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Handicapping The Unbeatens

They fooled us again.

We entered Week Nine of the college football season with ten undefeated teams, yet many of them still had major questions that needed answering.

For whatever reason, a zero in the loss column always enamors the pollsters. It doesn’t matter how you won or who you beat. The rule of thumb: don’t lose and you will be rewarded in the rankings.

Missouri and Texas Tech both glided to 7-0 starts against fairly pedestrian at-best opponents, and were ranked too highly because of it.

Sure, Missouri beat both Georgia and Florida in back-to-back weeks, but both the Bulldogs and the Gators were playing with severely depleted rosters. As nice as those wins were for the Tigers, they were not enough to warrant a No. 5 ranking, which is exactly what they were – before losing in gut-wrenching fashion to South Carolina at home Saturday night.

Texas Tech barely broke a sweat in its first seven games; the Red Raiders’ toughest contest before Saturday was a home tilt against TCU (which is now 3-5). They put up a valiant fight on the road against Oklahoma, but justice was served nonetheless in a 38-30 loss.

Several other unbeaten clubs survived by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin, including Miami, which had to mount a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes to beat Wake Forest at home.

Of the eight undefeated teams left, six are ranked in the top seven of the new AP Poll. Chaos is coming!

Except it probably isn’t.

It’s a tradition as synonymous with late October as carving pumpkins: a handful of unbeaten teams are log-jammed at the top of the BCS rankings, before everything sorts itself out by the end of the season.

I will say…it’s going to take some pretty ridiculous upsets for a few of these teams to fall. Which is why naturally it will happen, and is exactly why we love this sport so damn much.

So let’s take a look at the six undefeated BCS conference teams left and gauge the likelihood that each finishes the season without a loss.

ALABAMA (8-0)

Possible stumbling blocks:

  • Nov. 9 vs LSU
  • Nov. 30 at Auburn
  • SEC Championship Game

Chances of running the table: 80 percent

LSU is trending in the wrong direction after a hot start, but don’t worry about the Tigers being fired up for the Crimson Tide. Keep in mind, the road team has won two straight in that series. There’s a very good chance Auburn will be 10-1 heading into the Iron Bowl, and Alabama’s biggest weakness in recent years has been slowing down the spread offense.  The SEC East is a mess, meaning that as long as Alabama gets to it Atlanta, it should have no problem winning its second straight conference title.

OREGON (8-0)

Possible stumbling blocks:

  • Nov. 7 at Stanford
  • Nov. 29 vs Oregon State
  • Pac-12 Championship Game

Chances of running the table: 75 percent

Stanford is the perfect foil for the Ducks. The Cardinal control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That formula worked last year, at least. You have to think the Ducks will want revenge and should dispatch of Stanford with relative ease, though. Oregon State will turn the Civil War into a shootout, which isn’t the best way to beat the Ducks, but you stranger things have happened in rivalry games like this. UCLA will be looking for revenge in a likely rematch for the Pac-12 title after playing the Ducks evenly for three quarters last week.

 

FLORIDA STATE (7-0)

Possible stumbling blocks:

  • Nov. 2 vs Miami
  • Nov. 30 at Florida
  • ACC Championship Game

Chances of running the table: 85 percent

Of the top three teams in the hunt for the national championship, Florida State has the easiest path to an unbeaten record. Miami is a completely bogus 7-0 after two straight last-minute wins against two mediocre teams in a mediocre conference. We’ve been waiting for the Seminoles to have a letdown performance, but it hasn’t happened yet. Florida doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Jameis Winston and his offense.

 

OHIO STATE (8-0)

Possible stumbling blocks:

  • Nov. 30 at Michigan
  • Big Ten Championship Game

Chances of running the table: 90 percent

For the second straight year, Ohio State will be penalized for dominating an uncharacteristically subpar Big Ten. The season-ending tussle with Michigan is the only hurdle to an unbeaten regular season, but the Wolverines’ defense has more holes than Dennis Rodman’s face. The Buckeyes need two of the three teams ranked ahead of them to lose for any chance at a national title. A signature win against Wisconsin won’t be nearly enough to lift them into the top two otherwise.

 

BAYLOR (7-0)

Possible stumbling blocks:

  • Nov. 7 vs Oklahoma
  • Nov. 16 vs Texas Tech (in Dallas)
  • Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State
  • Dec. 7 vs Texas

Chances of running the table: 35 percent

There isn’t a person in America who wants to see Baylor’s dream season come to an end, but a hellish November slate will do just that. While the Bears should be favored in every game the rest of the way, it’s hard to imagine them withstanding this gauntlet, which features arguably the four best teams in the conference other than themselves. History tells us that Baylor will slip up at some point along the way. My pick to spoil this magical run? Oklahoma.   

 

MIAMI (FL) (7-0)

Possible stumbling blocks:

  • Nov. 2 at Florida State
  • Nov. 9 vs Virginia Tech
  • ACC Championship Game

Chances of running the table: 5 percent

The Hurricanes have hardly any business being included in this list after narrowly escaping with wins against 2-5 North Carolina and 4-4 Wake Forest, but credit the Hurricanes for finding a way to win. Whenever you start crediting teams for “finding a way to win,” though, it usually means the end is near. Miami will have to beat Florida State twice to finish unbeaten. Yeah…no.

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