This article is part of our FanDuel College Football series.
Saturday is the big day for conference championships in college football, but don't forget about Friday. That day brings us the Conference USA title game, as well as the Pac-12 matchup. First up at 7 p.m. ET we have Western Kentucky versus UTSA. While a lot of conference title matchups take place on neutral fields, Conference USA's championship game will be taking place at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Meanwhile, at 8 p.m. ET we have Utah against Oregon, a game which will take place in Las Vegas at a neutral site.
The Roadrunners headed into Week 13 with a pristine 11-0 record. Then, they stunningly laid an egg (roadrunners are birds, so this tracks) to North Texas, losing by a convincing score of 45-23. How will they rebound? Meanwhile, we saw the Ducks and Utes play only a few weeks ago. Utah trounced Oregon by a score of 38-7. Sure, that game was in Salt Lake City, but is a neutral field worth 31 points? Not by any logic I've ever seen.
Alright, time for me to get into the numbers and my recommendations for Friday. Let's kick the conference title weekend off right.
Fortunately, all four starting quarterbacks are healthy. In fact, health is largely the name of the game here. Utah doesn't have a single notable player who is injured. Oregon is not so lucky. Running back CJ Verdell (leg) and receivers Johnny Johnson (foot) and Jaylon Redd (undisclosed) are all out for the season. Both those receivers were kind of having down years anyway, and while Verdell was on fire to start the year, the Ducks (and DFS players) have gotten used to his absence.
In Conference USA, we have two largely healthy teams as well. In fact, only one player of any note is injured, and that's Western Kentucky tight end Joshua Simon. However, Simon suffered his knee injury Week 1, so we've all grown accustomed to this.
Friday Conference Championship Plays
Bailey Zappe, WKU at UTSA ($11,200): Even as the player with the highest salary Friday, Zappe is worth it. He, his offensive coordinator, and his top receiver all transferred over from Houston Baptist this offseason. It's gone incredibly. Zappe completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 4,968 yards, 52 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He never threw for fewer than three touchdowns in a game all season, and he was held under 300 yards passing once. Oh, and in that game, he totaled five touchdowns. The Roadrunners are ranked 83rd in passing yards allowed per contest. That's not going to scare me here. Western Kentucky is going to let Zappe throw the ball 70 times if need be.
Cameron Rising, Utah vs. Oregon ($8,800): Conversely, Rising has the lowest salary of the four starters, and I think that gives him upside. Things changed for Utah when Rising took over under center. The yardage totals won't wow you, but he threw 17 touchdowns versus only three picks, and he also rushed for 346 yards and five scores. Oregon allowed 257.7 passing yards per game, and I think Utah may need to throw the ball more than in the last matchup between these teams.
Sincere McCormick, UTSA vs. WKU ($9,500): Interestingly, none of these teams were bad against the run, at least in terms of sheer volume numbers. The Hilltoppers rank 47th in rushing yards allowed per game, and that's the lowest of these four teams. McCormick took a step down from last season, when he rushed for 1,467 yards and 11 touchdowns on 249 attempts. He did have 12 touchdowns this year, though, even if he only rushed for 1,275 yards with one extra game.
Travis Dye, Oregon vs. Utah ($9,000): After Verdell got hurt, Dye took over as the lead back for the Ducks. Not that he wasn't a weapon when Verdell was around, as Dye began the season with a three-game touchdown streak. Am I worried that Utah beat Oregon so badly last time Dye only got six carries? Sure, but I don't expect that again, and Dye is also a weapon in the passing game. Over the final eight games of the season, he had 40 targets.
TJ Pledger, Utah vs. Oregon ($5,700): If you want to take an upside option to save some salary, I like Pledger in that role. He's rushed for over 100 yards in three of his last four games. Sure, in one of those games he only got four carries, but that speaks to his big-play ability. Pledger averaged 7.1 yards per carry, and at a salary like this when you are rolling with a backup, you are betting on a big play happening.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Mitchell Tinsley, WKU at UTSA ($8,600): I'm going with Tinsley over Jerreth Sterns because he has a lower salary and, honestly, has been better of late. Over his last three games, Tinsley has 28 catches for 446 yards and four touchdowns. If you are not familiar with the Western Kentucky offense, let me assure you those kinds of numbers are sustainable. You want a receiver –-or two –- from this offense, and my first choice is Tinsley.
Zakhari Franklin, UTSA vs. WKU ($8,500): This doesn't feel great coming off a week where Franklin had three catches for 24 yards, but you have to look at the big picture. From that perspective, Franklin has 67 catches for 871 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games. He began the season on a four-game touchdown streak and had four games with over 100 yards receiving. Additionally, the Hilltoppers have pretty clearly the worst pass defense of this quartet. They are 112th in passing yards allowed per game, and they played Army this season.
De'Corian Clark, UTSA vs. WKU ($7,000): Clark is an upside play, and also a hope that history will repeat itself. The Roadrunners and Hilltoppers played earlier this year, a game UTSA won 52-46 on the road. Oh, I'm expecting a high-scoring game here. In that outing, Clark had seven catches for 160 yards and three touchdowns. He had three big games with over 100 yards and a few where he disappeared. I don't expect a disappearing act in this easy matchup.
Daewood Davis, WKU at UTSA ($6,800): My last recommendation sticks to this matchup. Look, I don't love the receivers for the Ducks or Utes, and do you remember when I just said these teams combined for 98 points when they met earlier this season? Davis is much more of a feast-or-famine guy. He had 38 catches all season, but they went for 651 yards and eight touchdowns. Davis is the kind of guy who will have three catches in a game but can turn that into 102 yards and two touchdowns. He literally did that last week against Marshall. That's the potential Davis possesses.