It’s an amazing feat for a college football team to go undefeated for the entirety of its regular season. For it to even be possible, a team has to have both incredible talent and a favorable schedule.
We decided to put together a list of 10 teams we believe have the best chances at finishing the regular season with unblemished records. Remember – this doesn’t necessarily mean we think that these are the best 10 squads in the country – there are a number of programs (like Auburn) that have absurdly difficult schedules to navigate.
No, there won’t be 10 undefeated teams heading into the 2014-2015 postseason. But here are the programs that have the best odds at pulling it off.
The Crimson Tide, college football’s current villain, could gain a few more haters this year. Despite playing in the SEC, their schedule isn’t extremely intimidating. And their running game, with three legitimate threats – Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon – could possibly be the best we’ve seen in recent college football history. Realistically, they only have two games to fret about — LSU and Auburn. And fortunately for ‘Bama, Auburn has to travel to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl this year. If the Tide can beat a young-but-talented LSU squad they could be eyeing an undefeated regular season.
You read that correctly, Iowa is on this list. But after one look at its schedule you’ll understand why — the Big Ten West isn’t exactly a death march. The Hawkeyes, which feature two budding stars in quarterback Jake Rudock and running back Mark Weisman, have non-conference games with Iowa State and Pittsburgh – both very winnable. Their first six Big Ten contests? Purdue, Indiana, Maryland, Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois. Don’t be surprised if they’re 10-0 heading into their final home stretch, which includes both Wisconsin and Nebraska.
The Cardinal’s most daunting matchup of the year doesn’t come until November against the Oregon Ducks. That being said, Stanford does have a few fairly difficult games. It faces Notre Dame and UCLA on the road, and gets the USC Trojans at home. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is poised to have a huge year. If he does, the Cardinals could be strolling into bowl season unblemished.
The Bears have one massive hurdle on their schedule – playing Oklahoma on the road. If — and it’s a big if — they can come up with a huge win in Norman, they have a chance to make it through the rest of their schedule without a loss. They also have to play against Texas on the road and Oklahoma State at home. Baylor’s chances at an undefeated schedule rely on its legitimate Heisman candidate quarterback Bryce Petty. If he significantly builds upon what he started last year, look out.
The Thundering Herd, a 10-win team a year ago, find themselves on this list for two reasons. First, they have a ridiculous offense, led by quarterback Rakeem Cato and wide receiver Tommy Shuler. Look for them to be the NCAA’s top quarterback-wide receiver duo in 2014 — statistics-wise. The second thing that Marshall has going for it is its schedule. There are literally no games that should scare the Thundering Herd on their slate. Look for a few 60-point blowouts in Huntington this season.
The Badgers, like Iowa, find themselves on this list because of their talent and the fact that they play in the Big Ten West. They boast a serous Heisman candidate in running back Melvin Gordon and after week one, their schedule softens up. But that week one matchup is no joke – they are facing LSU at NRG Stadium in Houston. If Wisconsin can win that (easier said than done), then it could feasibly run the table. The Badgers don’t have any worrisome games until they host Nebraska and travel to Iowa in mid-November. Not playing Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan has its perks.
It could be a special year for the Sooners. They are fielding a talented squad and don’t have the toughest of schedules. They have three games that most Oklahoma fans would identify as potentially scary match-ups. Those would be Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. The contest against the Longhorns is on a neutral field (like always) and both the Bears and Cowboys have to come to Norman. The Sooners have turned to exciting sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight as the starter and Blake Bell has moved to tight end. The decision could pay huge dividends.
The Tigers lucked into what we believe to be the easiest SEC schedule of the 2014 season. Still, it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges – namely hosting Georgia and traveling to both South Carolina and Texas A&M. They do not have to play Alabama, Auburn or LSU – that alone is reason to celebrate in Columbia. If they can take care of business on the road against the Gamecocks and Aggies they will be in position to compete again in the SEC East.
2: Florida State
The defending national champions, led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, have to be one of the favorites to run the table in 2014 — just as they did in 2013. Winston, despite his seemingly constant controversies, is still expected to make FSU a force this season. The Seminoles’ schedule is slightly more difficult than it was last year, but it’s still not anywhere close to intimidating. Their toughest games are against Oklahoma State, Clemson, and Notre Dame. They should be favorites in every game that they play and could very well enter bowl season undefeated for the second consecutive year.
1: Ohio State
The Buckeyes have only one significant game keeping us from proclaiming them a near-lock to finish the regular season undefeated. And that contest is against the Michigan State Spartans on November 8th in East Lansing. The only other games of note on Ohio State’s schedule are Virginia Tech, Penn State and Michigan – three matchups that may be difficult but the Buckeyes should win. OSU is led by quarterback Braxton Miller; a Heisman contender with a chance to carve his name into Buckeye lore. A third straight undefeated regular season would probably do just that.