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Thursday, October 7, 2010
College Football Challenge: Week 6

By Will Harris
Special to ESPN.com

College Football Challenge is a player-based fantasy game with a format that's challenging yet flexible and user-friendly. You can play using all 120 FBS teams or compete within any of the 11 conferences. The points-based scoring system revolves around an eight-slot roster of quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, team kicking and team defense. Each week we'll take a look at the top performers and surprise contributors while alerting you to any players who might need to spend the week on the bench.

Cream of the crop: Star fantasy performers with the best matchups

LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: James has emerged as one of the early Heisman front-runners. He can help his cause this week in Pullman, Wash., against a Washington State defense that just allowed 437 yards on the ground to UCLA, the Bruins' biggest rushing day since 1979.

Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn: Newton is the sixth-leading passer and fourth-leading rusher in the SEC. He already has 17 total touchdowns. Kentucky beat Auburn last year and is capable of doing so again, but the recipe for an upset must involve a shootout. The Wildcats' defense won't be able to stop Newton and his stable of skill players. Kentucky stars Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke are viable options against the Auburn defense, too.

Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: Mallett threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns in last year's Jerrydome gala against the Aggies. This year, the Arkansas offense is even better and catches the Texas A&M defense off a rough second half in Stillwater, Okla., against Oklahoma State this past Thursday.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada: Running back Vai Taua is a fine play as well. He and Kaepernick could set some records at home versus a San Jose State team that the Pack dusted for 517 rushing yards last year on the road.

Titus Young, WR, Boise State: The Broncos are at home this week against a Toledo team that has been solid along the defensive front but is way too forgiving in the secondary to contain Young, fellow receiver Austin Pettis and quarterback Kellen Moore. All three Boise State stars merit consideration this week.

Opportunity knocks: Emerging or seldom-rostered players with favorable matchups

Darren Evans, RB, Virginia Tech: With the return of Ryan Williams still doubtful this week, Evans will lead the Hokies' ground attack against MAC entrant Central Michigan. The Chippewas allowed 306 yards on the ground to woeful Ball State last week.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: His counterpart Denard Robinson is never a bad idea, but this week Cousins might outduel him. The Michigan defense allowed Indiana's Ben Chappell to approach 500 passing yards last week. The Wolverines' secondary is just too thin to be cured and will give up big plays through the air all year. Spartans receivers Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham are also worth a look.

Zach Collaros, QB, Cincinnati: After a near miss against Oklahoma, the Bearcats have enjoyed an open date to prepare for the Victory Bell battle with Miami (Ohio). The Redhawks' defense has been a pleasant surprise so far, but Collaros and the Cats have far too many weapons to be slowed by their MAC rival. Cincy's Isaiah Pead is an option at running back as well.

Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State: Aplin is second only to Troy's Corey Robinson among Sun Belt passers, and he is going to rip most conference teams for 300 yards. This week's assignment is on the road, but it's against reeling Sun Belt bottom-feeder North Texas.

Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost last year's shootout with Houston, but Anthony Dixon ripped the Cougars' defense between the tackles all game long. State once again has a physical edge at the line of scrimmage, and this year the main weapon is juco transfer Ballard, who leads the team in rushing and already has scored eight times.

On the shelf: Key players who need a week off thanks to injury, matchup or circumstance

Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: UNLV's rush defense is a juicy assignment for the diminutive speedster, but he may not play with a toe injury. Even if he does go, he will be pulled early if the heavily favored Mountaineers get comfortably ahead.

Bryce Beall, RB, Houston: Beall leads his league in rushing, but his Cougars are in a tough spot this week against a Mississippi State defense that would be the best unit in Conference USA.

John Clay, RB, Wisconsin: Clay is getting it done so far with 116 yards per game, but this week's rivalry tilt with Minnesota could get out of hand early, and Clay probably won't even lead his team in rushing. The coaches are really limiting his carries so he can remain effective down the stretch. Breakout freshman James White is meriting more and more touches at the expense of Clay and backup Montee Ball.

DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss: Brown appears to be returning from a leg injury sooner than expected and may even play this week against East Carolina. Even so, give him another week to regain his form before using the Eagles star again.

John Brantley, QB, Florida: Brantley is only a Challenge factor in SEC leagues at this point, but even those formats should give him a rest this week. Brantley has been practicing and is cleared to play with some bruised ribs, but a lack of offensive identity and this week's assignment versus a stingy LSU defense mean that he should ride the bench along with mates Jeff Demps and Trey Burton. Florida skill players should be avoided against the tougher SEC defenses until consistent playmakers are identified.

Will Harris is a college football analyst for ESPN.com.