by S.A. Prince
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We have finally reached the midpoint of the college football season, and it’s bittersweet because we’ve seen some fantastic football, but the looming second half and end of the season is quickly descending upon us. We must enjoy it while it lasts, because with its end comes winter, and with winter comes snow, and with snow, shoveling. Well, that’s a personal problem, at least for me and the rest of the country above the Mason-Dixon Line.
Moving away from the appetizer, soup, and salad courses of this year’s college football season, we move ahead to the main course, the entrée abundant second half. You know what I’m talking about. It’s time to leave the tapas and the chicken lettuce wraps behind. We’ve got a full menu of conference showdowns including a couple Big 10 brawls, a few Southeastern Conference contests where a Porterhouse meets Strip Steak, and there will even a few Atlantic Coast Conference spectacles sprinkled in.
The first half of the season however, has not disappointed. Championship dreams have quickly taken a Langston Hughes like Dream Deferred tumble into the abyss of unfulfilled aspirations. Perennial powerhouses like TCU, Wisconsin, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Florida State have lost early, essentially eliminating themselves from any playoff talk, and few preseason hopefuls like Miami, Tennessee, and Iowa, their seasons have all taken a plunge into the deep end.
There are a few undefeated hopefuls that still remain, eleven to be exact, and they all hope to hold onto that zero in the loss column, thereby increasing their chances to earn a college playoff ticket. Can they hold on though? Today, we’ll go through all eleven teams and tell you if they get to stay on Undefeated Island..
#20 Western Michigan (7-0)
The 20th ranked Western Michigan Broncos are in first place in the MAC conference and are in a position they’ve rarely seen. To be undefeated and nationally ranked halfway through the season is an amazing accomplishment. Fourth-year coach P.J. Fleck and the Bronco defense is riding a serious wave. This however shouldn’t be a surprise as back in 2013 Dieter Kurtenback, a Fox Sports Senior Writer tweeted this of Fleck’s 2014 class, “…according to 247, [the recruiting class of 2014] is better than Nebraska, USC, Washington, and UCLA. Top mid-major class nationally.” That take seems pretty accurate as all of those teams are ranked except for the perennial powerhouse, USC, who’s having a second down season in a row.
Western Michigan’s Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: Toledo Rockets
The Broncos toughest test will be against Toledo (5-1) who’s put together a few decent seasons while being in the national rankings much of the 2015 college football season, only losing to Northern Illinois and guess who else, Western Michigan. This loss knocked them out of the Top 25. The atmosphere is ripe for some payback. This year, the Rockets only loss have come at the hands of BYU, an underrated team that manhandled Michigan State, and only lost to both Utah (18) and Western Virginia (12) by a combines four points.
#14 Boise State (6-0)
Next up is another team whose mascot is a bronco. Boise State, like TCU was, is a mid-major (TCU had moved on to the Big 12 now) that has earned our respect. Boise State currently has 17 former players in the NFL, including Orlando Scandrick and Doug Martin. Boise State doesn’t have any wins they can boast, but as usual they are running the table in the Mountain West Conference, winning it two out of the five seasons they’ve been in it. Boise State’s rushing attack is fierce as they run the ball behind the 9th ranked rusher (stat: rushing yards) in the country in Jeremy McNichols. McNichols has racked up more yards than Heisman hopeful D’Onta Foreman. Granted, the level of competition is “slightly” different, but still, 775 yards and 11 touchdowns have to count for something.
Boise State’s Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: BYU
Don’t let the three losses fool you. Brigham’s boys come to play ball, and they play for keeps. In the three games the Cougars have lost, they’ve lost by a combined total of one single touchdown. That’s seven points, people! Two of their three losses have come at the hands of ranked opponents. They’ve beaten a typically good Toledo team in a barn house burner shootout, and a Big 10 team in Michigan State that had Championship hopes. BYU beat Boise State last year in a stellar fashion, and they’re hoping to do it again this time. I don’t see why they can’t.
#12 West Virginia
The Mountaineers from Morgantown have put themselves back on the map. Their opponents haven’t been anything to take notice of thus far, but they still have Baylor and Oklahoma ahead. Those are two perfect opportunities to prove themselves or fall short of their championship dreams. Luckily for the Mountaineers both those teams have to come to Morgantown, a place whose culture is akin to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where all people think about is that week’s football game. But, before West Virginia gets to those teams, they can’t afford to overlook TCU, who although they are having an off year are still dangerous.
WVU’s Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: Oklahoma
This is going to be a barn burner and will look a lot like the Oklahoma at Texas game. Oklahoma gives up a lot of points (33 per game) but that was against stiffly ranked competition in Ohio State, TCU, and Houston. In their other two games, Oklahoma held their opponents to 17 points in each contest. WVU’s schedule has been considerably weaker, and the one hallway-decent team they beat, BYU, put up 32 points, two touchdowns more than their average. WVU might lose to Baylor too, but Oklahoma has a shot at them first, and I think Oklahoma will make a lot of Mountaineers upset on November 19th.
#9 Baylor (6-0)
Who needs Art Briles? In the absence of one of college football’s greatest offensive minds, Baylor continues to forge ahead. Briles, now a quarterback consultant for the Cleveland Browns, left a winning culture at Baylor despite being ousted due to misconduct. Well, that last statement is still “to be determined.” We’re only halfway through the football season, and the first half of Baylor’s schedule hasn’t been particularly awing. With wins over SMU, Northwestern State, Rice, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Kansas, Baylor has yet to prove much of anything. Thankfully for them, and us, there’s nothing but space and opportunity going forward. Baylor has to face off with Texas in what will probably be a shootout, and they still have TCU, Oklahoma and West Virginia on their schedule. Is Baylor due for a loss, or three?
Baylor Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: TCU
I don’t see TCU losing two games in three weeks. WVU will beat them this week, because Morgantown is a going to be raucous, and that’s two away games back to back, and they only beat Kansas by a point. Everything is in West Virginia’s favor. TCU comes back home to play Texas Tech the following week which will put them back on track, and I expect them to run the table the rest of the way. Baylor and TCU always play exciting and competitive games due to the fact that both of their offenses are wide-open. Last time TCU was in Waco, they lost 58 to 61 in a game where they let Baylor score 24 fourth quarter points. Last year TCU won in overtime at home, and this year I think they shut the door on the Bears in Waco.
#8 Nebraska (6-0)
It’s good to see the Cornhuskers back where they belong, undefeated and in the conversation for the championship. Coach Mike Riley is feeling a lot better in his sophomore season, because last year they won a total of six games all season. Bo Pelini is a tough act to follow considering that in his seven years at the helm, Pelini never lost more than four games a season and won the Gator Bowl twice. Now, Mike Riley cannot afford to breathe easy yet. Nebraska’s schedule has been weak thus far. Wyoming (4-2) is without a doubt the best team they’ve played so far, if that tells you anything. And yes, even though Wyoming boast a top-20 running back in Brian Hill, that’s not enough to legitimize the Cornhuskers. The good thing for them is that the rest of their schedule has three legitimate teams they’ll face in Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa.
Nebraska Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: Wisconsin
I wanted to pick Purdue (3-3) badly. It’s always interesting to see how teams respond to mid-season coaching changes. Some teams rise to the occasion and others crumble. With wins against Nevada, Eastern Kentucky, and Illinois, it would intellectually dishonest to pick them. Strengthening this is the fact that Purdue gives up a touchdown more than they score per game, and they are traveling to Lincoln. That’s a recipe for a Purdue loss, but I’d watch closely to how this game plays out, because Purdue is the best team the Cornhuskers have played since week two. If it’s closer than we expect (Vegas is giving Purdue 24 points), then that’s certainly alarming. If they don’t lose to Purdue, then they’re definitely losing to Wisconsin and then Ohio State back to back. Those are their two hardest games, and they are both away. Even if they managed to beat Wisconsin, who had Ohio State on the ropes like George Forman had Ali in Zaire, there’s no way they’d recover in time to beat Ohio State who’s playing Northwestern at home on October 29th.
#6 Texas A&M (6-0)
It’s been a ride for Kevin Sumlin’s team this year. They’ve taken care of business all season, dashing the championship hopes of a promising Tennessee Volunteer team. Even though they’ve played well to date, there are rarely any weeks off in the SEC, and the back end of their schedule is loaded. Luckily for them, their marquee games are all separated with tune-up and recovery games against New Mexico State, Mississippi State, and Texas-EL Paso. There’s only one problem, and that’s this week’s matchup.
Texas A&M Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: Alabama Crimson Tide
Yeah, they only problem is that A&M has to go to Alabama after playing Tennessee last week. Offensively, the teams are relatively even, but defensively Alabama gives up 200 less yards than the Aggies. This game will come down to the Aggies defense. Can they slow down Alabama, as much as Alabama’s defense is going to slow them down? I don’t think so, and that’s why I think the Aggies one and only loss will be here. The rest of their schedule is too in their favor for them to lose to Ole Miss or LSU. They play relatively weak teams in the weeks between those games, and play both Ole Miss and LSU at home. Four out of their last five games are at home. They still may make the playoffs, but probably not. I don’t think anybody has a shot at getting two teams in, and one of them being a one-loss team, except the Big 10.
That being said, if you’re a betting man, put your money on A&M. Vegas is giving them 19 points against Alabama. Alabama’s defense is good, but I don’t think it’s going to swing the Crimson Tide over A&M by three touchdowns. Last week was huge for Alabama, and though I believe they win, I think this game will be closer than many expect and is a bit of a let-down. Tennessee, those cardiac kids, hadn’t mentally recovered from their loss to the Aggies. You could see that in their game against Alabama. If you’re putting your money on Alabama -19 against the Aggies, then you’re falling into a sucker’s bet if you ask me.
#5 Washington (6-0)
Do it for Jake Locker. By the way, what is he even doing now? Don’t blow this Washington. You played one good team in the first half of the season in Stanford. You got a break seeing as though Oregon is having an off-year. It’s time for Heisman hopeful Jake Browning and the rest of the Huskies to pitch a shutout. If not now, when? How many down seasons are Oregon, USC, Arizona State, and California realistically going to have? Too bad they weren’t this fortunate with Tyrone Willingham at the helm.
Washington’s Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: Running the table
I’m probably going to regret thinking that Washington will run the table and go undefeated. I see no reason as to why they shouldn’t. Utah is their only challenge, and Washington (49.5 ppg) is scoring nearly double what Utah (26.7 ppg) is per game, and do you want to know who Utah has played? Nobody, just like Washington. Both of these teams look similar on paper. This game will be a test for both teams. It’s probably more of a coin toss than I’m willing to admit, but I’d take my chances with Washington and Browning rather than Utah. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Joe Williams over the next week or so. That’s definitely a storyline to watch that will affect the Washington game.
#4 Clemson (7-0)
Their game versus Louisville was just what the doctor ordered. They could have easily lost, and maybe they should have, but hey, that’s life. You win some and you lose some. Undoubtedly, we saw the Heisman play in the game. If the current player trajectory remains the same, the Heisman will either be Jackson or Dashuan Watson. Clemson is rolling right along, blowing out most of its competition. The rest of their schedule is soft except for one game, their next one against Florida State, and three out of their last four game are played in Death Valley.
Clemson Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: Running the table
I should be picking them to lose to FSU. It makes sense right, FSU getting to play the role of spoiler? That’s too bad. FSU is not going to win, even though they’ve DEFINITELY played a tougher schedule than Clemson. FSU doesn’t know how to win and Clemson does. In FSU plays to the level of their competition in nearly every game, except for the games that they can’t (loss to UL 63-20), and the cupcake games (USF and CHOSO). Every other game is a drag for FSU, much like games are a drag for Tennessee. FSU wins, but barely. If FSU play like that against Clemson while at home, they’re definitely going to lose. I think they will play that way, because a dog can’t change its spots. After FSU, it’s clear sailing for Clemson. Syracuse who has a high powered offense, and Wake Forest who has a nice rushing attack pose a minimal threat, but it’s minimal at best.
#3 Michigan (6-0) and #2 Ohio State (6-0)
Yes, I am putting these two together. If Ohio State was going to lose, it would have been last week in their horrendous performance against Wisconsin. Somehow they managed to survive. Both Michigan an Ohio State have squeaked past Wisconsin who’s easily their biggest threat in the Big 10. Both of these teams should run the table until they meet each other on the last game of the season. I hesitate to mention this, but Michigan State could upset one of these teams. It’s hard to imagine them crashing and burning like they have after their 12-2 season last year. They could sneak up on Michigan or Ohio State, but it’s highly doubtful as Meyer and Harbaugh have their teams ready each week.
Winner on November 26th:
If both teams go undefeated until November 26th, then I think both of them get into the playoffs, especially if this rivalry game is close. Clemson and Washington won’t have enough quality games late to jump them. Louisville or Houston will be in the top ten, depending on whoever wins their matchup, but not high enough to challenge. Wisconsin will stay in the top ten. Baylor and Nebraska will both fall out. The Aggies will finish in the top ten, but that loss to Alabama will finish them. I say all this to say that even though either Michigan or Ohio State will lose on the last game, they should still both make it into the playoffs.
Michigan will beat Ohio State. The game will come down to pivotal defensive stops at the end of the game. Michigan has proven it can do that. Ohio State has trouble shutting the door late. I take this from their games against Wisconsin, the only game worth judging honestly, because they were both pushed to their limits by the Cornhuskers from Lincoln. Late in the game, Michigan not only pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter, but also managed to score halfway through the quarter to take a seven point lead. I’ll take them over Ohio State.
#1 Alabama (7-0)
Every year this team somehow manages to fight its way through the vaunted SEC and to the college playoffs. Three of their last five games are against ranked opponents, but they only have to travel once, and that’s to LSU who recently fired Les Miles. Their star running back Leonard Fournette, who should have gone pro last year, has been in and out of the lineup, out last week with ankle soreness.
Alabama Remaining Schedule:
Losing To: Running the table
The A&M game will be a challenge, and the rivalry game with Auburn will be interesting, but there’s no competition for this Alabama team in the SEC. Right now the Crimson Tide are Rolling. The best chance to see them lose will be LSU on a back to back where they have to travel, but they don’t have enough time to mesh underneath their interim coach before having to face off against Alabama. Not to be overlooked, the Tigers play Ole Miss this week, another top SEC team, and then Alabama next week. LSU has probably the toughest schedule remaining, having to play five ranked teams in their last six games. That’s absolutely brutal.
And there you have it, the last seven undefeated teams with second half predictions. Now all we have to do is watch. Are you ready for some football?