard of it. Maybe you haven't. Their quarterback Taylor Heinicke, threw for more than 5,000 yards and 44 TDs. In 2013, he threw for more than 4,000 yards and 33 TDs. He will be entering his senior season and has been in shootouts virtually every week during his three-year tenure at ODU.
While you lock down Jameis Winston and get frustrated every time FSU decides to hand off to running back Karlos Williams at the goal line, I will be racking up points from my hometown fantasy hero as he tries to score 50 points worth of TD passes before his opponent does every week in Conference USA action.
That's the kind of glory, bragging rights, and money I would like to strive for.