By Ryan Decker
A few weeks ago I gave you a list of 5 fan bases that shouldn’t have been surprised if their team lost that week.
Along with the honorable mention team, I went 3-3 in those picks. Not bad, but not great either.
Now that the College Football Playoff picture has taken shape, each week becomes more and more important. Top ranked teams can’t afford to take a week off and stumble, and lower ranked teams can’t either, hoping to pounce if a team above them does suffer a setback.
In this week’s edition of “5 fan bases of ranked CFB teams that should expect their team to lose this week” a pair of Top 15 teams are on upset alert, but we’ll start our at the bottom of the rankings.
No. 25 Arkansas vs. No. 24 LSU
If you remember back to Week 8, then No.-17 Arkansas was one of the teams I said was going to lose. Sorry Razorback fans, but you’re team will be handed its fourth loss of the year this week.
Arkansas takes on No. 24 LSU, which, even though is coming off a 10-0 loss to Alabama, has been playing its best football as of late. Arkansas, on the other hand, has played just to a 3-3 record in its last six games, including blowout losses to Texas A&M, Alabama, and Auburn.
Here’s the reasons, though, Razorback fans should be worried:
LSU’s defense is nearly 100-yards better than Arkansas’. The Razorbacks thrive, as most SEC teams do, on running the football, which won’t be easy at all against the Tigers’ Top 20 run defense.
Speaking of the running game, LSU has Leonard Fournette, who (luckily for him) will not be going up against his kryptonite – the Bama defense.
LSU will run the ball well, and will stop Arkansas’ rushing attack.
No. 20 USC @ No. 4 Washington
It’s going to be the latter.
Washington is at home, playing in front of its crowd, its offense led by Jake Browning is much more prolific in terms of scoring (48.3 PPG vs. 32 PPG), and the Huskies also have the better defense.
Plus, the Washington has more to play for.
Sure USC would love to keep the win streak going, but each win Washington earns gets it one step closer to a College Football Playoff birth.
USC fans also know that their team is just 1-3 this season away from their home at the LA Coliseum.
Realistically speaking, the Trojans don’t have much of a chance. Washington is just too good. Jake Browning is too good.
No. 19 Nebraska vs. Minnesota
The Big Ten conference has arguably been the best conference in college football this year.
Michigan and Ohio State have been near the top of the rankings all season long; Wisconsin has played very well; the CFP committee has deemed Penn State the tenth-best team in the nation; and Nebraska has been featured in the Top 25 rankings for much of the season, and was considered a dark horse pick through the end of October.
Maybe the best team in the sport’s best conference that no one is talking about is the team that Nebraska has to play this week – Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers have won each of their last four games and are playing some of their best football at the right time. The Cornhuskers, though, have lost each of their last two contests, including a 62-3 shellacking last week against the Buckeyes.
Here’s why Nebraska fans should brace themselves:
The two teams, statistically, are pretty even. Nebraska’s offense gets a slight edge in terms of yardage, but Minnesota scores at a better rate and the Gophers’ defense, particularly against the run, is better.
This is another reason.
Even though this game is at home for the Cornhuskers, a loss like the one they suffered last week may be hard to rebound from. Minnesota has also taken two of the last three meetings, including the last time the two teams played in Lincoln.
Plus, it remains unclear if Nebraska starting QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. will play this weekend after being knocked out of last week’s game. Another slow start offensively for Nebraksa could easily translate into its third-straight loss.
No. 16 West Virginia @ Texas
West Virginia suffered its first loss of the season two weeks ago against Oklahoma St. After an easy win over lowly Kansas last weekend, the Mountaineers travel to Austin to take on a Texas team that has gotten better since the beginning of the season.
Texas may just be 3-2 in its last five games, but the two losses came by a combined eight points.
A game between a pair of Big 12 Conference opponents normally won’t be decided by which team runs the football the best.
This hasn’t been your normal season.
West Virginia will walk into Darrel K. Royal Stadium with it’s three-headed monster of running backs not exactly at 100-percent. Rushel Shell, the Mountaineers leading rusher, will be a game-time decision, and Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy have been dealing with nagging injuries over the past few games, but have still been effective when called upon.
On the other side, Texas’ lead back D’Onta Foreman is also having an extremely impressive season.
He’s rushed for at least 120 yards in every game he’s played in, and over the last two weeks has rushed for a combined 591 yards while scoring three times.
Whichever defense stops the run better will win this game. Even though WVU’s defense as a unit is better, no one has been able to stop Foreman If he’s able to but open a couple of big plays, it could be a long day for the Mountaineers in Austin.
No. 10 Penn State @ Indiana
The Nittany Lions have won five in a row since losing handedly to Michigan in their fourth game of the year.
Although a trip to the College Football playoff appears out of the question, the Nittany Lions best finish to a season since 2009 is still possible.
In order to accomplish that, though, they have to first get past Indiana.
Indiana hasn’t had a problem racking up a lot of yards, but where it has struggled is getting the in the end zone to put points up on the board.
So why tell Penn State fans to be weary of Hoosiers?
Five words: Trap game on the road.
Games like this are why the term “trap game” exists.
Penn State is riding high. Indiana has been struggling all season. It’s a noon game, so maybe Penn State doesn’t get revved up like it would for a game under the lights or a game at home.
With a win, Indiana will become bowl eligible for the second straight year – something that hasn’t been done since 1990-91.