While no one is quite sure how it’s possible, we’re now in Week 10 of the college football season. As the season winds down, the pressure continues to get higher each Saturday. So it's time for our weekly list – seven teams facing disaster this week.
(Reminder: Disaster means something different for every team -- getting kocked out of the playoff picture, being eliminated from conference title contention, missing bowl eligibility or simple losing respectability. We'll also try to avoid the obvious.)
UCLA at Colorado (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, FS1)
This whole season has been a disaster for the Bruins, and this week that disaster hit DEFCON 5 as quarterback Josh Rosen will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. The question now is can they win one for the Gipper -- in this case their star QB?
UCLA needs to win much more than one -- it needs three of the next four just to get bowl eligible. With a red-hot USC looming in two weeks, a victory over the Trojans doesn’t seem likely. Therefore, beating Colorado is almost a must if the Bruins want any chance of playing during the holidays.
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Louisville at Boston College (Saturday, Noon ET)
We all know that Louisville losing to Boston College would be disastrous, but this goes a step further: winning in ugly fashion could be bad for the Cardinals, too.
When the first playoff rankings were released on Tuesday, Louisville sat at No. 7, which as my colleague Stewart Mandel pointed out, was an awful starting point for Bobby Petrino’s club. With no marquee games left on the schedule, Louisville doesn’t have to just win here, but win big to make some noise with the playoff committee.
From here on out, it’s not just about winning for Louisville. It’s winning in style.
Wisconsin at Northwestern (Saturday, Noon ET)
The Badgers have already clinched bowl eligibility, and frankly are probably out of the playoff chase. But at 6-2 they can still win the Big Ten West and play spoiler for either Michigan or Ohio State in the conference championship game.
For that to happen, Nebraska has to lose at least one more game, and secondly, Wisconsin has to win out. The Cornhuskers go to Ohio State Saturday, so the first part seems likely. The second part also seems likely -- if the Badgers can get by Northwestern this weekend.
Still, don’t sleep on the Wildcats, who have won four of six games since an 0-2 start. Like the Badgers, Pat Fitzgerald’s club is playing for something bigger than just this game; they’re trying to get bowl eligible. It also means that despite their 4-4 record, Northwestern will be no walk over for the Badgers.
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Baylor vs. TCU (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
While folks wanted to jump to all sorts of conclusions following Baylor’s last-second loss to Texas last week, the truth is they still have plenty to play for. With games against Oklahoma (next weekend) and West Virginia remaining, the Bears control their own destiny in the Big 12 title chase. Win out, and they’re champs. I’m also not ready to rule them out of the playoff race with so much football left to be played.
So yeah, there’s a lot on the line for Baylor, and it starts Saturday against a struggling TCU team. Beat them, and it could set up a winner-take-the-Big 12 scenario next week. Lose, and the Bears will almost certainly be playing for little more than bowl positioning from here on out.
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Penn State vs. Iowa (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Penn State is the opposite of most teams on this list; their season hasn’t been a disaster, but after a win over Ohio State two weeks ago, a dream beyond everyone’s wildest imagination. That dream could include a Big Ten East title and trip to the conference championship game if the cards break right.
Penn State would need Michigan to lose twice from here on out and also win their last four-regular season games. It's not likely, but their final three games are against Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State, who have a combined 8-16 record.
The first step is getting by Iowa this weekend, and then Penn State fans can dream a little about a trip to Indianapolis in the first weekend in December.
The only thing that could be worse? Losing to a talented and red-hot Kentucky team Saturday night in Lexington. Understand the Wildcats are quietly one of the hottest teams in college football (their only loss in their last five games was at Alabama), but still, Georgia simply cannot lose to Kentucky in football, ever.
This is an absolute must-win game for the Bulldogs.