After Week 7 featured three undefeated college football teams losing, only eight remain unbeaten, but when will their first losses come?
Coming into this past weekend of college football action, there were 11 undefeated teams remaining throughout the country. Given the way that things had transpired throughout the start of the year with upsets everywhere, that seemed like quite a lot to still be left without a loss on their record. Apparently, the college football deities agreed and started picking off the unbeaten like flies.
The South Florida Bulls were the first to almost suffer that fate, needing a fourth-quarter surge to get past the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. However, it was instead the Georgia Bulldogs that were the first unbeaten to fall last week. Not only did Jake Fromm and Co. suffer their first loss of the season, but they did so in a game that was never in doubt, LSU commencing total domination of the Dawgs.
The damage wasn’t done after that, however. Next to fall was the West Virginia Mountaineers and, like the Bulldogs before them, they were never really all that close to picking up the win in Will Grier’s worst game of the season to date. Then, finally, the Pac-12 After Dark crew got a little taste of this medicine as the Colorado Buffaloes tasted defeat for the first time this year at the hands (swords?) of the USC Trojans.
With how things played out last week, there are now eight remaining undefeated teams in college football. Obviously, it’d be a wild ride to see multiple teams finish the season with an unbeaten record, but we know that’s almost impossible to happen. Put simply, most (if not all) of these teams are going to lose.
Having that in mind, let’s look at these eight remaining undefeated teams in college football and predict when their first losses will come.
South Florida Bulls (6-0)
Remaining Schedule: vs. UConn | at Houston | vs. Tulane | at Cincinnati | at Temple | vs. UCF
It took Blake Barnett quite a while to find a college football home, making stops at Alabama and Arizona State previously. However, the nomadic quarterback has finally settled and he’s now leading the South Florida Bulls to an impressive season to this point. The 21st-ranked team in the country sits with a 6-0 record and has aspirations to not only stay unbeaten but to usurp rival UCF in the process to win the AAC this year.
Having said that, this is a South Florida team that has been far from perfect this season and that has been on the wrong end of some close calls. Most recently, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane took the Bulls to the absolute edge in a Week 7 Friday matchup as South Florida needed a late field goal to secure the win. What’s more, that was the Bulls’ third one-possession victory on the season, showing that they have a tendency to let teams keep things close.
That isn’t to say that this Bulls squad isn’t good, because they are. Despite his long journey to this point, Barnett has put forth some truly impressive efforts this season and the team around him has playmakers on both sides of the ball. Where they struggle, however, is with their consistency and, on a few occasions, how they handle pressure.
While some might say that late-season games against Cincinnati or UCF might be the Bulls’ first loss, though, I believe it comes sooner than that. South Florida must go on the road against a stout Houston team that can both score in bunches and has stars on defense. Playing that game away from home, I don’t think the Bulls survive with an unblemished record.
First Loss: Oct. 27 at Houston
Cincinnati Bearcats (6-0)
Remaining Schedule: at Temple | at SMU | vs. Navy | vs. South Florida | at UCF | vs. East Carolina
Of the remaining undefeated teams in college football, the Cincinnati Bearcats feel like the one that’s flying way under the radar. They sit at 6-0 right now and, for the most part, haven’t been that close to losing yet this season. In fact, you could make the argument that only one outcome has even been in question for the Bearcats through their first six games of the season.
Some may argue that Cincinnati was at least thinking about a loss in their season-opener against Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins. However, after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, I would argue that the Bearcats took complete control of the game, even if the Bruins tied it up in the third quarter. With that said, they were close to losing to the Ohio Bobcats.
Against the Bobcats, Cincinnati appeared to be in major trouble. They went down 21-0 early in the second quarter and went into halftime trailing 24-7. What’s more, they were down 27-14 midway through the third quarter and appeared to be in a tough spot. Of course, the Bearcats were ultimately able to claw their way back and pick up the win, but against an Ohio team that’s a mere 3-3 n the season with no quality wins, it wasn’t a good look.
Because of that game and their overall lack of competition though, it’s hard to not think that this undefeated Cincinnati start might be a bit of fool’s gold. As such, when they go to play UCF on the road late in the season, I think that they struggle mightily to compete and finally take a loss.
First Loss: Nov. 17 at UCF
NC State Wolfpack (5-0)
Remaining Schedule: at Clemson | at Syracuse | vs. Florida State | vs. Wake Forest | at Louisville | at North Carolina | vs. East Carolina
Much has been said after seven weeks of the 2018 college football season regarding the lack of quality in the ACC this season. For the most part, anything said in that regard is quite valid. With teams like the Miami Hurricanes, Virginia Tech Hokies and the Florida State Seminoles falling far below expectations this season, it’s been a tough year for the conference as a whole. Aside from Clemson though, the NC State Wolfpack have been the ACC’s most redeeming quality.
Many thought that this Wolfpack team would be pretty good in the 2018 season, but there weren’t many that were predicting an unbeaten start to the season for Ryan Finely and Co. Despite a close call in their opener against James Madison and even last week at home against Boston College, though, that’s what NC State has managed to do to this point.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Wolfpack really haven’t played anyone that formidable to this point. Their win over Boston College last week featured them playing their toughest game of the season to date after their Week 3 matchup against West Virginia was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. Thus, it feels appropriate to say we don’t truly know what this Wolfpack team is.
We’re going to find out, however. On Saturday in Week 8, NC State is going on the road to face the also unbeaten Clemson Tigers. With the defensive prowess now matched by the offensive force that Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence provide, the Wolfpack don’t stand a chance in this one and will be the first of these remaining unbeaten teams to lose.
First Loss: Oct. 20 at Clemson
UCF Knights (6-0)
Remaining Schedule: at East Carolina | vs. Temple | vs. Navy | vs. Cincinnati | vs. South Florida
If you’re starting to forget what it’s like for the UCF Knights to lose a college football game, you’re not alone. The last time that this team knew what defeat felt like came after the 2016 Cure Bowl after a loss to Arkansas State. Following a full 13-0 campaign last season — in which, of course, they declared themselves National Champions — UCF is back at it again with a 6-0 start to the year.
The Knights are actually coming off of their closest test to date. The Memphis Tigers, who took them to double overtime in the AAC Championship Game last season, again took the Knights to the brink. McKenzie Milton and Co. actually needed a second-half comeback to just eek out the 31-30 victory over the Tigers.
Having said that, that’s the one truly close game that UCF has played this season, and against a good team no less. Over the next three weeks, they shouldn’t have much trouble as they appear far superior to teams like East Carolina, Temple and Navy. However, it’s their two-game finishing stretch of playing Cincinnati at home and then South Florida on the road that’s scary.
Those are two other unbeaten teams we’ve already discussed, so we know the quality we’re talking about here. Thus, it seems possible that, in playing those two back-to-back, UCF could be susceptible to a loss. However, I think they survive that.
Following that stretch, though, what I don’t think they survive is the AAC Championship Game. Likely in a matchup with Ed Oliver and Houston, I think the Knights will be worn down and the Cougars will jump at the opportunity and pull off a massive upset heading into bowl season.
First Loss: AAC Championship
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0)
Remaining Schedule: vs. Navy | at Northwestern | vs. Florida State | vs. Syracuse | at USC
There have truthfully been two iterations of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after seven weeks of the 2018 college football season. There was the version at the start of the year with Brandon Wimbush in as the starting quarterback that made upset scares a bit of a concerning habit. However, the last four weeks have seen Notre Dame look like a team rejuvenated by Ian Book starting at quarterback.
Regardless of whether or not it’s been Wimbush or Book under center for Brian Kelly’s team, they have taken care of quality competition this season. They topped Michigan in their season-opener, made it past a good Vanderbilt team, then toppled Stanford and Virginia Tech handily in back-to-back weeks.
However, Week 7 was a bit of a scare for the Fighting Irish brought them a scare. With most people looking at their remaining schedule and thinking that they would be able to go on cruise control throughout the rest of the 2018 season, they needed a come-from-behind effort to top the mediocre Pittsburgh Panthers. That’s not exactly the most optimistic sign for this team that now has a sure-fire way into the College Football Playoff.
Even with that close effort against Pitt, I’m still of the belief that they are too quality and balanced on both sides of the ball to lose to anyone else left on their schedule. Having said that, I don’t believe that the Irish are at the same level as the other teams that will likely be in the CFP, meaning that they will lose, it just won’t be until the Playoff is underway.
First Loss: College Football Playoff
Clemson Tigers (6-0)
Remaining Schedule: vs. NC State | at Florida State | vs. Louisville | at Boston College | vs. Duke | vs. South Carolina
Of the highest-ranked teams in the country, perhaps none of them have played an easier schedule to this point than the Clemson Tigers. To date, they have not played a ranked opponent yet — though Texas A&M has since become ranked. What’s more, they are also playing in the ACC, a conference that has been historically disappointing to this point in the season. All that leaves some questions about this team.
Having said that, we’re going to see what this Clemson team and freshman starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence are all about in Week 8 of the season as they welcome the NC State Wolfpack to Death Valley. As stated, the Wolfpack are also one of the remaining undefeated teams and they have talent on both sides of the ball to compete.
Despite not being tested to this point in the season, however, this Clemson team can simply overwhelm everyone that they play from here on out with their talent. Lawrence has been proving himself all season with playmaking wide receivers around him and running back Travis Etienne is looking like a Heisman candidate. And let’s not forget the defense that is one of the best units in the country in terms of talent.
Thus, I don’t think NC State is the team to do it, nor is any other team in the ACC, such as Duke or whatever team they could face in the ACC Championship Game. Having said that, when it’s time for the College Football Playoff, the Tigers will prove to be a bit weaker than the rest of the field and suffer their first loss then.
First Loss: College Football Playoff
Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0)
Remaining Schedule: at Purdue | vs. Nebraska | at Michigan State | at Maryland | vs. Michigan
Despite sitting at 7-0 and as the second-ranked team in the country, the Ohio State Buckeyes have been far from perfect this season. In their third game of the year against the TCU Horned Frogs, they felt the heat for the first time. Two games later, Penn State pushed them to the absolute brink as the Buckeyes needed a second-half comeback and a big fourth-quarter defensive stop to secure the victory.
Without Nick Bosa on the field, the Ohio State defense has looked like a lesser version than it did with him. Dwayne Haskins and the offense, on the other hand, have continued to look like an impressive unit capable of putting points on the board against any defense they face.
Working in Ohio State’s favor as you look at their outlook for the remainder of the 2018 season is the fact that they don’t have a tough schedule ahead. Their next two opponents, Purdue and Nebraska, both aren’t near their talent level, and neither is Maryland, who they play on the road in Nov. 17. And while Michigan State is ranked, Ohio State even anywhere near their best should handle them easily.
Having said that, the Buckeyes, as always, finish the season against the rival Michigan Wolverines. Though Urban Meyer and Co. have dominated that matchup in recent years, it truly appears that the Wolverines have turned a corner this season. What’s more, with their offense hitting its stride, I think they can over-power the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball and ultimately pull off the win in Columbus.
First Loss: Nov. 24 vs. Michigan
Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0)
Remaining Schedule: at Tennessee | at LSU | vs. Mississippi State | vs. The Citadel | vs. Auburn
This might seem like a slightly obvious statement considering that we’re talking about the top-ranked team in college football, but the Alabama Crimson Tide have been wholly dominant this season. Not only are they 7-0, but they haven’t yet allowed anyone to even get close. Their two closest games of the season came against Texas A&M and Missouri, which amounted to 22- and 29-point victories for Nick Saban’s group.
As per usual, the defense of the Crimson Tide remains elite in terms of their talent. The wheels are always turning in that regard for Alabama, replacing NFL-caliber players with more of the same on an annual basis. However, what’s been the thing that sets this 2018 team apart has been Tua Tagovailoa and the offense. They’ve been one of the most explosive and potent offenses in the country.
Even with that, the remaining slate for the Crimson Tide isn’t a cake-walk. There’s not much worry about traveling to Tennessee in Week 8 of the season, nor welcoming The Citadel to Tuscaloosa in the next-to-last week of the season. Matchups at LSU and against the likes of Mississippi State and Auburn at least present some cause for concern.
Having said that, what’s become clear about this Alabama team to this point is that no one is in their league. Tagovailoa gives them the offensive prowess that they’ve not possessed before in years past — and they still competed for titles then. As for what that means about Alabama’s first loss, it means that it’s probably not coming at all.
First Loss: This ain’t it, Chief