College Football Handicapping: What The Future Holds for Unbeaten Teams
by Trevor Whenham - 10/28/2009
There are seven unbeaten teams remaining in college football. We know for sure that there won't be that many by the end of the season - Alabama and Florida will play in the SEC Championship Game if they don't lose first. But how about the rest? Here's a look at each of the teams, their chances of staying undefeated, and what an undefeated season would likely do for them:
Florida - The Gators absolutely should finish the season undefeated. Their two toughest remaining games are against Georgia and South Carolina - two imperfect teams that they beat by a combined score of 105-16 last year. Two of the other three remaining games are total mismatches, and the third, against Florida State, is against a team in turmoil. No sweat, or at least it would be if the Gators were playing like the Gators. They are the most talented team in the country on paper, but their offense has been lousy and their Heisman winning, all-World QB seems to have forgotten how to play football. It isn't pretty, but they still probably have enough to get it done - at least until the SEC Championship. Obviously, the Gators totally control their own destiny - it doesn't matter what any other team does as long as they keep winning.
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Alabama - The Tide also control their own fate, and have also started to raise concerns. They played a terrible game against Tennessee, and only won thanks to some incredibly lucky breaks. They are incredibly fierce on defense, but offensively they just haven't flexed their muscles consistently beyond the running of Mark Ingram, and it's not entirely clear that they have muscles to flex. They have just four games left, and only two that are a real challenge - this coming week against LSU, and at Auburn to end the season. Both versions of the Tigers are talented and dangerous, but wildly inconsistent. If all three teams are at their best then Alabama will win both handily.
Texas - A couple of weeks ago it was tempting to write off the Longhorns. Now they might be the best team in the country. That's how bizarre and uneven this college football season has been. Their recipe for success hasn't been to complex - despite the struggles of Colt McCoy they are scoring the most points per game in the country, and have allowed the second fewest yards per game in the country as well. At the risk of oversimplifying things, if this 7-0 team can win at Oklahoma State on Saturday then they are going to be undefeated. The Cowboys a re a big test, but the rest of the games are very winnable. If Texas does make it through unscathed, and I think that they will, then they are all but a lock for the BCS National Championship Game. They would have to win ugly to fall out of the eventual top two.
Iowa - Here's the biggest surprise from this group. The Hawkeyes haven't overwhelmed teams, but they just keep winning. It has been far from pretty, though - they barely scraped by Arkansas State of all teams, they needed overtime to get past a flawed Michigan team, and they only beat Michigan State with a miraculous last-second TD pass. They all count, though. Three of their remaining four - at home against Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota - should definitely be wins. That leaves a major test - at Ohio State. Iowa could win it, but I don't know that they will. If they did and were to finish the Big Ten campaign undefeated they would need a lot of help to make the Championship game - losses by two of the three teams ahead of them on this list at least. It could happen, but they are burdened by playing in a conference that is perceived as weak this year, so it will be tough.
Cincinnati - I hope people realize that the Bearcats are for real - a tough win at Oregon State and an overwhelming one at South Florida should be proof of that. The Big East has been better than everyone thought it was going to be - the conference had no ranked teams heading into the season, but has three good ones now. Unfortunately for the Bearcats they still have to play those other two ranked teams, and Pitt will be at home. Given the injury to QB Tony Pike the team will have to be very lucky, and play up to their full potential as well, if they want to win out. It's probably the longest shot of these five teams, but I wouldn't bet against it - this is a tough, well-coached team that has the experience of last year to fall back on. Given the toughness of their remaining games, and the relative strength of Big East compared to the Big Ten, winning out might be enough to get them past an unbeaten Iowa in the BCS standings. I'm not convinced, though, that they would get past an 11-1 USC team. That means that they need a lot of teams to lose games if they want to become the most improbable national champions ever.
TCU - After a total dismantling of BYU last week, the Horned Frogs are in the national spotlight. There is a good chance that they will stay there as well - with the possible exception of a home game against Utah, the rest of the season is a total cake walk for them. Utah will be a test, but TCU should be able to win that one as well. TCU is currently ahead of Boise State, and as long as they keep winning and beat Utah reasonably convincingly then there is no reason that they shouldn't stay there. The BCS National Championship Game? It would take a freaking miracle. They would need every team on this list plus USC to lose once, and two losses from Alabama, Florida, and Texas would help, too. It probably isn't going to happen, but they knew that coming in. The chance to play in a BCS game and win big, which they could do with their terrifying defense, is their goal.
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Boise State - It's as simple as this - Boise State isn't going to lose. Nevada is their only game that is remotely a contest, and the Wolf Pack isn't playing nearly well enough right now to win that game. The Broncos are learning the hard way, though, that you don't getting rewarded for beating a bunch of patsies. Their win over Oregon looks better every week, but that's the only game of note all season. To even make the BCS they need TCU to lose. To go all the way, well, that's not going to happen.