Will there be an undefeated team in this year's College Football Playoff?
Head to Head debates the biggest topics in college football. This week, in the wake of the AP Top 25 being turned upside down and seven previously undefeated teams losing, our panel discusses whether or not there will be an undefeated team in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Welcome to the show.
Week 6 in the NCAA was what college football is supposed to be -- complete chaos. It happens every year. This season we have the College Football Playoff. A system, once and for all, will determine a true college football champion. Only one team will be standing on Jan. 12, 2015.
The People Who Talk About College Football are wondering if there will be a team that can make a run to the playoffs without a loss. The people who ponder this question usually say, "There is no way a team will make the playoffs without a loss. Alabama lost! Bama is a shining example of everything great about college football!" Never mind that Alabama lost its past three games against ranked teams (not to mention that last year's Iron Bowl and Sugar Bowl were both pretty big deals). Or they will point to a week like Week 6, where a majority of the top 10 was handed a loss.
But guess what? There are still 10 unbeaten teams in the college ranks. There will be at least one of them at the end of the regular season that will remain unbeaten. Heck, there will probably be at least two.
Simple math plus the chaos theory will tell you it is impossible to finish the season with 10 unbeaten teams. Three of those teams, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn all reside in the SEC West and still have to play each other so there can only be one unbeaten from that group. It's also safe to assume the SEC West will continue to beat each other to a pulp and no one will get out of the SEC without a scratch.
Two of the current unbeatens reside in the Big 12, Baylor and TCU. It’s a safe guess to say neither one of these two teams will make to the playoffs without a loss. How far can TCU run? If TCU knocks out Baylor this week, who is to say it can’t run the table? There is only one thing that can stop those Art Briles-sanctioned fireworks in Waco -- TCU’s top-ranked defense. Next week there will only be one unbeaten team in the Big 12 and with no championship game, look for that team to ride its unbeaten streak to Pasadena or New Orleans.
Florida State and Georgia Tech are unbeaten in the ACC. Neither school faces each other, but they could meet up in the ACC title game. Florida State hasn’t lost a game since 2012 and Georgia Tech finally cracked the bottom half of the top 25 this week. I wonder who will be favored in that game? When Florida State beats Notre Dame in a few weeks (the Golden Domers are another unbeaten squad), the Noles won’t lose a game until possibly 2015.
There is one team that will throw a monkey wrench in the entire playoff system because football is no fun without debate. There is a team in the mountains of West Virginia that has a better than average chance to run the table. No one has beaten Marshall and only two teams on the Thundering Herd‘s remaining schedule have a winning record. Hello, Thundering Perfecto.
But Conference USA isn’t a part of the “Power Five,” the People Who Talk About College Football will say. They will say any team from the SEC is certainly more worthy than an undefeated team not from Dixie!
Football is not an easy game. Crazy things happen and that is what makes it beautiful. But unbeaten is unbeaten and the undefeated deserve a shot.
-- Craig Thomas, NCAA.com
If Week 6 showed us anything, it’s that no one is safe -- and more important, all are vulnerable.
Just ask Alabama and Texas A&M. And Oklahoma. And Oregon and UCLA, who were looking forward to an undefeated showdown this week. And come Saturday, two more unbeatens are guaranteed to fall as Auburn plays at Mississippi State in another SEC West throwdown and TCU, fresh off its victory against the Sooners, has a chance to back it up with a trip to Baylor.
But let’s start with the best division in the best conference in college football -- the SEC West. Besides Auburn and Mississippi State, there’s also Ole Miss -- three teams who still have to play one another. It’s just too black-and-blue to come through unscathed.
In fact, Auburn’s remaining schedule is especially brutal, with not only Mississippi State and Ole Miss left to contend with, but dates with the aforementioned Alabama and Texas A&M plus its annual grudge match with East stalwart Georgia -- with all but one of those games (Texas A&M) on the road.
Both Baylor and TCU have games left with Big 12 heavies Oklahoma State and Kansas State, and both also have to make the trip to West Virginia, never an easy place to play. And don’t forget, the Bears still have a road game to play at Oklahoma.
Two more unbeatens -- Florida State and Notre Dame -- have a date in two weeks. But even that winner doesn’t have a clear path, thanks to some longstanding rivalries on the horizon and a common opponent on the schedule in Louisville. The Seminoles, riding the nation’s longest winning streak at 21 games, still has high-stakes, higher-emotions, in-state games against Miami (Fla.) (on the road) and Florida. The Irish have to make trips out west to play Arizona State and Southern California.
In fact, the Sun Devils could stand in the way of two remaining unbeatens, but Arizona would gave to get past USC, UCLA and Utah first. And as Oregon and UCLA can now attest, the Pac-12 is too well-balanced for any team to run the table.
All that’s left in the Power Five is Georgia Tech, which has Clemson and Georgia to close out the season, and the looming possibility of facing Florida State -- which it doesn’t play in the regular season -- in the ACC championship game. That’s a tough three-week stretch.
I must admit there is one team out there that can very well go undefeated. Marshall is the class of Conference USA and if the Thundering Herd can get through the next two weeks against Middle Tennessee and FIU, its chances look pretty good although it remains to be seen if it will be enough to crash the CFP party.
Fifteen teams started play in Week 6 with undefeated records. Only 10 stand as of now. Next week, that number will drop by at least two more. In two weeks, the most it will be is seven. And from there, well, the schedule dictates there will be more to follow.
There’s too much elite for one team to be elitist.
-- Jarrod Breeze, NCAA.com
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