College Football 2011: Predicting the Next Loss for Every BCS Conference Team
In college football, unlike any other major American sport, seasons are won and lost in a single game. It's the beauty and the curse of the game.
Lose, and your chances of winning a national championship plummet. Lose twice and forget it. In 2007 LSU became the first and only team in history to win a championship with more than one loss—don't bet on that happening again anytime soon.
Entering Week 6 of the season, 15 teams remain undefeated, but it won't be long before that number dwindles down to a handful. By the end of the regular season, history dictates we'll be lucky to see more than three contenders with unblemished records.
We have to go back to Auburn in 2004 to find the last undefeated team from a major conference that didn't play in the national championship.
So let's take a look at this 2011 field and start whittling away predictions for the next loss of every team from the major conferences, as well as a few notables from the mid-majors.
Notable: Air Force
Next Loss: @ Boise State, 10/22
Air Force is included for a couple of reasons. One, the team showed a tremendous amount of promise before the season as not quite a dark horse, but someone who could derail some championship hopes along the way to a solid season.
After the TCU loss we aren't as confident in this team, but still think Notre Dame and San Diego State are overmatched in the upcoming games.
Boise State isn't, though. The Broncos will show us the difference between a good team and an elite team.
Notabe: Boise State
Next Loss: Undefeated
If there's a knock on Boise State, it's that the Broncos don't play a hard enough schedule for championship consideration. An untimely loss to Nevada derailed any title hopes last season, but there doesn't appear to be anything blocking the road this time around.
But unlike last year, when the Broncos beat ACC champions Virginia Tech, an overrated preseason Top 25 Georgia team looks like the cream of the crop this year. There isn't enough there to give Boise a loss, but that also means it probably won't be enough to give Boise a title shot either.
Next Loss: Southern Methodist, 11/19
Houston and Boise State remain the only two undefeated teams outside of the BCS conferences, and with Case Keenum in the shotgun for one last rodeo, you really have to like the Cougars' chances of going undefeated this season. On the remaining schedule the two matchups that stand out are Marshall and SMU—both home games.
In what should be a shootout between two of the top passing teams in the nation, SMU's superior defense will be the difference that cuts Houston a victory short of perfection.
Notable: Notre Dame
Next Loss: Air Force, 10/8
At 3-2, Note Dame makes the list as a notable for no other reason than the school's rich tradition and immense following. Fans want to know about the Irish so we won't hold back, but don't look here for good news.
The victory over lowly Purdue doesn't erase what should have been a loss to Pitt the week before, but you could argue that the big win over then-14th-ranked Michigan State cancels that out. OK, fine, take that—but know that Air Force's running game is legit and we're not buying in on this Irish defense.
Next Loss: @ Boise State, 11/12
We include TCU because this was a team that a year ago went 13-0 and beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Of course it's without star quarterback Andy Dalton—now with the Cincinnati Bengals—but this is still a very talented team that has gotten off to a bad start. It isn't a bad team.
Let's be realistic here—the losses came by way of a 50-48 shootout with Baylor and an overtime thriller against SMU. TCU might have lost out on the BCS, but no one besides Boise State is beating this team again in 2011.
ACC: Boston College
Next Loss: @ Clemson, 10/8
Boston College has only managed to beat Massachusetts so far this season, and sitting at 1-4, the future looks bleak. Meanwhile, Clemson has beaten three ranked opponents in a row and is one of the best of those 15 undefeated teams.
ACC: Florida State
ACC: Georgia Tech
ACC: North Carolina
ACC: North Carolina State
ACC: Virginia Tech
ACC: Wake Forest
Big 12: Baylor
Big 12: Iowa State
Big 12: Kansas
Big 12: Kansas State
Big 12: Missouri
Big 12: Oklahoma
Big 12: Oklahoma State
Next Loss: Oklahoma, 12/3
Oklahoma State has lately been one of the most under-appreciated teams in the nation. Perennially ranked but never really in the title discussion despite the fact this team has posted a 33-10 record since 2008.
Now after the Cowboys 30-29 victory over Texas A&M we have to ask ourselves a difficult question. Is Oklahoma State that good or is A&M overrated?
Time will tell for certain, but we're buying the Cowboys as the real deal. This team only lost to Nebraska and Oklahoma in 2010 and now the Cornhuskers are in the Big Ten. In 2011, Oklahoma State only losses to arch rival Oklahoma in the final game of the regular season.
Big 12: Texas
Big 12: Texas A&M
Big 12: Texas Tech
Big East: Cincinnati
Big East: Connecticut
Big East: Louisville
Big East: Pittsburgh
Big East: Rutgers
Big East: South Florida
Big East: Syracuse
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Illinois
Big Ten: Indiana
Big Ten: Iowa
Big Ten: Michigan
Big Ten: Michigan State
Big Ten: Minnesota
Big Ten: Nebraska
Big Ten: Northwestern
Big Ten: Ohio State
Big Ten: Penn State
Big Ten: Purdue
Big Ten: Wisconsin
Pac-12: Arizona State
Pac-12: Oregon State
Next Loss: Stanford, 10/29
USC has been shaky at best this season and those who were worried after the 19-17 win over lowly Minnesota in opening weekend had their fears confirmed when Arizona State lit the Trojans up in an embarrassing 43-22 loss.
Cal, Notre Dame and Stanford are up next and if you made an argument for USC losing any of these games you probably have a point. But Cal just lost to Washington and Notre Dame has hardly impressed outside of the Michigan State win.
Stanford on the other hand is an easy choice. Andrew Luck will get his third straight win over the Trojans and finish his college career having never lost to USC as a starter.
Pac-12: Washington State
SEC: Louisiana State
SEC: Mississippi State
SEC: South Carolina
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