With week four of the college football season upon us, offenses are beginning to solidify, and devy fantasy football prospects, for the most part, are beginning to display their actual value for our rosters. Let's take a look at three running backs you should keep an eye out for on Friday's four-game slate.
Christian Beal-Smith - Wake Forest
The faithful fans in Winston-Salem, North Carolina were worried about Kenneth Walker III's decision to enter the transfer portal after last season, and the uneasiness has continued to grow with each passing week. Rightfully so, as the former Demon Deacon continues his warpath on the college football landscape with Michigan State. Yet Beal-Smith's progression has been an incredible stroke of fortune, as the redshirt senior has handled 36 percent of the carries and has accounted for 45.8 percent of the yardage obtained on the ground by running backs. The East Forsyth High School product has averaged at least five yards per carry in all three contests and has scored at least one touchdown in four straight games going back to the Duke's Mayo Bowl in 2020. 18-percent of the 5'10" 200-pounder's carries have gone for ten or more yards, including five in last week's 95-yard performance against Florida State. Beal-Smith gets a plus matchup this week as Wake Forest heads to Charlottesville for "University Night." Virginia's defense is dead last in the ACC with 200.7 rushing yards allowed per game and enabled the two Tar Heel primary backs to average over nine yards per carry, totaling 264 yards on the ground and three touchdowns last week. The running back known as "CBS" will be must-see television on Friday night.
Sean Tucker - Syracuse
There are running backs around the country that would be satisfied for the entire season if they ran for 181 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry in the season opener. For the Calvert Hall College High School product, this was just another day in the office. Last week, the sophomore's dismantling of Albany was historic in every sense of the word, as Tucker became the first player in program history to record a 100-yard rushing and 100-yard receiving in the same game. His five total touchdowns were the second-most for a single contest in Orange history, landing him among College Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Floyd Little in the Syracuse record book. On the year, the 5'10" 210-pounder back is second in the FBS in all-purpose yards per game (171.67) and third in the country with seven total touchdowns. Something will have to give when Tucker and the Orange host Liberty for "Faculty & Staff Appreciation Night" on Friday night, as the Flames have been sturdy against the run, allowing only two yards per rush attempt and two touchdowns through three games. They might opt to bear down against the run and force Tommy DeVito and Garrett Shrader to beat them through the air. It won't matter, as we expect the Owings Mills, Maryland product to find ways to light a fire to the Flames' feisty run defense.
Ronnie Rivers - Fresno State
The Brentwood, California native's season was somewhat quiet for the first three games, at least compared to the production we have been used to seeing. But Rivers made sure to remind us why he is such an underrated back with his performance last week against the Bruins. The 5'9" 195-pounder's 136 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns were crucial to Fresno State's upset over the previously-ranked number 13 team in the country. So far in 2021, Rivers has averaged 4.5 or more yards per carry and at least one touchdown in three of four contests. UNLV's run defense has been shredded as of late, as Arizona State and Iowa State have had field days in back-to-back matchups. The Sun Devils' duo of Rachaad White and Daniyel Ngata combined for 154 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while the Cyclones' pairing of Breece Hall and Deon Silas amassed 132 yards and another three scores last week. Considering the fifth-year back has handled over 66 percent of Fresno State's carries, it is safe to assume Rivers runs wild on the Rebels as the Bulldogs begin their Mountain West schedule.
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