College Football

Power Ranking the Chance for Each Undefeated Team to Run the Table

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIOctober 14, 2013

Power Ranking the Chance for Each Undefeated Team to Run the Table

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    College football's list of undefeated teams got a lot shorter during Week 7, when Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford lost to unranked opponents. This raised an interesting question: In this season full of upsets, who has the best shot at avoiding a loss?

    There are currently 14 unbeaten teams across the landscape. Each is wildly different in talent level, and they all face vastly disparate schedules.

    With those two factors in mind, here is the chance for each undefeated team to run the table. Teams are presented in order from least to most likely.

    *Ratings are from Jeff Sagarin's page. The deciding factor for placement is the ratings difference between the team and its strongest remaining opponent (negative numbers indicate the opponent is stronger).

14. Houston Cougars

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    Win-Loss Record: 5-0

    Team Rating: 72.22

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 73.329

    Difference: -1.109

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Louisville (86.87)

     

    Houston has rolled its opponents 39.8-19 (on average) this season. The Cougars have made a nice home in the newly named American Athletic Conference, as their record indicates.

    However, they face the toughest road of any unbeaten team. They have seven battles left before bowl season, and they'll be underdogs in four of those contests.

    They face the BYU Cougars (80.51) on Oct. 19, who might just bring this house of cards down immediately.

     

    Deciding Factor: -14.65

13. UCLA Bruins

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Win-Loss Record: 5-0

    Team Rating: 87.57

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 83.628

    Difference: 3.942

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Oregon (97.67) at least once

     

    The UCLA Bruins are better than their average remaining opponent, but that isn't going to help them against the strongest one: Oregon. The Ducks have decimated everyone in their path, including highly ranked Washington.

    UCLA will earn every bit of respect it needs by defeating the Ducks, but it might not end there. The undead Ducks would still be able to exact revenge in the Pac-12 title game in December.

    The Bruins are at a severe disadvantage compared to most of the teams on this list. Oregon is the highest-rated team in the country. It will be an impressive accomplishment if the Bruins win just one of the matches.

     

    Deciding Factor: -10.1

12. Miami Hurricanes

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    Win-Loss Record: 5-0

    Team Rating: 83.51

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 76.09

    Difference: 7.42

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Florida State (93.5) at least once

     

    Yes, Miami is in that dreaded "at least once" category. The Hurricanes face the Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 2, and they might see them again in the conference title game.

    Miami is better than almost every opponent it has left, but Florida State isn't it's only major concern. The Virginia Tech Hokies (79.99) are also an extreme danger.

    The Hokies have lost only to Alabama, and their No. 7 scoring defense will give the Hurricanes everything they can handle.

     

    Deciding Factor: -9.99

11. Missouri Tigers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    *UPDATE*

    James Franklin will miss three to five weeks, not six, according to Gary Pinkel via SB Nation.

     

    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 87.28

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 81.971

    Difference: 5.309

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Alabama (97.01)

     

    Missouri upset the Georgia Bulldogs in Week 7, remaining eligible for this list. The Tigers are rated higher than any of their regular-season opponents. Missouri's biggest single-game hurdle is the SEC title game.

    Alabama is the current projected opponent, and the Tide are rated almost 10 points higher than the Tigers. FYI: Kansas (No. 105) and Houston (No. 56) are separated by the same rating gap.

    Also, quarterback James Franklin will be out for at least six games, making things even more difficult.

     

    Deciding Factor: -9.73

10. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    John Weast/Getty Images

    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 82.91

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 80.485

    Difference: 2.425

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Baylor (90.27)

     

    Texas Tech has made it through TCU, Kansas and Iowa State so far this season, but the journey has just begun. West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas round out the brutal schedule that could ruin the Red Raiders on any weekend.

    They'll have to take down three Top 25 teams in a four-week span beginning on Oct. 26 to run the table. The Oklahoma Sooners (84.05) are the first opponent in that stretch, too.

    At least there isn't a conference title game to make things even worse.

     

    Deciding Factor: -7.36

9. Clemson Tigers

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    Tyler Smith/Getty Images

    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 86.85

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 75.411

    Difference: 11.439

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Florida State (93.5)

     

    Speaking of potential season-ruining games, the Clemson Tigers host Florida State on Oct. 19. That certainly puts an expiration date on predictions, doesn't it?

    The Tigers earned their reputation against a healthy Georgia squad on opening weekend, but they've failed to deliver decisive victories in key games since then. Most notably, they struggled mightily with Boston College (71.05) in Week 7.

    Clemson fans must hope that the Tigers were looking past that game. If not, the Tigers might be Florida State's next Maryland.

     

    Deciding Factor: -6.65

8. Northern Illinois Huskies

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 72.49

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 58.819

    Difference: 13.671

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Bowling Green (72.07)

     

    Northern Illinois has the lowest average opponent strength of the group. On the other hand, the Huskies have failed to deliver last year's stats, so when in doubt, favor the field.

    Northern Illinois has every bit as much talent as it had last season. This means that the Huskies can run the table, but it's not going to be easy. Expect a couple of games to go into extra time, just as they did last season.

    Especially the Bowling Green match. The Falcons and Huskies have the lowest difference in ratings on this list.

     

    Deciding Factor: 0.42

7. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 86.44

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 73.38

    Difference: 13.06

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Michigan State (80.62)

     

    Ohio State has already faced its strongest regular-season opponent, Wisconsin (85.73). That's excellent news for Ohio State fans: Theoretically, the worst is already over.

    The Buckeyes have a lot of tough opponents coming, though, and the Michigan Wolverines (78.41) pose a legitimate threat on rivalry weekend. Ohio State can't skate through to the conference title, but it's absolutely capable of winning any game it plays.

     

    Deciding Factor: 5.82

6. Baylor Bears

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    Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

    Win-Loss Record: 5-0

    Team Rating: 90.27

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 77.313

    Difference: 12.957

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Oklahoma (84.05)

     

    Baylor is No. 5 on Sagarin's list, and the Bears ground out a tough win over the Kansas State Wildcats (76.77) in Week 7. That's the problem.

    Baylor struggled with the Wildcats, which is cause for alarm. The Bears should cruise through Iowa State and Kansas, but that's it.

    After Oct. 26, all five opponents are rated higher than Kansas State. The Bears have a good statistical chance at running the table, but the offense has to score closer to 70 points than 35 from now on.

     

    Deciding Factor: 6.22

5. Florida State Seminoles

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    Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    Win-Loss Record: 5-0

    Team Rating: 93.5

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 73.631

    Difference: 19.869

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Clemson (86.85)

     

    Florida State will answer its loudest call to arms on Oct. 19 at Clemson. The Tigers and Seminoles are atop the ACC Atlantic Division, and this game will decide which team controls its own fate.

    From a pure ratings perspective and from recent play, Florida State should win. However, the phrase "defense wins championships" comes to mind.

    This is a championship-quality bout, and Florida State's No. 3 scoring defense is a slight advantage over the Tigers' 10th-ranked unit. Florida State's superiority on offense and defense will at least neutralize Clemson's home-field advantage.

     

    Deciding Factor: 6.65

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 97.01

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 76.304

    Difference: 20.706

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: LSU (90.33)

     

    Alabama's slate is favorable as long as its rating is accurate. However, "rivalry game" has no set mathematical value, so the Tide get zero credit for what Tennessee or Auburn might do to them.

    On the bright side, LSU still gets all the respect it needs from the AP No. 6 slot. Both LSU and 'Bama have the week of Nov. 2 off, and that puts a month of combined preparation into this match.

    Alabama wishes that the Sagarin ratings decided games (instead of just assisting with BCS rankings). If so, this match would be a breeze.

     

    Deciding Factor: 6.68

3. Fresno State Bulldogs

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    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    Win-Loss Record: 5-0

    Team Rating: 73.17

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 62.784

    Difference: 10.386

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: Wyoming (66.46)

     

    Fresno State has the second-easiest schedule of all 14 perfect squads (Northern Illinois has the easiest.) The Bulldogs' biggest issue is that Wyoming can be a truly great team when it wants to be, as it was against Nebraska on opening weekend.

    Fresno State's answer? Derek Carr. The senior quarterback is 183-of-259 this season for 1,864 yards, 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He can overcome a lot of adversity on his own, but Fresno's 103rd-ranked defense has to stop being so terrible.

    It allowed the lowly Hawaii Warriors (averaging 22.8 points per game) to score 20 in the fourth quarter alone on Sept. 29. That cannot happen against anyone for the rest of this season, especially Wyoming.

     

    Deciding Factor: 6.71

2. Louisville Cardinals

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    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 86.87

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 67.125

    Difference: 19.745

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: UCF (78.95)

     

    Louisville's excellent shot at remaining undefeated is also the reason it will likely be shut out of the national title game: schedule strength. The Cardinals have the third-softest slate on this list (Northern Illinois and Fresno State have the first and second, respectively.)

    They meet UCF on Friday, Oct. 18, at home. They could earn a lot of respect with a blowout win, but that's relevant only to the national title. Perspective: The Knights are rated between Rutgers and Louisville. Another lackluster performance from the Cardinals will stop their season in its tracks.

     

    Deciding Factor: 7.92

1. Oregon Ducks

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Win-Loss Record: 6-0

    Team Rating: 97.67

    Average Rating of Remaining Opponents: 81.499

    Difference: 16.171

    Strongest Remaining Opponent: UCLA (87.57)

     

    Oregon's rating is completely responsible for ts place on this list. As far as raw schedule strength, the Ducks' slate is third only to UCLA and Missouri (in that order).

    However, Oregon boasts top-10 places in rushing offense, scoring offense and scoring defense, which puts it at No. 1 in Sagarin's team ratings. This means the Ducks would have to schedule Baylor (90.27) or better just to drop below Louisville in this piece.

     

    Deciding Factor: 10.1

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