Published 10:23 AM EDT Oct 5, 2018
It’s now October, believe it or not, and there are still 14 unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Enjoy it while it lasts, since it’s during this month that true contenders tend to pull away from the herd.
Four of the 14 unbeaten teams hail from one conference, the SEC, and the matchup of Georgia and LSU on Oct. 13 ensures that no more than three will head into November without a blemish. The three unbeaten teams in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference — that’s Central Florida, South Florida and Cincinnati — will pick themselves off eventually, at the latest when the three are scheduled to meet in November.
It’s highly probable that it won’t come to that. All good things must come to an end for the majority of the current crop of unbeaten teams, if not for every single one: UCF in 2017 is the only FBS team to run the table in the past four seasons.
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The only unknown is when and where. Here’s our best guess for when the 14 unbeaten teams suffer their first loss.
First loss: at Temple, Oct. 20. Look for the Bearcats to keep rolling in this week’s game against Tulane, though the Green Wave are tough to handle, before suffering their first setback in a road trip to Temple. It’ll help Cincinnati to have a bye week to prepare but the Owls are rounding into form after a tough start.
South Florida (4-0)
First loss: at Houston, Oct. 27. The Bulls have been fine — not good, not terrible, not great, just fine. A loss is coming. It won’t be in Saturday’s game against Massachusetts, which will be without suspended head coach Mark Whipple, and shouldn’t come in a road trip to Tulsa on Oct. 12. Connecticut a week later is an obvious win. But South Florida won’t get past Ed Oliver and Houston to end the month.
No. 25 North Carolina State (4-0)
First loss: vs. Boston College, Oct. 6. If not this Saturday against the Eagles then a week later at Clemson, though N.C. State has given the Tigers all they can handle in the past two meetings.
No. 22 Colorado (4-0)
First loss: at Southern California, Oct. 13. It’s the Trojans’ chance to salvage their season, which is a pretty powerful motivator. Besides, what do we know about Colorado? That the Buffaloes are pretty good, for one, with a really nice offense and a defense that’s performed better than expected. But the team’s weak September schedule might have papered over any and all of Colorado’s weaknesses.
No. 15 Kentucky (5-0)
First loss: vs. Georgia, Nov. 3. Here’s betting one of the nation’s feelgood stories continues into November. The Wildcats will face two big tests this month, in road trips to Texas A&M this weekend and to Missouri on Oct. 27, but this looks like a program ready to embrace the hype and make a run for a permanent spot in the Amway Coaches Poll. But Georgia will provide a different sort of test on the first Saturday of November.
No. 13 Central Florida (5-0)
First loss: Bowl game vs. TBD. Based on how they looked in September, there’s no team on the Knights’ conference slate capable of ending their FBS-best 17-game winning streak. So the team’s most likely loss will come in postseason play during the program’s second New Year’s Six bowl appearance in a row.
No. 8 West Virginia (4-0)
First loss: at Texas, Nov. 3. With Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor on the schedule, West Virginia’s not losing in October. The Longhorns’ defense and home-field advantage are two assets in their corner, along with the idea that Tom Herman’s team seems to be improving on a weekly basis. With games still to come against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma — along with a potential rematch with the Sooners to decide the Big 12 championship — a loss in Austin wouldn’t be a fatal blow to the Mountaineers’ hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff.
No. 7 Notre Dame (5-0)
First loss: at Southern California, Nov. 24. The Trojans play spoiler again, this time derailing Notre Dame’s quest for an undefeated regular season and adding a heavy dose of controversy to the playoff debate. Would the Irish get into the field at 12-0? Absolutely. What about 11-1? They’ll get the benefit of the doubt, but a schedule short on dominant teams would be an issue.
No. 6 LSU (5-0)
First loss: vs. Georgia, Oct. 13. This is assuming LSU gets past Florida in Saturday’s road trip, which might be assuming too much. Even if they do pass that test — and the game is more interesting after the Gators knocked off Mississippi State — the Tigers’ unbeaten record will be erased by Georgia on Oct. 13. There is something to be said for LSU’s ability to win ugly, though.
No. 5 Oklahoma (5-0)
First loss: at West Virginia, Nov. 23. It’ll be a prime-time kick in Morgantown, where things get weird under normal circumstances and are guaranteed to get rowdy and run off the rails when a potential playoff berth is on the line. The good news? In this scenario, OU and WVU would meet again a week later.
No. 4 Clemson (5-0)
First loss: at Boston College, Nov. 10. Clemson will lose once during the regular season, win the ACC title and reach the playoff, since this is the Tigers’ way of doing things. Let’s just say the loss comes against the Eagles: B.C. is probably the best team Clemson will face the rest of the way, depending on how you feel about South Carolina.
No. 3 Ohio State (5-0)
First loss: vs. Michigan, Nov. 24. This is the year it happens, finally, and we’ll see if the Earth remains in orbit or spins off its axis.
No. 2 Georgia (5-0)
First loss: vs. Alabama, Dec. 1. Georgia will run the table through November but lose to Alabama in the SEC championship game. Even with the loss, the Bulldogs will have a strong case for the playoff. But that becomes more complicated if Notre Dame runs the table and creates a scenario where two Power Five champions will be left out of national semifinals. If so, adding Georgia would mean just two of the Power Five leagues would be represented in the playoff.
No. 1 Alabama (5-0)
First loss: Fall of 2019. Alabama’s not losing. Check back next season.