The college football season may be winding down, but the stakes continue to rise after all of the carnage last Saturday. It’s also why – like we do every week – it’s time to get a little gloomy here at FOX Sports and talk about teams facing disaster this weekend.
For those of you who are new to the column, the concept is simple: Which teams could have their season irrevocably altered with a loss Saturday? For some, a loss would mean missing out on the playoff, conference championship or bowl eligibility; for others, it could mean the difference between their coach keeping and losing his job. We also avoid the obvious (we know Alabama losing Chattanooga would be disastrous, so there’s no reason to discuss it here) and try to keep things relative. Since no one expects Indiana to beat Michigan this weekend, it can’t be disastrous if the Hoosiers lose.
But for these six teams, real disaster is lurking. Let’s take a look.
Oklahoma State at TCU (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FS1)
The Cowboys are the College Football Playoff contender no one is talking about, and they could create some very tough decisions for the committee if they win out. Do that, and they’d have head-to-head wins over Oklahoma and West Virginia and would wind up as a one-loss Big 12 champ.
But before they can worry about the Sooners on Dec. 3, the Cowboys have to take care of a pesky TCU club, which is coming off a bye and played its best football a week before that against Baylor. For Oklahoma State to have something to play for in the final week of the regular season, it has to win here.
Florida at LSU (Saturday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
If Oklahoma State is the biggest “College Football Playoff contender no one is talking about,” Florida is – as crazy as it sounds – 1B. With a win here, the Gators would clinch the SEC East title and a trip to Atlanta to face Alabama. They also, in theory, still have an outside shot at the playoff if they were to win out and somehow figure out a way to upset Alabama in the SEC title game.
Of course, if the Gators don’t win here, well, none of that – not a division or conference title, nor a long-shot playoff berth – will be in play. Lose here, and the Gators are playing for nothing more than a visit to another meaningless bowl game around New Year’s.
For Florida, this is the ultimate “push all your chips in the middle” game. It needs to play like its season is on the line because, for all intents and purposes, it is.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
LSU vs. Florida (Saturday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Folks, we’ve got history here with our first-ever “Teams Facing Disaster” double-dip! That’s right, just as much as the Gators are facing disaster with a loss here, so too is LSU.
For the Tigers, the stakes are completely different. There is no division or conference title, or playoff berth on the line. Instead, it’s their head coach Ed Orgeron’s job. As Orgeron continues his march through the SEC, pillaging everyone named not Alabama, he’s in the process of making a compelling case to keep the head job. But the only chance it will happen (and even then, it’s not guaranteed) is to win the next two games.
If he does, then Orgeron would have a sparkling 7-1 record since taking over, with wins over Arkansas, Ole Miss, Florida and Texas A&M. But even one loss – especially to a Gators team against which the Tigers are favored by nearly two touchdowns - would give LSU’s administrators no choice but to look somewhere else for their next head coach.
Texas at Kansas (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Speaking of coaches fighting for their jobs, Charlie Strong and Texas have become a near-weekly honoree on our “Teams Facing Disaster” list. Which, as you might have guessed, isn’t exactly a good thing.
This is a game that Texas needs to not only win but dominate. At 5-5, it would clinch the Longhorns bowl eligibility, but more importantly it would send a message. If they crush Kansas the way they’re supposed to, then for at least one night, Texas can be Texas again and the boo birds will get off Strong’s back. Again, it’s about not only winning, but winning with authority.
Of course, there is the flip side. We won’t even talk about a loss, but even a sloppy win could be disastrous. If that happens, it will once again prove that Strong might not be the right fit for Austin.
Soobum Im-USA TODAY SportsSoobum Im
Texas Tech at Iowa State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Serious question: Is there a team that does less than Texas Tech, yet rarely gets discussed among the most disappointing teams in the sport? Considering that the Red Raiders are headed toward missing bowl eligibility for the second time in three years, I say no. Especially when you remember that Kliff Kingsbury’s record is 23-25 overall, but even worse when you consider he won his first seven games. Since then, he is just 16-25 as a head coach. Point being, it isn’t pretty.
It’s also why Texas Tech not only needs to win this week, but like Texas, needs to dominate against a clearly inferior opponent. Do that and for at least one day, the questions about whether Kingsbury is actually qualified to be a Power 5 head coach will stop. It will also set up the realistic possibility that the Red Raiders can get bowl eligible when they face a struggling Baylor team next week.
Those are the positives. But as with Texas, the negatives are much worse. Even a close win would be disastrous. And can you imagine what might happen with a loss? If you’re Kliff Kingsbury, you better not lose this game.
Clemson at Wake Forest (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET)
We all know what’s at stake for Clemson: Win out, and the Tigers are in the playoff. We also look at the schedule say, “Meh, they’ve got Wake this weekend? Dabo Swinney’s club’s got this.” Especially since they’re coming off a loss last week. If the Tigers are ever going to come out fired up, it’s got to be this weekend, right?
Frankly, I’m not so sure. For one, Wake is a pesky team. Not “good” necessarily, but pesky. The Demon Deacons actually led Louisville at the half last week (before the Cardinals pulled away), and Florida State beat them by only 11 points. Plus, it’s not like Clemson was playing great before its loss last week against Pitt. Five of the Tigers' nine wins this season have come by a touchdown or less.
Therefore, watch out Clemson. A loss here would obviously be disastrous. And it’s not nearly as unlikely as most people think.