Monday, October 21, 2013

Perfection Possibilities

By Andrew Jones

Teams are lining up to see if they can make it to the end of the NCAA football season unscathed. Ten teams are in the hunt for prized undefeated status and the second half of the season will prove rather interesting indeed with so many teams remaining with a zero in the loss column. Let's take a look at the remaining undefeated teams and assess their chances on staying that way through the end of the regular season (not counting conference championship games).

Alabama: 55% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

When I looked at Alabama's schedule at the beginning of the year, I thought Texas A&M and LSU would be the big tests. A&M proved to be a test as the Crimson Tide won 49-42, allowing more than 40 points for the first time since 2007. What's miraculous is that despite A&M's 42 points, Alabama's defense is still ranked number one in the country allowing 11.3 points per game (before Saturday's games). While LSU will still be a challenge for the Crimson Tide, Alabama's last game of the regular season against Auburn seems to grow into a bigger challenge every week. This week Auburn beat Texas A&M in a shootout. If Auburn stays hot that could be a rather unexpected tough test for the Crimson Tide.

Oregon: 35% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

The Ducks beat Washington handily, but they still have to face the UCLA Bruins and win at Stanford, neither of which is a simple task. However, Stanford is a Thursday game and Oregon will have a few extra days to prepare for that game. Somebody was smart when they put that schedule together. Stanford has the same luxury, but that happens. Add to that a very losable game to a good Oregon State team on November 29 to close out the regular season and the Ducks have a typical tough schedule down the stretch. Of course they can do it, but I think they'll probably drop one along the way.

Ohio State: 70% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

With a relatively weak Big Ten, it's not a giant surprise the Buckeyes have been able to take care of business thus far. At arch-rival Michigan on November 30 will be the only real test before the Big Ten Championship game.

Florida State: 75% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

It's not often you see the final score between two top 25 teams turn out to be 63-0. That's what Florida State did to Maryland two Saturdays ago. And it's not often you see a matchup between two top five teams with a score as lopsided as 51-14 That's what the Seminoles did at Clemson. Florida State is seriously something special. They still have Miami and Florida on the schedule, but I think the Seminoles have a great shot at an undefeated run and voters will have a hard time refusing them a national title shot if they are undefeated.

Miami: 5% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

The Hurricanes' only game of difficulty thus far this year was at home versus an overrated Florida team. Last weekend they needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat the dismal Tar Heels of North Carolina. I think the Hurricanes are soon to be removed from the ranks of the undefeated teams. In two weeks, they play at Florida State and in three weeks they play at home vs. Virginia Tech. I don't see them coming out of those two games with two wins ... or even one win.

Baylor: 3% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

Is there a more exciting team in college football than the Baylor Bears? They average over 400 yards passing and over 300 yards rushing a game. Before Saturday's games, they were also ranked 17 in the country in defense. Granted, Baylor hasn't played any ranked opponents yet, but they're still awfully exciting. Their schedule down the stretch is too tough to expect a clean run. If they can go 3-3 through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas I think Baylor will be doing all right.

Missouri: 20% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

If you saw this coming, you're a liar. The Tigers have been downright impressive. I think most college football fans expected Missouri to fold once they hit the heart of their SEC schedule, but thus far, they've beaten Georgia (and sent them into a tailspin of oblivion) and Florida. Next week they are at home versus South Carolina (who is coming off of a loss). If they get through the Gamecocks, they have some middle of the road SEC teams followed by Texas A&M in the final game of the regular season. Can the Tigers take the Aggies in a shootout? They took care of a pass-happy Georgia team. It could happen. But they'd never beat Alabama in the SEC Championship…would they?

Texas Tech: less than 1% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

Perhaps the five toughest games on Texas Tech's schedule are their final five games of the season: at Oklahoma; home vs. Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Baylor' and finally at Texas. If they can win two of those games that will probably be a success, all five is all but impossible.

Fresno State: 15% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

It's perhaps a miracle that the Bulldogs are undefeated right now. Thinking they'll make it through the season undefeated has to be ridiculous, doesn't it? Fresno State opened the season with a thriller win over Rutgers in overtime. They squeaked a win over Boise State, 41-40. They almost lost at Hawaii to a fantastically terrible team. What's left besides a handful of similarly mediocre teams? If Fresno State does manage to escape the season undefeated, they shouldn't receive too much credit. Their schedule is about as boring as possible.

Northern Illinois: 55% chance to go undefeated in the regular season

The Huskies made an impression in 2012 and found themselves getting destroyed by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Last year's results have made voters a bit hesitant to put Northern Illinois in a position to have another favorable bowl game if they go undefeated. But their chances of doing that are pretty good. Their only true test is at home vs. Ball State on November 13. At Toledo the following week might not be the easiest game in the world, but the Huskies' other three games are very close to the easiest games in the world: Eastern Michigan, Massachusetts, and Western Michigan.

In the end, I'd expect two or three teams to reach the end of the regular season undefeated. Hopefully there are two obvious choices for the last National Championship Game without a playoff system.

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