Of the 13 unbeaten teams left in college football, about half have a realistic shot at making a push for the College Football Playoff. After Michigan and Oklahoma both lost at home to unranked teams in Week 6, those unbeatens know they have little margin for error if they want to stay in the national title hunt.
Let’s look at a few of the surprising teams in that group of 13:
Washington State: The Cougars have a defense, a running game (sometimes), a savvy veteran quarterback in Luke Falk and an unconventional coach who likes to shake things up in Mike Leach. With wins over Boise State, USC and Oregon, they have firmly in the Pac-12 title conversation.
Georgia: With true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm at the helm, the Bulldogs have relied on a punishing running game and a defense that simply won’t allow the opponent to do anything. UGA looks to be by far the most complete challenger to Alabama’s stranglehold on the SEC.
TCU: Many expected TCU to compete in the Big 12, but what is going in Fort Worth is nothing short of amazing. The defense, which has given up its fair share of big plays, comes up big when needed and the steady hand of Kenny Hill keeps the offense on pace with the rest of the conference’s high-scoring squads.
Now on to this week’s Top 25:1. Alabama (6–0, 3–0 SEC)
Expect Nick Saban to be in a feisty mood with everyone this week (his players, the media and anyone else he comes into contact with) after Alabama allowed the Aggies back into the game and needed an onside kick recovery to seal the victory. That is bad news for the Tide’s next opponent, Arkansas, which hasn’t beat Alabama since 2006.2. Clemson (6–0, 4–0 ACC)
This week: Beat Wake Forest, 28–14
It remains to be seen how severe Kelly Bryant’s ankle injury is, but if he going to miss significant time, the Tigers can lean on their defense and a manageable schedule to get them through. Bryant threw for 200 yards and a score before he exited, and Clemson overcame some sloppy play (two turnovers, nine penalties) to beat a game Wake Forest squad for the ninth straight year.3. Penn State (6–0, 3–0 Big 10)
Last week: Beat Northwestern, 31–7
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 21 vs. Michigan
Trace McSorley is proving he can lead the offense when Saquon Barkley is bottled up. McSorley threw for 245 yards, and the Penn State defense continued to play solid, picking off two passes and sacking Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson four times. Penn State has next week off before its two biggest games of the season: at home against Michigan and on the road the following week against Ohio State.4. Georgia (6–0, 3–0 SEC)
This week: Beat Vanderbilt, 45–14
If Georgia continues to dominate the line of scrimmage by running the ball, Fromm (or Eason, if he reassumes starting duties) will have to do very little in order for the Bulldogs to keep rolling. The Bulldogs ran for 423 yards, with Nick Chubb totaling 123 yards and two touchdowns and Sony Michel adding 150 yards and another score.5. Washington (6–0, 3–0 Pac–12)
This week: Beat California, 38–7
Next week: at Arizona State
Chris Peterson’s comments about the Huskies not getting TV exposure on the East Coast mostly fell on deaf ears, but ESPN's broadcast of Saturday's game took it a step further by calling Washington “soft” for its stress-free non-conference schedule. The Huskies continue to pile up the victories regardless of who’s watching and have a reasonable shot at getting back to the College Football Playoff.6. Ohio State (5–1, 3–0 Big Ten)
This week: Beat Maryland, 62–14
Here is a recipe for losing any game at any level, brought to you by the Maryland Terrapins: 66 total yards of offense (16 of which are passing yards), six first downs and conversions on one out of 15 third-down opportunities. J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State offense have been rolling lately, and the Buckeyes have won four straight since their Week 2 loss to Oklahoma, averaging 52.5 points and 615.5 yards per game during their current streak.7. TCU (5–0, 2-0 Big 12)
This week: Beat West Virginia, 31–24
Next game: at Kansas State
The last undefeated Big 12 team and perhaps its best playoff hopeful, the Horned Frogs used the talents of quarterback Kenny Hill to thwart a talented West Virginia squad. Hill ran, caught and threw for a touchdown to keep TCU in a game that the Mountaineers largely controlled. Despite giving up 508 yards of offense, the Horned Frogs’ defense made stops when it needed to. It’s no longer a stretch to call TCU a national contender, but it still has several tough conference games left.8. Washington State (6–0, 3–0 Pac–12)
Washington State QB Luke Falk continued his stellar play, throwing for 282 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougars, who have earned back-to-back victories over Oregon for the first time since 2004–05. But enough about the prolific Washington State offense—it’s the defense that is making the headlines this season. Oregon was held to 282 total yards on Saturday night, with freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister sacked four times and forced into two interceptions.9. Wisconsin (5–0, 1–0 Big 10)
This week: Beat Nebraska, 38–17
Remember when Nebraska let Melvin Gordon run for an FBS record 408 yards in 2014? Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor did his best Gordon impression in Week 6, running for 249 yards and two touchdowns against the free-falling Cornhuskers. Again, the Badgers didn’t ask for much from their quarterback, as Alex Hornibrook only threw for 113 yards with a touchdown and an interception.10. Oklahoma (4–1, 1–1 Big 12)
This week: Lost to Iowa State, 38–31
The Sooners played with fire and finally got burned, as their sloppy performance against Baylor two weeks ago carried over to an upset loss at home to Iowa State. Oklahoma’s Big 12 and playoff hopes took a serious hit, but there’s time to build them back up with games left against Texas, TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Although the Sooners’ offense rolled up 513 yards against the Cyclones, the defense was roasted on multiple explosive plays.11. USC (5–1, 3–1 Pac–12)
This week: Beat Oregon State, 38–10
Sam Darnold threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns as USC won its 13th straight home game, bounced back from its first loss of the season at Washington State. But while the Trojans returned to their winning ways, Darnold continues to throw the ball to the other team. He has now tied his 2016 interception total of nine.12. Auburn (5–1, 3–0 SEC)
This week: Beat Ole Miss, 44–23
The Tigers’ offense is making great strides as running back Kerryon Johnson (204 rushing yards, three TDs) and quarterback Jarrett Stidham (235 yards, two passing TDs) find their respective rhythms, but the defense is making noise as well. The game was well in hand when Ole Miss produced most of its yards and points, and Saturday marked the first time all season that Auburn gave up more than 14 points.13. Miami, FL (4–0, 2–0 ACC)
This week: Beat Florida State, 24–20
Miami broke a seven-game losing streak against Florida State, sending the spiraling Seminoles to their first 1–3 start in 30 years. Malik Rosier’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Langham with six seconds left provided the winning score. The battle for first place in the ACC Coastal is very much up for grabs—now Miami only has a week to prepare for Georgia Tech’s option attack.14. Oklahoma State (4–1, 1–1 Big 12)
Now that the Big 12 race is in total upheaval, the Cowboys have an opportunity to get back in the conference title hunt. That long climb starts with still-winless Baylor, which has beaten Oklahoma State in each of the last three years.15. Michigan (4–1, 1–1 Big 10)
This week: Lost to Michigan State, 14–10
Michigan will likely have to go with quarterback John O’Korn for the rest of the season as starter Wilton Speight is reportedly dealing with three broken vertebrae. O’Korn struggled on a wet night against the Spartans, going 16 for 35 for 198 yards while getting picked off three times as part of the Wolverines’ sloppy, five-turnover effort. The home loss leaves Jim Harbaugh with a 1–4 record against Michigan’s biggest rivals.16. Virginia Tech (5–1, 1–1 ACC)
This week: Beat Boston College, 23–10
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 21 vs. North Carolina
Josh Jackson threw for 322 yards and Travon McMillian had 88 yards rushing as the Hokies went into their bye with a victory over Boston College, their third straight in the series. Jackson was sacked five times and his team took nine penalties—those mistakes can be corrected in the next three weeks leading up to a critical Miami game.17. South Florida (5–0, 2–0 AAC)
South Florida’s next four games (Cincinnati, Houston, UConn, Tulsa) should provide the Bulls ample opportunity to fix whatever deficiencies they have in the lead-up to an end-of-season matchup with Central Florida that could be a meeting of unbeaten teams.18. San Diego State (6–0, 2–0 MWC)
Rashaad Penny rushed for 170 yards, recording his sixth straight game in triple digits, and added two touchdowns. Aztecs quarterback Christian Chapman threw for 172 yards (144 of which went to Mikah Holder) as San Diego State continued its push toward a New Year’s Six game.19. NC State (5–1, 3–0 ACC)
This week: Beat Louisville, 39–25
NC State did two things in its victory over Louisville on Thursday: end Lamar Jackson’s bid at a second straight Heisman and remind everyone that Clemson’s road to another ACC title isn’t a cakewalk from here. Tricky road games against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame must be dealt with before the Wolfpack can look ahead to a visit from Clemson in early November. If they can get past those two games, the Wolfpack will be set up very well.20. Notre Dame (5–1)
This week: Beat North Carolina, 33–10
Next game: Off; next game Oct. 21 vs. USC
Backup quarterback Ian Book threw for 146 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions taking over for starter Brandon Wimbush, who missed the North Carolina game with a foot injury. The Irish running backs took care of the rest, as Deon McIntosh and Josh Adams combined for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, part of a team total of 341 yards on the ground. With the toughest part of the schedule ahead, the Irish are in prime position to make some noise for at least a New Year’s Six bowl bid.21. Navy (5–0, 3–0 AAC)
This week: Beat Air Force, 48–45
Navy remained in the hunt for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy by beating Air Force on a last-minute touchdown pass. The Midshipmen ran for 471 yards and nearly blew a three-touchdown lead. Navy’s AAC title hopes come down to its defense. Its next opponent, Memphis, has scored 40 or more points three times this year, including 70 last week against UConn.22. Stanford (4–2, 3–1 Pac–12)
Bryce Love continued his rampage through Pac-12 defenses, running for 152 yards to get Stanford’s season back on track after two early losses. Love has a nation-leading 1,240 yards and has also scored nine touchdowns this season. The Cardinal won their third straight game despite pedestrian quarterback play; they rank 11th in the conference in passing offense with 188.3 yards per game through the air.23. Central Florida (4–0, 2–0 AAC)
This week: Beat Cincinnati, 51–23
Next week: vs. East Carolina
The Knights have won their first four games in a season for the first time since 1988, thanks to an offense that relies on the big play and doesn’t waste time when it has the ball. Against Cincinnati, UCF had the ball for only 15 minutes before the game was called due to weather near the end of the third quarter. In just under 45 minutes of game time, the Knights gained 515 yards, averaging almost 20 yards per pass completion.24. Utah (4–1, 1–1 Pac–12)
This week: Lost to Stanford, 23–20
The muddled Pac–12 South race will get some clarity next week as Utah hits the road to take on USC. Utah will also be seeking clarity in its quarterback situation—making the start in place of the injured Tyler Huntley, Troy Williams threw two fourth-quarter interceptions.25. Texas Tech (4–1, 1–1 Big 12)
Next week: at West Virginia
Texas Tech decided to concentrate on its running game for once against Kansas, because it knew that Kansas probably couldn’t stop it. The Red Raiders were right, rolling up 313 yards on the ground, led by Justin Stockton’s 161 yards and Desmond Nisby's 93 yards and four touchdowns. The defense forced four turnovers and now ranks fifth in the nation in turnover margin.
Out: Louisville, Florida, Kansas State, West Virginia. Maybe next week: Virginia, Michigan State.You May Like Week 6's Top 10: How Did Oklahoma's Stunning Loss Shake Up the Rankings? The Heisman Five: New Faces in Hot Pursuit of Saquon Barkley and Bryce Love Iowa State Stuns No. 3 Oklahoma Behind Veteran Performance From New Starting Quarterback Michigan State Adds a New Chapter to Michigan's Rivalry Woes and a Plot Twist to the Big Ten More College Football Sign Up for our Newsletter Subscribe & Save Sign Up for our Newsletter Already a Member? Not A Member? Sign Up Now Forgot Password
Please enter your email address associated with the account so we can help reset your password.Not a Member? Sign Up Already A Member? Sign In
Stay up-to-date with the latest news and scores from your favorite teams anywhere and get customized notifications, special offers and much moreWelcome to your personalized SI
You have successfully created your Sports Illustrated Account.My SI Settings Favorite Teams
You currently have no favorite teams.Favorite Reporters
You currently have no favorite reporters.Manage Profile Edit Favorite Teams
Remove or add teams to and from your list of favoritesTeams In Your Area
Add more favorite teams from the list below based on your geolocation
Remove or add reporters to and from your list of favoritesMy Favorite Reporters Add Reporters
Thank you for signing up!
Please check your inbox to confirm your email
How many times each Saturday do college football fans hear about there being “a fine line between winning and losing”? Well, in an attempt to quantify that, we did some math.
Fear not: It’s relatively easy math. We went back five seasons (2011-15) and looked at every game for every SEC team and how they performed when scoring at least 30 points, when scoring between 20-29 points, when their defense kept opponents under 24 points and in games decided by seven or fewer points.
Let’s delve into the dataSCORING AT LEAST 30
Every conference team won at least 76 percent of its games when scoring at least 30 points. Kentucky was at 76 percent. Conference teams has a whole had a winning percentage of 88 when they scored 30. Florida was a perfect 20-0, while LSU was 37-1.
Alabama had the most wins in this category at 50, and would’ve been 52-0 had it not lost shootouts to Oklahoma and Ole Miss.
Kentucky played the fewest such games, with just 17. UK, Florida and Vandy were the only league teams to play 20 or fewer games. Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee were the only other schools with fewer than 30 such games.
1. Florida (Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain): 20-0, 100.0
2. LSU (Les Miles): 37-1, 97.4%
3. Alabama (Nick Saban): 50-2, 96.2%
4. Missouri (Gary Pinkel): 26-2, 92.9%
5. Mississippi State (Dan Mullen): 29-3, 90.6%
6. Vanderbilt (James Franklin, Derek Mason): 18-2, 90.0%
7. Texas A&M (Mike Sherman, Kevin Sumlin): 39-6, 86.6%
8. Auburn (Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn): 32-5, 86.5%
9. Georgia (Mark Richt): 36-6, 85.7%
10. Arkansas (Bobby Petrino, John L. Smith, Bret Bielema): 24-4, 85.7%
11. Ole Miss (Houston Nutt, Hugh Freeze): 28-5, 84.9%
12. South Carolina (Steve Spurrier): 27-5 84.4%
13. Tennessee (Derek Dooley, Butch Jones): 23-6, 79.3%
14. Kentucky (Joker Phillips, Mark Stoops): 13-4, 76.5%SCORING BETWEEN 20-29 POINTS
Things change when teams failed to reach the 30-point mark. Our five-year review showed the winning percentage drops to 53 percent when SEC teams score between 20-29 points; seven teams had losing records: Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
South Carolina is a great example of the massive fall-off. The Gamecocks were 27-5 in our time frame when scoring at least 30 but dropped to 7-13 when they scored between 20 and 29.
In what should not be a surprise to Florida fans, the Gators had the most such games in this category over the past five seasons, with 21. Only four other SEC teams had more than 15 such games. Kentucky was the lowest, at nine.
1. Alabama: 10-2, 83.3%
2. Missouri: 13-7, 65.0%
4. Georgia: 10-6, 62.5%
5. Florida: 13-8, 61.9%
6. Mississippi State: 9-6, 60.0%
7. Ole Miss: 8-6, 57.1%
T8. Vanderbilt: 7-8, 46.7%
T8. Tennessee: 7-8, 46.7%
10. Kentucky: 4-5, 44.4%
11. Auburn: 4-6, 40.0%
12. Arkansas: 5-8, 38.5%
13. South Carolina: 7-13, 35.0%HOLDING FOES TO 24 OR FEWER
Doing so produced a winning percentage of 87 percent. Georgia was perfect – 38-0. Alabama came in second at 59-1, while Texas A&M was third at 20-2.
Missouri, Florida and Kentucky were the bottom three; UK had the worst winning percentage at 76 percent, but, again, that isn’t bad,
Of note: Florida has been involved in 42 such games. That’s the third-most in our span, behind Alabama (easily the most with 60) and LSU (43). But those teams lost a combined five games, while the Gators lost nine – the most of any team in the league. That was sort of the Will Muschamp era at Florida in a nutshell: Play good defense and hope.
While A&M had a high winning percentage in this category, the Aggies’ 22 games were the second-fewest in the league. Only Kentucky, with 21, had fewer. Every other league team had at least 27.
1. Georgia: 38-0, 100%
2. Alabama: 59-1, 98.3%
5. Ole Miss: 26-3, 89.7%
6. South Carolina: 30-4, 88.2%
7. Mississippi State: 33-5, 86.8%
8. Auburn: 24-4, 85.7%
9. Tennessee: 33-6, 84.6%
10. Vanderbilt: 23-5, 82.1%
11. Arkansas: 22-5, 81.5%
12. Missouri: 30-7, 81.08%
13. Florida: 33-9, 78.6%
14. Kentucky: 16-5, 76.2%GAMES DECIDED BY 7 OR FEWER POINTS
We looked at games decided by a touchdown or less, no matter the final score. Only two teams hit 70 percent – Auburn and LSU. Auburn had an advantage over the rest of the league, winning three-fourths of its games decided by seven or fewer points. LSU was second at almost 71 percent, and only one other team – South Carolina – won even 60 percent of such games.
And, no, Nick Saban is not unbeatable in close games: Alabama was 9-7 in such games in our time frame, ranking fifth with a winning percentage of 56.3. But the Tide has played the fewest “close games,” with 16. Ole Miss and Mississippi State both have played 17 such games, Kentucky is at 19 and everyone else in the SEC has played at least 21.
1. Auburn: 21-7, 75%
3. South Carolina: 14-8, 63.6%
4. Mississippi State: 10-7, 58.8%
5. Alabama: 9-7, 56.3%
6. Florida: 13-11, 54.2%
7. Georgia: 14-12, 53.9%
T8. Vanderbilt: 10-11, 47.6%
T8. Missouri: 10-11, 47.6%
10. Texas A&M: 11-15, 42.3%
11. Tennessee: 8-13, 38.1%
12. Ole Miss: 6-11, 35.3%
13. Arkansas: 7-15, 31.8%
14. Kentucky: 6-13, 31.6%
The biggest takeaways from all this number crunching? Nothing earth-shattering, really, but, oddly enough, two opposing schools of thought are bolstered. One is that it’s tough to beat an offense that puts up a lot of points. Second is that it’s tough to beat a stout defense.
* If you score at least 30 points a game or keep your opponent from scoring more than 24, your odds of winning increase greatly.
* If your opponent crosses the 24-point threshold, it gets tougher to win. And if they score in the 30s, a loss is likely.
(You can follow Jake Wimberly on Twitter @Jakewim)
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.Most Popular
Our updated College Football Playoff, bowl projections
Here are the second GN playoff and bowl projections of the season. Our four.
Auburn coaches ‘distraught’ following loss at LSU
(Chris Landry is a veteran NFL scout who has worked for the Cleveland Browns.
Triage time in Gainesville: Fans’ hope fading for Jim McElwain, Gators
Semi-hysteria currently prevails in college football and knee-jerk journalism fosters Internet click-bait, which can.
Gridiron Now - Where the season never ends.
After another set of dramatic and often bizarre games, the latest Premier League gameweek has once again thrown up a whole load of bizarre stats
We are only two weeks into the 2017/18 Premier League season, and already a whole series of stories are developing.
Manchester United suddenly look a potent attacking force. Arsenal are once again being Arsenal. And Huddersfield are currently on target to end the season with 114 points.
However, while the headline news is all pretty eye-catching, there are a whole load of interesting tales which you may have missed.
Take a look at the best Opta stats from the second gameweek of the season and we guarantee you will get a few surprises…Manchester United have scored four goals in their opening two league games of a season for the first time in 110 years.
West Brom's Hal Robson-Kanu became only the fourth player in Premier League history to score and be sent off after coming on as a substitute.
Arsenal had 77.3 percent of the ball against Stoke - the highest possession figure the Gunners have had in a Premier League match since records began in 2003/04.
And they STILL lost 1-0.All 38 of Javier Hernandez's Premier League goals have come from inside the box.
Marko Arnautovic is only the second player to be sent off twice against Southampton in the Premier League.
The other one? Sol Campbell.Aaron Mooy's goal for Huddersfield featured the most passes in the build-up (14) of any goal scored in the Premier League so far this season.
The Terriers: the new Premier League kings of tiki-taka.
© Sports Betting 2018