Roundtable: Which team appears most capable of going undefeated?
There may be no dominant teams in college football this season, but there are a bunch of really good ones, some of which have yet to lose. From Big Ten power Ohio State to MAC member Toledo, the squads who have vanquished everything in their path so far will be tested between now and the end of the season. Which stands the best chance of reaching the finish line with an unblemished record? SI.com’s college football writers make their picks:
Andy Staples: Ohio State
I'm not sure anyone will finish undefeated, but right now I'd still have to guess Ohio State. The Buckeyes have so much talent. If they do eventually put it all together, they can roll through the remainder of their schedule.
Pete Thamel: Houston or Toledo
My best guesses at an undefeated team are either Houston or Toledo. They are the best remaining undefeated teams in the American and MAC. I don't see any major conference teams going undefeated. All of them are too flawed.
Brian Hamilton: Clemson
This seems less an issue of who's good enough and more an issue of how feeble the other teams on the schedule are. That's a problem for any of the unbeatens in the Pac-12 and Big 12. And, to some extent, the Big Ten, given the collision courses that Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa are all on. Which brings us to the ACC and AAC, and Clemson and Houston.
The Cougars get Memphis, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt at home with no terrifically formidable road games left. Tom Herman's crew can control games, ranking seventh nationally with 305.8 rushing yards per game. The Tigers, meanwhile, have two medium tests (at Miami and at N.C. State) and one major test (Florida State), and the Seminoles visit Death Valley. Clemson also has a top 25 defense that makes impact plays (third nationally with 9.3 tackles for loss per game) and gets off the field (fifth nationally in allowing just a 22.4% conversion rate on third down). Dabo Swinney may not coach the most prolific, least erratic team in the country, but it looks like he has enough talent and defensive reliability to navigate the cleanest path to 12-0.
Ben Glicksman: Ohio State
Sure, the Buckeyes have looked mediocre in recent wins over Indiana (34–27), Western Michigan (38–12) and Northern Illinois (20–13). Urban Meyer’s team still boasts tons more talent than any opponent on its schedule, and its remaining slate—with the exception of late-November clashes with Michigan State and Michigan—appears exceedingly manageable. Ohio State fixed its issues by the time it mattered most last season. It’s very possible it could do the same in 2015.
Colin Becht: Ohio State
The Buckeyes have looked beatable in several of their first five games, but they're still the best bet to finish the regular season undefeated. The talent hasn't gone anywhere; it's just taken more time than expected to figure out how to deploy it now that offensive coordinator Tom Herman is gone. Urban Meyer is a master in the art of motivation, so expect him to use Ohio State's early-season sloppiness as a means of driving his players to improve their focus. The Buckeyes should only get stronger as the season goes on, and they don't face a serious threat until Michigan State visits on Nov. 21.
Chris Johnson: Clemson
If “Clemsoning” isn’t dead, it’s certainly nearing its expiration date. It’s been a while since the Tigers completely flopped in a game they were expected to win handily. This is important to note because Clemson’s schedule is filled with unranked teams who seemingly don’t pose big threats: Boston College (Oct. 17), Miami (Oct. 24), NC State (Oct. 31), Syracuse (Nov. 14), Wake Forest (Nov. 21) and South Carolina (Nov. 28). One of those squads may push the Tigers, but they’re good enough to beat all of them by double digits. There’s one other thing Clemson must do to go the distance with a perfect record—beat Florida State in Death Valley (Nov. 7).
Lindsay Schnell: Baylor
Say what you want about the Bears not playing anyone in non-conference to prep them for real opponents, but here's my spin on that: They're used to winning. They're used to BLOWING PEOPLE OUT. You can never undervalue the psychological edge in sports, and Baylor thinks it's always supposed to come out on top. Also, they've stayed healthy (knock on wood so I don't jinx you, Baylor fans) and what's quickly becoming their toughest league game (vs. Oklahoma) is at home. Seth Russell is only going to get better, and that defensive line is legit.
Ben Estes: Ohio State
I’m tempted to pick Clemson, but I don’t think the Tigers have yet fully exorcised themselves of their “Clemsoning” ways. So instead I’m going with the Buckeyes. Though they’ve hardly played like the best team in the country since Week 1, their opponent most weeks in the Big Ten won’t be good enough to beat them anyway. Ohio State really only has two tough games left. It gets to play Michigan State—which hasn’t exactly looked outstanding itself) at home—and while Michigan will be tough, OSU is still clearly the more talented team. Urban Meyer will be able to figure things out on offense enough for the Buckeyes to run the table, even if they end up a rather uninspiring undefeated team.
Zac Ellis: Iowa
I'm surprised my computer didn't burst into flames as I wrote this. I'm not picking Iowa because it's the best team in the country. I'm picking Iowa because of its schedule. The Hawkeyes don't play Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan, and road games against Northwestern and Indiana are the biggest remaining obstacles. Plus, they've already beaten reigning Big Ten West champ Wisconsin. Iowa is 5-0 and can't be completely ignored until it proves otherwise.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Florida State
It’s a crazy idea … until you look at the schedule. The Seminoles play three difficult games the rest of the season (at Georgia Tech, at Clemson, at Florida). Those are also their last three road games of the season. If Everett Golson’s play steadily improves, Dalvin Cook remains healthy and the defense continues its strong start to the season, the ‘Noles may be the unlikeliest, and most maddening, addition to the College Football Playoff field. With Pac-12 and SEC teams beating one another on a weekly basis, Florida State stands a reasonable chance to finish the season undefeated.