There’s a bit of a catch-22 here. Obviously we would have a much longer and less lopsided list of teams to talk about had we done this earlier in the year. It’s also a lot harder to make definitive statements about a bunch of 2-0 or 3-0 teams, though, so you pick your battles.
We also have the obvious limitation to our projection that three of the four remaining F5 undefeated teams are in the same conference, and so there is a very low chance of a majority of these teams going undefeated (not impossible, but unlikely).
That said, let’s look at the odds for each of these teams and where we think they’re going to trip up, if at all?USF (5-0): Remaining schedule vs Cinci, @Tulane, vs Houston, @UConn, vs Tulsa, @UCF
USF Bulls (5-0): Remaining schedule vs Cinci, @Tulane, vs Houston, @UConn, vs Tulsa, @UCF
South Florida has looked vulnerable against a few teams this season, and while it’s nice to have the ability to turn on the jets in the second half, not every team is going to give you the opportunity to do that. It’s readily apparent that Cincinnati, UConn and Tulsa are going to provide just as little a challenge as we thought they would during the preseason.
That said, Tulane has been showing real progress this season, nearly knocking off a good Navy team before boatracing Tulsa this past weekend. I don’t think I’m confident enough in Tulane’s improvement but I definitely see them as the team that will give the Bulls the most lasting challenge of any team left on their schedule, especially if Houston doesn’t have a healthy Ed Oliver.
I see three possible scenarios; USF loses to Tulane, USF beats Tulane but gives Houston the blueprint they need to pull the upset, or the season finale against UCF in the War on I-4 is their undoing. You heard it here folks. As of early October, I don’t see South Florida going undefeated.
UCF (4-0): Remaining schedule vs ECU, @ Navy, vs Austin Peay, @SMU, vs UConn, @Temple, vs USF
Yes, that means that I think UCF is more likely to finish the season undefeated. They’ve got four more guaranteed blowouts on their schedule in ECU, UConn and Austin Peay, and Navy might be undefeated but they’ve had their moments (see: just barely beating Tulane). The only real question is whether any of their road games will trip them up prior to their showdown against USF. I personally have seen nothing but positives from a Knights team that hasn’t played a robust schedule, but has absolutely pummeled the crap out of every team they’ve played.
The question is whether the Knights lose at Navy, at SMU, or at Temple in the next six weeks. I don’t think Temple has the offense to keep up (similar to how they eventually faded vs USF), SMU doesn’t have enough defense (and their QB play is iffy), and Navy should give them a test but they’ve been quite fallible this season.
No, I think the Knights head to the AAC title game as the undefeated East division champ. Now, whether they stay undefeated headed into their bowl game is another matter.
Navy (5-0): Remaining schedule: @Memphis, vs UCF, @Temple, vs SMU, @Notre Dame, @Houston, vs Army
Navy is, I think, the first to fall, because I’m not even sure they’ll make it past Memphis, let alone UCF. It’s really difficult to predict because we’ve seen Jekyll (70-31 win over UConn that wasn’t that close) and Hyde (40-13 loss to UCF that wasn’t that close) in the past two weeks. The Tigers can definitely score in bunches, and showed against UCLA they have no issue with winning a track meet. They’re so explosive that it somewhat neutralized Navy’s ball-control option attack, and it will be the best offense the Mids have faced, coming only a week after they nearly blew a three-touchdown lead to an Air Force team that is not on Memphis or UCF’s level.
The Mids are on borrowed time, but just because they won’t go undefeated doesn’t mean they aren’t a good team.
SDSU (6-0): Remaining schedule vs Boise, vs Fresno, @Hawaii, @ SJSU, vs Nevada, vs New Mexico
And then there was San Diego State. It’s hard to go undefeated when there are numerous other strong teams in your conference. The three teams mentioned so far are all ranked and all in the same conference.
The Aztecs, meanwhile, are on a Mountain Time Island – it’s at least some commentary about the quality of the rest of the Mountain West relative to the Aztecs that after only six games (and half the conference has only played five) they’re not just the only undefeated team, they’re the only one that has less than two losses.
Fresno is mediocre, as is Hawaii, and SJSU and Nevada are even worse. For the Aztecs, this week’s game against a Boise State team on a bit of a down year is probably the stiffest test they will face prior to the conference title game. There’s an outside chance of a challenge from New Mexico but I doubt it.
I would be interested to see what they could do in the conference title game if they wind up facing Colorado State, but they otherwise would have a good shot at entering the postseason undefeated and with a NY6 bowl berth against a beatable second-tier P5 program.