Just 16 teams remain undefeated five weeks through the college football season. Some, like Ohio State and Alabama, aren’t particularly surprising. Others, like Maryland and West Virginia, have already overachieved a bit to make it this far into the year without loss.
By the end of last year’s regular season, only two squads remained unbeaten: Clemson and Iowa. So which of this year’s 16 remaining undefeated teams could head into conference championship week with an unblemished record? SI’s college football experts made their picks.
Andy Staples: Clemson
With Florida State having a down year, Clemson’s trip to Tallahassee looks less dicey than usual. The team that comes out of the ACC Coastal—whether that's North Carolina, Miami or Virginia Tech—could be a challenge, but no one left on the Tigers' schedule is as tough as Louisville.
Lindsay Schnell: Alabama
I'm not a betting woman, but this is easy money: I'll take the Crimson Tide for $800, Alex.
Brian Hamilton: Clemson
This comes down to one game, really: A road trip to Florida State on Oct. 29. The Tigers may be flawed, and they may not be strictly speaking the best team in the country, but they're going to be favored substantially in every other game they play. And who knows what the mental state of the Seminoles will be after another three weeks? Most of the other current undefeated teams have at least two truly nerve-wracking tests before them. Houston only has one...but that one is Louisville and Lamar Jackson on a short week. Clemson just has less in the way than anyone else.
Joan Niesen: Alabama
As tempted as I am to go with Clemson here, I have to pick Alabama. Sure, playing at Arkansas and at Tennessee the next two Saturdays is no cakewalk, but getting their two toughest remaining games out of the way pronto—before there's any chance of getting fatigued or injuries piling up—is a bonus for the Tide. After Oct. 15, Alabama should cruise, and I still think Florida State in Tallahassee will be at least a bit of a challenge for Dabo and Co.
Colin Becht: Alabama
For the first time since 2009, the Crimson Tide will go undefeated, becoming the first team to win the College Football Playoff with a 15–0 record. This year’s defense, which has allowed just 4.22 yards per play, is up there with Nick Saban’s best units. The offense has been a bit inconsistent but has still managed to score at least 34 points in every game, including 48 or more in three of Alabama’s five wins. If the Tide were going to lose this season, it would have happened early, while offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was still figuring out how to best utilize true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and the rushing attack was adjusting to the loss of Derrick Henry. That’s why Ole Miss had the best shot. Now that the Tide survived that test, no one will stop them.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Ohio State
It’s a race between the Buckeyes and Michigan at this point, and I think Ohio State is more equipped to win the game once they meet in November. The Wolverines' defense is one of the most fearsome units in the nation and will keep them in every game, but I’ll take J.T. Barrett over Wilton Speight at quarterback as well the Buckeyes’ multi-pronged offense. Urban Meyer has proved again that he might be the finest program architect in the game, and he has a realistic shot of completing a second undefeated season in just his fifth year in charge of Ohio State.
Chris Johnson: Clemson
I wouldn't have chosen the Tigers before the season because I expected Florida State to run the table (including a win over Clemson in Tallahassee on Oct. 29) and make the playoff. But it's clear the Seminoles aren't as good as expected. If Clemson can fend off the same Louisville team that tore Florida State to shreds a few weeks ago, it can beat the Seminoles on the road. If the Tigers manage that, finishing undefeated shouldn't be that hard. Their only remaining road game after Florida State is at Wake Forest.
Ben Estes: Ohio State
The combination of having a freshman quarterback and having to navigate the always-tough SEC means there’s a decent chance Alabama slips up, and the weirdness of the Pac-12 will make it tough for Washington to avoid a loss. Clemson has looked vulnerable for most of the season, and I foresee Houston losing to Louisville. Meanwhile, Ohio State has looked fantastic all year, and it gets to play its only truly scary remaining opponent, Michigan, at home. (And oh yeah, the Buckeyes won that game in a blowout last season.)