Lyn-J Dixon, Clemson | 52.5 Rushing Yards
One of the ongoing sagas in the CFF community has been the state of the Clemson running back room and who will be seeing the most snaps on a per game basis. Throughout camp the coaching staff raved about three-star upstart RB Kobe Pace and how he projects as a complete back who should lead CU in rushing this season. Then there’s five-star super-frosh Will Shipley whom Daby Swinney has offered several gushing, but guarded, statements about his fledgling all-purpose weapon.
Who we haven’t heard much buzz about is Lyn-J Dixon, who is improbably listed as the starter on Clemson’s final preseason depth chart. He has been cycling through the first unit, but it appears to be a seniority situation as opposed to Dixon emphatically staking his claim to the Clemson running back throne. With Georgia’s front-7 considered to be among the most elite units in the country, Clemson will have tough sledding on the interior regardless of who is running the ball.
With three viable candidates for carries, and a stout defensive front to contend with, I’m going at the UNDER hard with Mr. Dixon.
Jalen Berger, Wisconsin | 57.5 Rushing Yards
In the offseason when studying Berger, it struck me just how mundane he was last season despite running behind the vaunted Wisconsin offensive line. Despite receiving exactly 15 carries in all four games last season, amounting to 60 carries, he only broke 5 tackles and sports an elusiveness rating of just 26.2 according to PFF. Grim. He only caught 2-of-4 passes for 13 yards, so he’s not going to see many third downs either.
Berger then battled a leg injury in camp that hampered his ability to practice and was subsequently passed on the depth chart by recent Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi, which is an ominous sign for an entrenched starter. For their part, Penn State’s defense should show a marked improvement from last year, as they boast the 11th most talented defensive unit according to the excellent CFB Winning Edge advanced metrics. Even with Micah Parsons opting out, Penn State still held opponents to 130 yards rushing and a 3.7 YPC.
Wisconsin released their pregame depth chart, with Mellusi getting the starting nod. Frequently coaches will still list the vets first despite everyone kind of knowing that there is an upstart who has been outplaying them in camp, See: Dixon, Lyn-J. However the fact HC Paul Chryst has already shown favoritism to Mellusi, and with rising freshman Braelon Allen looming as RB3, the long knives may be out for Berger. He might be Nakia Watson Part Deux, which means I am pounding the UNDER 57.5 rushing yards on Berger.
Max Johnson, LSU | Passing Yards 239.5
Johnson was thrown into the fire last season when Myles Brennan got hurt early-on and struggled to adjust to the speed of the game in his first three appearances. He topped out at just 172 yards against Auburn, Texas A&M and Auburn, but got his feet underneath him against Florida when he led the Tigers to a thrilling 37-34 upset of the SEC East champs, throwing for 239 yards and three touchdowns.
He proceeded to light up Ole Miss in the season finale to the tune of 435 passing yards and five total touchdowns in that 53-48 shootout. With Brennan going down in spring, Johnson received a full compliment of starter reps in training camp after looking surgical in his spring game performance. He’s also playing a UCLA team that is sorely lacking from a talent perspective on the defensive side of the ball, as their 2-Deep ranks 57th in FBS in terms of 247Sports/Rival talent rating.
Considering that Johnson showing marked improvement over his last two games and into spring, and finally having a full set of practices to prepare, which wasn’t afforded to him last year as a true freshman, look for Johnson to light on fire a porous UCLA pass defense that was sliced up to the tune of 274 passing yards per game in 2020, and 311 YPG in 2019. This line feels like it’s looking backward, not forward. I’m backing the OVER 239.5 Passing Yards for Johnson.
Joseph Ngata, Clemson | 70.5 Receiving Yards
This line absolutely puzzles me, as Ngata has perennially underperformed when given the opportunity through the first two years of his Clemson career. Though he broke out with a promising spring-game performance in 2019, so did Ajou Ajou and he’s not seeing 70.5 O/U’s this week.
In 19 career games, Ngata’s high-water mark for receiving is 62 yards, with his next highest at 48. He missed several practices in camp due to a hamstring injury, never a good sign for the brittle wideout who only saw game action in six games last year, reeling in seven passes for 83 yards in that span. With Justyn Ross returning, EJ Williams excelling in camp and Frank Ladson slated to start as well, it’s hard to imagine Ngata seeing the kind of volume that will justify this 70.5 yards number, especially against the aforementioned Georgia defense.
I’m going after this UNDER play hard, you should too.