With the losses last weekend of No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Georgia, college football fans have begun to take notice of the dwindling number of undefeated teams.
Each season every team dreams of an undefeated season, going to a big bowl game and maybe even a national championship. But as the season wears on, the ranks of the undefeated continues to shrink as teams are exposed, upset or just run into a tough opponent.
This season there are 16 undefeated teams remaining and they can be sorted, like every season, into three categories: the favorites, the contenders and the mid-majors.
The teams who should be considered favorites this year are Alabama and Oregon.
The favorites are the teams for whom a national championship isn’t a dream, but destiny. These teams play terrifically in all facets of the game, but are truly dominant on one side of the ball — Alabama’s defense, Oregon’s offense.
These teams have a great pedigree and name recognition, as well as a high preseason ranking. And then they back that up by defeating some top-tier opponents — Alabama steamrolled Michigan and Oregon demolished Arizona and Washington. However, these teams are just an upset away from falling into the next group.
The contenders group consists of South Carolina, West Virginia, Florida, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. However, with Ohio State’s bowl ban, they are not truly contending.
The contenders are teams who still have great name recognition, but aren’t necessarily considered one of the top programs in the country year-in and year-out. These teams all are within reach of a national championship, but need a little help and a little luck to get there.
The teams in this group are usually very good with one dynamic playmaker who sends them over the top — such as South Carolina's DE Jadeveon Clowney, West Virginia's QB Geno Smith or Kansas State'sf QB Collin Klein. These teams can also be easily upset, or exposed as flawed, and find themselves tumbling out of contention.
The final group, the mid-majors, is made up of Oregon State, Louisville, Mississippi State, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Louisiana Tech, Ohio and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
For these teams who fly under the radar of the average college football fan, the national championship is not a realistic goal. Similar to the mid-majors in college basketball, they set their sights on a competitive year and an opportunity to shine in a big time bowl. The members of this group are the most likely to drop out of the ranks of the unbeaten, as they all have some flaws that could be easily exposed.
These teams are also hoping to climb the ladder of teams, such as Boise State or TCU who used their undefeated seasons to become more nationally relevant and gain bids to a better conference. They also could be considered “bracket busters, ”underdogs who remove one of the teams above them from the ranks of the undefeated, dashing their national championship dreams.
There are nine possible match-ups of undefeated teams left in this season, not including conference championships or bowl games. So, in addition to being on the lookout for potential upsets, some of these teams need to be worried about each other.
As the quest for an undefeated season continues, these teams should know that an undefeated season has only occurred 15 times in the BCS era. So history says they should watch their back, as a loss can come from anywhere at anytime. Just ask LSU, Florida State or Georgia.