Written by: David Parks – Staff Writing Intern (@_Parskie)
Arkansas +7 vs. LSU
Not sure there’s a worse spot for a team this weekend than the one LSU finds itself in.
- A) They’re on the road against one of their biggest rivals.
- B) They’re coming off one of, if not the most physical game played all year
- C) Recent history suggests this is an unenviable spot for the Tigers.
Let’s delve into points B and C a little deeper.
Last week’s slugfest against Alabama would take a toll on any team, but when looking further at the game – specifically the second half – the red flags are there for LSU, especially on defense.
Upon first glance at the time of possession, we see that Alabama finished with a 33:55-26:05 advantage. That’s a fairly sizable gap, but almost not that uncommon. What really stuck out was the second half numbers.
In the second half alone, the Tide controlled the ball for an astounding 22:17 out of a possible 30:00, while running 41 plays compared to just 18 plays for LSU. It doesn’t matter what teams are involved – if one team’s defense is on the field for that long, you can bet there will be some residual effects lingering the following week.
Speaking of the following week, the last two years LSU has played Bama they’ve played Arkansas the following week. The result? Two 17-point losses, including a 17-0 shutout in Fayetville in 2014.
Since Bielema arrived at Arkansas he’s 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS against LSU. We saw what the Hawgs can do to a team with a good defense and pedestrian offense against Florida and the result wasn’t pretty. This almost seems too good to be true, but a touchdown at home vs. a team that’s coming off a tough, physical and emotional loss? I’ll ride with that everytime.
Final: Arkansas 20 LSU 13
Texas -2 vs. West Virginia
In another example of just how meaningless polls are, West Virginia, the tenth ranked team in the newest coaches poll, is an underdog to unranked Texas.
But fear not, we here at the Grandstand don’t cater to W-L records. Which is why we ranked Texas slightly above West Virginia in this week’s edition of the power rankings.
I hate when people say, “this might be the most important game in _______ tenure at _______,” but alas – this may be Charlie Strong’s most important game as head coach of the Longhorns.
A loss here means Texas will finish 7-5 at best, and it’s hard to envision the Texas brass accepting that. A win however, keeps the possibility for an 8-4 regular season alive. Seeing as that would represent a three-win increase, it’d be awfully hard for Texas to fire Strong after just three years given his recent results and given what he walked into.
The best player that people are finally talking about is D’Onta Foreman. Over his last two games, he’s averaging 295.5 ypg with five touchdowns. And at 6-1, 249 pounds, he’s not a fun person to tackle for anyone – especially as the game wears on into the third and fourth quarters.
West Virginia is a solid team, but I’m still skeptical about backing them on the road. This season they’re 1-2 in true road games, with their one win being against hapless Texas Tech. Stretching back to last year, the Mountaineers are 2-6 in true conference road games. Their wins? The previously mentioned Red Raiders and Kansas last year.
Although their rush defense isn’t bad (47th nationally in ypg), it’s a bit misleading considering most of the teams on their schedule run some version of the air raid offense. The one team that did have success running? BYU, who averaged 7 ypc on 40 attempts earlier in the year against WVU.
I like this spot for Texas. They’ve won three out of four, and with just Kansas and TCU remaining after this week, I believe the players are out to prove that Coach Strong is the man for the job (for at least another year).
Final: Texas 31 West Virginia 26
USC +8.5 at Washington
Ranking West Virginia at ten is bad. Completely leaving out USC in the latest Coaches Poll? Absurdity.
Outside of maybe Auburn, there’s no hotter team in America right now than USC. Now, to be fair, they haven’t exactly played murderer’s row. Since Sam Darnold took over as starter, the Trojans have played:
Two of those teams are legit (hopefully you can figure out which ones they are), and USC should’ve beaten them both. Remember, Utah was Darnold’s first career start and the Trojans could have (and probably should have) won at Utah on a weeknight.
On the other side of the coin lies Washington. A week after being ranked fifth in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, the Huskies made sure to pour it on against Cal to the tune of 66 points.
There’s no question Washington will present the stiffest test to date for the young Darnold. But one thing that’s stuck out about USC in the last month plus is their commitment to running the ball.
Starting with the Utah game, these are USC’s carries/yards in each game:
33-157 (Arizona State)
If you’re a USC fan, you have to be encouraged by that. There’s almost no chance Washington will allow the types of numbers that Zona, Cal or Oregon did, but a young quarterback’s best friend? A strong, consistent running game.
I’m still not entirely ready to buy into Washington. Are they good? Absolutely. Are they great? Still not sure. Remember – everyone elevated Washington after they crushed Stanford. As we’ve seen, this year’s Stanford isn’t the same in recent years. The win at Utah was damn impressive, but I can’t get that garbage call out of my mind that helped them on that punt return late in the game.
In the end I think Chris Petersen trumps Clay Helton – but I’m still not quite ready to lay more than a touchdown with this Husky team against what I consider a very good opponent.
Final: Washington 34 USC 31