Predicting When Every Undefeated College Football Team Will Lose

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2019

Predicting When Every Undefeated College Football Team Will Lose

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    Six weeks into the 2019 college football season, 16 of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams remain undefeated. That number will steadily be trimmed, though.

    Based on the remaining games, seven are guaranteed to lose at least once. For example, the Big Ten and SEC both have four unbeatens, but future games (Wisconsin at Ohio State, Penn State at Minnesota, Florida vs. Georgia and LSU at Alabama) will eliminate four.

    Throw in a few other marquee conference games and inevitable upsets, and several more will drop a contest in 2019.

    We've pulled out the prognosticator hat and identified the matchup that will blemish the record for most of the 16 teams. Not everyone has a projected loss before the College Football Playoff, though.

Group of 5 Teams

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    Appalachian State Mountaineers

    Over the last three seasons, Appalachian State has only dropped games against power-conference teams or on the road. Those aspects are likely to merge in 2019. The Mountaineers travel to South Carolina in early November, and it's the fifth of eight consecutive weeks with a game. That's a prime letdown moment.

    First loss: South Carolina (Nov. 9)

               

    Boise State Broncos

    According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Broncos have a 12.4 percent chance of finishing the regular season undefeated. That possibility comes down to whether Boise State can navigate trips to BYU and Utah State. While the Broncos have an excellent defense, Utah Statethe expected blowout loss to LSU notwithstandinghas an NFL-caliber quarterback in Jordan Love to counter that superb unit.

    First loss: Utah State (Nov. 23)

                 

    Memphis Tigers

    Memphis has built a decent margin for error with an explosive offense and competent defense. If the latter unit performs well, the Tigers can overcome a below-average day from the scoring attack. But they cannot afford to have a poor defensive day while the offense struggles, and Templewhich ranks 43rd in yards per game and 20th defensivelycan cause exactly that while at home.

    First loss: Temple (Oct. 12)

                 

    SMU Mustangs

    One of the best stories in 2019, SMU has surged to 6-0 behind a high-powered offense. This defense is continually playing with fire, though. The Mustangs have allowed 30-plus points three times. They could side step Temple thanks to home-field advantage, but back-to-back road games (Houston and Memphis) are problems. The more likely loss is Memphis, though Houston is a real possibility.

    First loss: Memphis (Nov. 2)

ACC: Clemson and Wake Forest

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    Clemson Tigers

    Perhaps it's stubbornness, but we're not adjusting expectations for Clemson yet. The Tigers limped to 5-0 after surviving a scare at North Carolina, and that seems like the wake-up call the reigning national champions needed. Clemson will be favored in every remaining game and only travels to Louisville, NC State and South Carolina.

    First loss: 13-0, CFP berth

               

    Wake Forest Demon Deacons

    Behind breakout stars in quarterback Jamie Newman and wideout Sage Surratt, the Deacs have jumped out to a surprising 5-0 record. Similar to SMU's run, though, three victories were one-possession wins. Three straight home games after an idle weekend are encouraging, but Florida State has slowly improved since a nightmare start. The Seminoles' talent advantage will be the difference.

    First loss: Florida State (Oct. 19)

Big Ten: Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin

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    Minnesota Golden Gophers

    No undefeated team is walking a thinner line than Minnesota, which edged South Dakota State, Fresno State, Georgia Southern and Purdue by seven points or fewer. While the Gophers may navigate a clash with Nebraska before they topple Rutgers, the schedule is unfriendly from there. Maryland could be a tough opponent if the offense bounces back from a rough end to September, but Minnesota won't get past Penn State anyway.

    First loss: Penn State (Nov. 9)

               

    Ohio State Buckeyes

    Jump on Ohio State early, and you have a chance. The Buckeyes have 66 first-quarter points compared to 134 in the second frame. However, OSU has allowed only eight points in the first 15 minutes. Wisconsin and Penn State are capable of winning the opening quarter, yet the Buckeyes haven't lost a Big Ten game at home since November 2015. And unless you believe Michiganagainst all evidencewill discover a great offense, the road schedule isn't a problem.

    First loss: 13-0, CFP berth

                 

    Penn State Nittany Lions

    After taking on Iowa and Michigan on October 12 and 19, respectively, Penn State will wrap up the month at Michigan State. The Spartans, meanwhile, should be rested after an idle weekend, have home-field advantage and are 4-1 against Penn State in the James Franklin era. At best, this is an unfavorable set of circumstances.

    First loss: Michigan State (Oct. 26)    

                 

    Wisconsin Badgers

    Process of elimination is simple on this one. If we're expecting Wisconsin to defeat Michigan State and Illinoisyes and yeswhile Ohio State is projected to go 12-0, the Badgers will lose in Columbus. Unless they can ride Jonathan Taylor against the nation's sixth-most-efficient run defense, the upset isn't happening.

    First loss: Ohio State (Oct. 26)

Big 12: Baylor and Oklahoma

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    Baylor Bears

    Not only did Baylor have the country's easiest nonconference slate, it also avoids TCU, Oklahoma and Texas until November. Avoiding the likely losses for a couple of months sure helps the record look nice! Baylor is improved, but the setbacks are coming. The Week 8 contest at Oklahoma State looks dicey. The Pokes are idle in Week 7 and will be Baylor's toughest defensive test so far this season.

    First loss: Oklahoma State (Oct. 19)

                     

    Oklahoma Sooners

    Although we know the Jalen Hurts-led offense is elite, evaluating the defense is trickier. Oklahoma's strength of schedule will improve but sits 87th, per Sports Reference. Will the defense collapse in November like last season? If that happens, Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State could all give OU a 60-minute fight. But the final verdict, thanks to that offense, is no upset loss.

    First loss: 13-0, CFP berth

SEC: Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU

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    Alabama Crimson Tide

    For the Tide, 2019 basically hinges on the result against LSU. They're unlikely to fall at Texas A&M or Auburn, and none of Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi State or Western Carolina have much of a shot. LSU, however, finally has an offense that can challenge Alabama. The Tide still have the better scoring attack, though, and they'll be at home. Make it nine straight for Alabama over LSU.

    First loss: 13-0, CFP berth

               

    Florida Gators

    This defense is really, really good. The offense has battled through a few notable injuries and is extracting every tenth of efficiency despite its limitations. In all likelihood, Florida is headed back to a New Year's Six bowl. However, the Gators are still a step below Georgia and need to counter LSU's suddenly dynamic offenseon the road, too. Neither outlook is promising.

    First loss: LSU (Oct. 12)

            

    Georgia Bulldogs

    As long as Florida doesn't fall at South Carolina, the result at LSU has a minor effect on the Nov. 2 showdown. The winner will be the front-runner in the SEC East because of the tiebreaker. Yet if the Gators lose to LSU, Georgia could basically clinch the division in Jacksonville. That should happen, along with a win at Auburn two weeks later. While both defenses are excellent, we're not trusting Bo Nix over Jake Fromm. That flips to favor Tua Tagovailoa in the SEC title.

    First loss: Alabama in SEC Championship Game (Dec. 7)

            

    LSU Tigers

    Over the next month, LSU's season will be written. The Tigers have alternating home and away contests with Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama. They'll be deserved favorites against the first three and an understandable underdog at Bama; every result will remain true to the spread. LSU's defense will be the difference against the first three, buteven as the Tigers are finally built to compete with Alabama offensivelyexpecting a win in Tuscaloosa is unwise.

    First loss: Alabama (Nov. 9)