College Football: Biggest Strength and Weakness for Each Undefeated Team
There are five remaining undefeated teams in FBS with each squad scratching and clawing to stay that way through the final month of regular season competition. There are obvious strengths that have carried these teams to victory, but there are also weaknesses that have been exposed.
An Alabama team that has looked unbeatable all season was exposed in some areas against a talented LSU squad this past weekend. Louisville has struggled at times this year, allowing teams to get scary close to upset wins.
Notre Dame has carried with it the luck of the Irish this season, relying on some lucky bounces and miscues to stay undefeated.
Every undefeated season is special and requires a stroke of luck, but to finish undefeated requires more than simple luck. Here is a look at the remaining undefeated teams and the strengths and weaknesses they carry.
No. 9 Louisville Cardinals
Strength: Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater was expected to be an elite quarterback for the Cardinals this season, and he has not disappointed. The sophomore has already surpassed his production from a year ago and is very efficient with the football in his hands.
Bridgewater has only tossed four interceptions this fall—two of which came in one game—and has put 18 touchdowns on the scoreboard with his arm. He is also completing 70.4 percent of his passes this year—a six-point gain over last season.
If not for this young quarterback guiding this team, the Cardinals would not be sitting undefeated and staring at a BCS bowl bid.
Weakness: Defensive inconsistency
Louisville has won some very tight games this fall. A number of the games were tight because of major defensive letdowns.
While it is impressive that the Cardinals have been able stay the course and win big throughout the season, the defensive inconsistency will hurt this team down the road. Rutgers awaits at the end of the year hoping for a shootout against this Cardinals team.
Louisville leads the Big East today, but the Cardinals are on shaky ground with their inconsistent play on defense.
No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Notre Dame defense has been the talk of the country this season. The Brian Kelly led Irish have pushed to an undefeated record through nine games on the back of the defensive unit.
The Irish are very good against the run, ranking as the No. 11 rushing defense in the country. Notre Dame is also the No. 10 total defense and No. 2 scoring defense in FBS.
This defense is what has kept the Irish in games, and that will continue as the season draws to a close. The biggest challenge happens at the end of the year with Notre Dame traveling to face off with USC in Los Angeles.
Weakness: Quarterback Play
The Notre Dame offense has been very inconsistent this season, and the majority of the woes have come from the quarterback position. Everett Golson and Tommy Rees have combined efforts to guide the Irish offense, but neither has been consistent.
What seperates this Notre Dame team from the rest of the undefeated teams is the quarterback position. There is no faith that this team could face a top-level opponent and survive if it fell to the Notre Dame signal-callers.
In big games, quarterback play matters. If the Irish finish undefeated and land in the BCS, this may be a point of exposure for the elite opponent they will play.
No. 3 Oregon Ducks
Strength: Skill Players
The Ducks have the most talented lineup of skill position players in the country. Guys like Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are well known, but guys like Byron Marshall and Josh Huff have been big players as well for the Ducks.
Oregon has what seems like unlimited options when looking for offensive production. When you add in the play of freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks have the most dangerous skill players in the country.
The three main players in the Oregon offense—Barner, Thomas and Mariota—have produced a combined 4,064 yards through the first nine games of the season. There is still a lot of football left and plenty of time for this offense to continue racking up yards.
Weakness: Special Teams
The Oregon Ducks offense may be extremely explosive, but they also have one of the worst special teams units in the country. When the time comes that Oregon faces a formidable defense that can slow their rate of scoring, they may have to rely on their kicking game to pull out a win.
The problem that poses is that the Ducks are only 4-of-8 on the year with field goals. They have also missed an extra point. Nothing spells disappointment quite like a kicker missing a game-winning field goal.
This is an area that can’t be hidden forever and will be exposed against top-level competition.
No. 2 Kansas State Wildcats
Strength: Turnover Margin
This Kansas State team has one of the best quarterbacks in the country leading the offense, but the most impressive piece of this team’s success has been ball protection.
The Wildcats are the No. 1 team in the country in turnover margin, creating 2.22 turnovers a game. Collin Klein has only tossed two interceptions this year, and the Wildcats rarely put the ball on the ground.
When football teams win consistently, turnovers are in their favor. As long as Kansas State can keep the turnovers in its favor, the Wildcats will continue to win big.
Weakness: Defensive Secondary
The Kansas State defense is not a bad squad. It is No. 9 against the run this season and is the No. 36 total defensive unit in the country. Against the pass, it is absolutely terrible.
This team gives up 259 yards per game through the air, ranking it at No. 91 in the country against the pass.
The Wildcats do play in the explosive Big 12, but nothing about that stat line is positive. If Kansas State wants to make it to the BCS title game and win, it has to improve in the secondary.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Strength: Quarterback Play
You thought I was going to say defense didn’t you? While the Alabama defense is a very strong point for the Crimson Tide, the play of A.J. McCarron has been the most impressive piece of success for Alabama this season.
McCarron has not thrown an interception this season and is ranked No. 3 in the country in passer efficiency with a mark of 173.54. He has also completed 66.7 percent of his passes on the way to 1,849 passing yards and 19 touchdowns.
Without McCarron, this team is not undefeated.
Weakness: Defensive Secondary
If there is a weakness that is obvious for Alabama, it is the defensive secondary. The squad was the No. 1 unit in the country until the LSU game, but that is when the unit was exposed. It is now the No. 8 pass defense in the country.
Alabama’s schedule has been anything but daunting this fall with no prolific passers landing on the schedule all season. Zach Mettenberger has been mediocre all season for LSU, but he had an all-star showing against Alabama tossing for 296 yards and a touchdown against the Tide.
There is an apparent gap in the middle third of the defense in zone coverage, and Mettenberger found it often. Alabama safety play has been mediocre, and the corners missed some plays against the elite skill players for LSU.
If Oregon is a future bowl opponent, this could become a major concern for the Tide.