- Which of college football's 14 remaining unbeaten FBS teams will suffer their first loss before the end of October?
Just a few weeks ago, there were 34 undefeated teams in the FBS. Due to the craziness of college football, that list has been trimmed to 14 entering this weekend.
Every team outside of Alabama has been shown to have considerable flaws, and the teams that have not yet lost are in that position due to numerous circumstances, including, for some, creampuff schedules.
By the end of this month, more frauds will be exposed, leaving only a handful of teams that have a great shot at entering championship week with a chance to make the playoff.
Here are the seven teams that won’t make it out of October unscathed.
The thought that Oklahoma’s defense, notorious for getting burned lately, would be much improved hasn’t rang true through the Sooners’ first five games, despite the hyperbole from defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Here are the facts: The defense is allowing opponents to convert 43% of their third downs, 19 opposing plays have gone for 20 yards or more and of the 16 times opponents have gotten into Oklahoma's red zone, they have scored each time.
Even more evidence: Iowa State, which averages only 17 points a game, scored a season-high 27 on the Sooners. Baylor, who didn’t run more than 74 plays in its previous four games, ran 101 last Saturday and put up 493 total yards.
Kyler Murray and the offense can only do so much, but for the Sooners to make it out of the Big 12 and compete for a spot in the playoff, the defense must take it upon itself to shut teams down in critical situations and not hope the offense will score every time it gets the ball.
The Wildcats are by far the surprise story in the SEC. But the question must be asked: What happens when stud running back Benny Snell gets shut down and the defense can’t contain a high-powered offense? The answer is Kentucky will turn into the Kentucky of old, derailing a potentially special season.
Snell is third in the NCAA in rushing yards and leads the nation in carries, meaning Kentucky is putting its fortunes squarely on the junior’s back. This concept has worked so far, including in surprise victories over Florida and Mississippi State.
Moving forward, it will be the defense that will be the difference. Led by senior linebacker Josh Allen, who leads the SEC in sacks and is tied for the national lead in tackles for loss, it has been outstanding. But the potential pitfall is the schedule. The Wildcats must travel to Texas A&M on Saturday and have a trap game at the end of the month with Missouri. Their SEC East hopes rest with a game against Georgia the following week, one that's in Lexington.
Those who haven’t stayed up late at night to watch the Buffaloes are missing out on the Steven Montez–Laviska Shenault Jr. combination that has tortured defenses all season.
A whopping 40% of Montez’s completed passes have gone to Shenault, and it is paying dividends as the receiver is averaging more than 15 yards per catch and already has four catches of over 40 yards or more.
What will continue to keep the Buffaloes in games is protecting the ball (only four turnovers in four games), the efficiency of Montez and the re-emergence of running back Travon McMillian, a transfer from Virginia Tech who rushed for 2,152 yards with the Hokies.
But there is caution, because Colorado's victories in its best start in 20 years have been against three teams that are winless and a lower-tier Group of Five team.
The test for the Buffs will be two crucial road trips this month: at USC, a team they have never beaten, and at Washington. Even if they lose both of those games, the Pac-12 South will still up for grabs and the Buffaloes could make their second conference championship appearance in the last three years.
In recent years, LSU's anemic passing game has kept them from consistent success and championship aspirations. Despite the Tigers' best efforts in sending numerous offensive players to the NFL over the past decade, their inability to complete a forward pass led to an angry fan base and sent Les Miles unceremoniously packing.
Enter Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow, who was supposed to be the savior and complement to an always stingy defense. Through the first four games, Burrow completed only 49% of his passes, but the Tigers won each of those games, including a road contest at Auburn. Burrow then had his best game of the season in Week 5 against Ole Miss, which has one of the nation’s worst defenses. Burrow set season highs in completions, yards per attempt, yards and touchdowns.
But the Tigers' upcoming slate is brutal. They visit Florida on Saturday, then welcome Georgia to Death Valley the very next week. And, oh—don’t forget games against Alabama and Texas A&M in November. Any team that survives that gauntlet deserves national title consideration. But, then again, LSU is on this list for a reason.
Raise your hand if you thought Cincinnati would be 5–0 at this point with a realistic chance to get into a New Year’s Six bowl. Anyone?
The Bearcats started the season by going on the road and beating UCLA, a victory that gets worse by the week. But they have rode that momentum in the team’s best start in six years.
Cincy is doing it with an improved defense, leading the AAC in three major defensive categories only a year after struggling to stop anyone.
The reason why Cincinnati might not make it out of the month has nothing to do with its schedule; it has winnable games against Tulane, Temple and SMU. But the Bearcats have gotten away with being undisciplined, and it could cost them if they get into games that go down to the wire.
While the most talented teams can overcome penalties, this is not the case with Cincinnati, which has committed 47 penalties already this season—16 more than else in the conference.
Usually when the College Football Committee considers a Group of Five team for a New Year’s Six slot, it's based on either a signature win or blowout victories where the margin of victory is so absurd, it makes you wonder how good a team really is.
The problem with South Florida is that its two wins against the Power 5 came against Illinois and Georgia Tech. But the Bulls do have quarterback Blake Barnett, who came to South Florida via Alabama and Arizona State, and a top-30 passing attack.
The Bulls are one of two teams, along with conference counterpart Cincinnati, who are undefeated yet are not ranked, which tells you how most pundits around the nation think of them. While 5–0 is 5–0, a trip to Houston on Oct. 27 could spell doom and take away the hopes of a dream season.
The Wolfpack used their first four games against James Madison, Georgia State, Marshall and Virginia to get quarterback Ryan Finley into a groove and to find a running game. Mission accomplished on both, especially with the emergence of freshman Ricky Person, Jr.
Finley has been outstanding this season, completing 69% of his passes with eight touchdowns and showing the touch and accuracy that NFL teams look for.
NC State probably wouldn’t be on this list if it played its game against West Virginia, which was cancelled because of Hurricane Florence. Let’s face it, the ACC has had a mediocre start to the season, especially with the dropoff of Florida State and Louisville, but as with most teams, schedule and matchups dictate success and failure going forward.
Boston College, Clemson and Syracuse are the teams NC State faces in October, and they will be hard pressed to match each of those teams’ physicality. Continuing the formula that has gotten them this far would be wise, especially if a 10-win season is in the Wolfpack's plans.