While every college football team enters the season with the goal of winning every game on its schedule, there are only a handful of squads capable of pulling it off. And it's the only sure way to get into the national title conversation.
Let's the a look at the top three teams in the USA Today preseason poll and break down the chances that each of the top contenders have of running the table in the regular season. They all have a couple hurdles to jump in order to make it happen.
The Tigers will be relying heavily on quarterback Zach Mettenberger. His collegiate experience is extremely limited, but he has plenty of talent. Having to develop it against SEC defenses won't be an easy task, however.
Then there's the issue of Tyrann Mathieu. Losing the dynamic cornerback will not only hurt the team's elite defense, but it will also have a negative impact on special teams. Finding somebody to fill the void is one of the keys leading up to the season.
If those two concerns don't turn in to major issues, the schedule is manageable. LSU's two toughest games, against Alabama and South Carolina, come at home before an epic clash to end the season at Arkansas. The Tigers should feel good about going unbeaten.
The road to a second consecutive national championship will be tough for Nick Saban's bunch. The veteran head coach will need to complete a serious overhaul of his defense in time for an intriguing clash with Michigan to kick off the title defense.
If the Crimson Tide are able to survive that immediate test, they only have one week to catch their breath before another huge game on the road against Arkansas. Having two of the season's toughest games right away isn't the ideal scenario while working in young players.
Things do get easier after those first three weeks, but the battle with LSU still looms. The defense should be in much better form by then at least. That said, if I had to pick one of the SEC powerhouses to finish with a zero in the loss column, it would be LSU at this point.
Things are setting up very well for the Trojans. One of their toughest games will be on the road against Stanford, but it happens early in the season, and the Cardinal will still be trying to get their offense on the same page without Andrew Luck.
A road contest against Washington has the potential to pose a problem, but the Trojans should have enough talent to prevail. The other hyped games against Oregon and Notre Dame will both take place at the Coliseum.
Matt Barkley will be looking to prove he made the right decision to return instead of going pro and will give the Trojans the quarterback advantage in every game they play, which is always key. I would give them the best chance of going undefeated among the top three.