When Will the Remaining Unbeatens Lose?


Is Florida State the team most likely to get through the regular season undefeated? Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Call it Smackdown Saturday. The teams that now make up the top five in both the AP and Coaches Polls—Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, and Baylor—won by scores of 45-10, 42-14, 49-17, 63-14, and 59-14. It’s nothing new, as those five schools are among the top six in margin of victory this season, but this was the first time they all displayed such dominance on the same day.

Each playing against conference opponents, only Oregon needed to show up for the second half (understandable since the Ducks played then-No. 12 UCLA). In the first quarter, Florida State had more points (35) than North Carolina State had yards (32). Ohio State hadn’t won by more than 10 in the last three games and came out intent on making a statement. Urban Meyer challenged a spot in the final minute of the third quarter with his team up 56-7.

These five teams are among the eight still unbeaten in college football. When can we expect them to lose?

Miami: Saturday. That’s when the Hurricanes visit Florida State. Although AP sportswriter Tim Reynolds points out how competitive this rivalry has been in recent years (see the “Closer Than Close” section), Miami is a 22-point underdog.

Baylor: Sometime in its next three games. Baylor is off next weekend and then faces Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. As awesome as the Bears have been, the competition has been weak. Consider the average computer ranking of Baylor’s opponents: 57, 75, 75, 65, 106, and 95.* There’s a good chance the Bears will drop one of these tough Big 12 games.

*Averages of all BCS computer rankings except the Colley Matrix rankings, which were not updated at the time this article was written. One of Baylor’s opponents, Wofford, is not listed as they are an FCS team and therefore not ranked by all computers.

Oregon: Their next game? The Ducks play at Stanford on Nov. 7. Oregon is an early 10-point favorite, but the stout Cardinal defense could slow them down like they did last year. Should Oregon beat Stanford, getting through the Utah/Arizona/Oregon State/Pac-12 championship game unscathed is no guarantee.

Alabama: Their next game? It’s never wise to pick against Alabama, but like Oregon, it faces a big challenge in its next game: LSU, after a bye this weekend. The Iron Bowl won’t be easy either.

Ohio State: In the national championship? Purdue and Illinois won’t pose a threat. Indiana and Michigan have shown flashes but neither seems to be on the Buckeyes’ level.

Florida State: Never? If Florida State takes care of Miami, it’s smooth sailing until the regular season finale against Florida, though does anyone think the Gators can keep up with the ’Noles?

We will not head to bowl season with five undefeated teams from major conferences. I’m guessing the total number will shrink to three or four by the time we wake up on Nov. 10. This elite group of teams has yet to be upset, but that’s about to change. As for the two non-BCS unbeatens, I’ve written about them before. Neither Northern Illinois (which still has to play the better MAC teams) nor Fresno State (which squeaked out another win on Saturday) is a threat to reach the national championship.

What happened to Boise? Often among the unbeatens this time of year, Boise State lost to BYU on Friday to fall to 5-3. The loss broke Boise’s 50-game winning streak in the month of October.

Oct 25, 2013; Provo, UT, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Grant Hedrick (9) is tackled by Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Mike Hague (32) during the second half at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Hague was injured on the play. Brigham Young won 37-20. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first time Boise has three regular season losses since 2005, the year before Chris Petersen took over as head coach. What’s gone wrong? Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman points to injuries. Grant Hedrick made his first career start at quarterback against BYU in place of the injured Joe Southwick. And yet, the Broncos are still tied atop their division of the Mountain West with Utah State, a team they already beat. While the season has gone far worse than we’ve become accustomed to, it can still be salvaged.

Northwestern’s plummet: Remember when Northwestern was 4-0, No. 16 in the country, and hosting Ohio State and ESPN’s College GameDay in the Game of the Week? Well, the Wildcats lost that game and the three since, most recently in overtime to Iowa. Northwestern’s offense has sputtered since the Ohio State game.

Not enough football: There were only four Big Ten games this weekend. Since this season started in August, and the conference recently extended the season past Thanksgiving, it allowed for two bye weeks. Other conferences that go beyond Thanksgiving are facing the same issue and will again next year. The bottom line: It’s no fun when your team doesn’t play.