With three undefeated teams (Auburn, Georgia and Oregon) falling this weekend, and Michigan remaining unscathed halfway through the year, it’s time to start handicapping the race to the no-loss season. Nine teams are left from six different conferences, and here are their chances to do it.
No. 19 Missouri (2-0 Big XII North, 6-0 overall)
Off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 1973, Missouri benefited from a schedule so easy that it would make Andy Katzenmoyer blush. It rolled over teams like Colorado (0-6 with a loss to Division I-AA Montana State) and Murray State (a Division I-AA team with a 1-5 record). But Saturday’s big win over inter-division foe Texas Tech – the only team now over .500 Missouri’s faced – proved that the Tigers can compete.
It’s unlikely that will last long, though, as games against Nebraska and Oklahoma – and possibly the Big XII Championship game loom – on the horizon. Surely, they’ll lose one of them.
No. 24 Rutgers (1-0 Big East, 5-0)
The birthplace of college football, Rutgers had been one of the sport’s perennial doormats until its recent reemergence under coach Greg Schiano. Led by preseason Heisman hopeful fullback Brian Leonard and now-Heisman hopeful halfback Ray Rice (141 carries, 806 yards, 11 touchdowns), they’ve run through some not-really-quality opponents (Division I-AA Howard, for instance) and eeked out a win over South Florida. The Scarlet Knights play has earned them their first ranking since 1976, when they went 11-0.
Still, Mike Teel isn’t an ideal quarterback, and they need to beat top-10 teams Louisville and West Virginia. Plus Schiano will have to stay focused even though many big suitors (see Miami) will be calling. And, oh yeah, this is Rutgers we’re talking about.
No. 3 Southern Cal (3-0 Pacific-10, 5-0)
Give them some credit. The Trojans have played better than people expected. But Josh Booty’s no Matt Leinart, Chauncey Washington and Emmanuel Moody are no Reggie Bush and Lendale White, and this isn’t last year’s Trojan team. It’s been a bit shakier for Southern Cal recently – it just barely beat Washington State and Washington the past two weeks.
And the real reason the Trojans won’t do it: The four-game stretch of Oregon, California, Notre Dame and UCLA to end the season looks nearly impossible.
No. 2 Florida (4-0 Southeastern Conference, 6-0)
Urban Meyer seems to have figured things out in Gainesville and probably won’t be riding the Ron Zook train anytime soon. And the quarterback combo of senior Chris Leak and freshman Tim Tebow? Pretty darn effective. The Gators have some big wins in the always-tough Southeastern Conference including Tennessee, Alabama and a 23-point performance against a much-heralded Louisiana State defense Saturday night.
Unfortunately for Florida, things don’t get any easier. Next up, a Saturday night game at Auburn, probably pretty eager to win after that loss to Arkansas. Then comes Georgia, also a solid team upset about a huge defeat this weekend. And don’t forget about the rivalry game at Florida State to close out the season.
The Gators are good, but their schedule will probably get the best of them.
No. 7 Louisville (0-0 Big East, 5-0)
The Cardinals remain unscathed despite a season-ending injury to star running back Michael Bush and an injury to quarterback Brian Brohm. Coach Bobby Petrino has made the proverbial lemonade from lemons, with his team’s offense averaging 44 points per game while his defense allows just 11.6.
But like many other teams on the list, their schedule is suspect. A 31-7 drubbing of Miami seemed quite impressive – until the ‘Canes barely scraped by Houston the next week. If the Cardinals manage to get through West Virginia Nov. 2 (doubtful), they need to recover quick enough to beat Rutgers on the road the next week. I just don’t see it happening.
No. 4 Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 6-0)
The Wolverines already broke one barrier by advancing through the nonconference season undefeated for the first time since 1999. That dreaded road game against Notre Dame turned into an impressive resum