There are eight unbeaten teams from Power 5 conferences left in college football this season, and six of them are at the top of the Associated Press poll this week. However, there are a total of 10 unbeaten teams left in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and it’s time to look at the less-publicized ones right now, two weeks before the first College Football Playoff rankings are released.
First, the “big six” teams are, in alphabetical order, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Penn State. The other four teams are Appalachian State, Baylor, Minnesota, and SMU, and each school in this latter quartet needs some exploration.
- Appalachian State: The Mountaineers are best known still for their epic takedown of Michigan in September 2007, which really started the accelerated downfall of the Wolverines to also-ran status on the national scene. But Appy State was not in the FBS then, and it is now, leading the way in the Sun Belt Conference, as we have pointed out for several weeks now in our weekly projections for a 16-team tournament. At 6-0, the Mountaineers haven’t played a “tough” schedule, but they did beat North Carolina of the mighty ACC on the road, so there is some legitimacy here. Appy State could go undefeated.
- Baylor: Since blowing a 41-21 lead in the Cotton Bowl a few seasons ago to Michigan State, the Bears have been off the radar for most college fans. They’re back with a 7-0 record right now, although the schedule is still soft for an FBS team. Baylor’s best win so far? It’s beating No. 23 Iowa State at home by two points. The Bears could be 9-0 by the time they host No. 5 Oklahoma on November 16. They also host No. 15 Texas the following Saturday.
- Minnesota: This B1G squad also has benefitted from soft scheduling, with its best win coming over … well, we’re not sure. Two wins have come over non-FBS opponents, and the four conference victims are Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers, and Nebraska. With Maryland up next, the Golden Gophers should be 8-0 when they take on No. 6 Penn State come November 9, and No. 15 Iowa awaits—in addition to No. 12 Wisconsin. Draw your own conclusions here.
- Southern Methodist: Another weak-sister schedule is the primary reason for the Mustangs’ return to the polls, right now at No. 16 overall. They did beat then-No. 25 TCU by three points on the road back in September, but otherwise, the schedule is full of non-Power 5 schools. SMU beat Houston on the road last weekend by three points, and for comparison’s sake, the last-place team in the Pacific-12 North Division beat Houston on the road by seven points. The Mustangs also could remain undefeated with this schedule.
Clearly, Baylor and Minnesota face an uphill battle to finish undefeated, while Appalachian State and Southern Methodist could run the table. Neither team is going to crawl up the polls enough to impress the CFP, of course, and even if every Power 5 conference champ ended up with two losses somehow, the powers that be still wouldn’t reward Appy State or SMU with a berth in the final four.
However, it’s worth keeping an eye on how these four “lesser” teams play in the next month, for hope springs eternal in our neck of the college-football woods.