Friday Five: Undefeated Power Five teams most likely to lose at least three games this season
Not everybody can stay undefeated, and these teams may be headed for some losses in the future
When Week 7 commenced on Wednesday night, there were 16 undefeated teams remaining in the country. Of those 16 teams, 12 currently reside in Power Five conferences. This will not come as a shock to you, but those 12 teams will not all finish the regular season undefeated. First of all, a few of them have to play each other (including this weekend), but more than that, it's just incredibly difficult to go undefeated.
In the College Football Playoff Era (since 2014), only six Power Five teams have finished the regular season unbeaten. Three teams finished last season undefeated in Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame; of course, though, the Irish don't have a conference championship game to play, so that's one fewer test they have on the schedule.
Anyway, the point is that it's hard, and last season was an outlier. The odds are very much against three teams getting through 13 games without a loss, so the list of 12 undefeated teams will be culled pretty quickly. But what if there's more than one loss waiting? What if there are multiple losses? In late September last season, I California, Colorado and Duke) finished with at least four. A fourth, NC State, finished the season 9-4, but that final loss came in a bowl game. Only Syracuse managed to avoid losing four altogether, finishing the season at 10-3.. Three of the five teams I listed (
This year, I'm doing something similar, but since it's a few weeks later, instead of four losses, I'm ranking undefeated Power Five teams likely to finish the regular season with at least three losses. Now, I'm dealing with a limited menu of options here, so keep that in mind before you think I'm saying your favorite team sucks. If I think it sucks, I'll say it.
5. Florida: I don't think Florida sucks. I'm putting it here based more on circumstance than anything. The Gators got by Auburn last week, but have to play LSU on the road Saturday night. Then there's the game against Georgia looming on that first Saturday in November. Those could be two losses right there. Sandwiched in between is a road trip to South Carolina. Now, I don't expect the Gators to lose to the Gamecocks, but it's not impossible. They'll be coming off consecutive games against Auburn and LSU, and will be banged up. Then, with a bye looming and that Georgia game, maybe the Gators look past the Gamecocks. Even if they don't, there's still a road trip to Missouri late in the season that will be anything but a cakewalk, as well as a date with Florida State.
4. Penn State: I don't think Penn State sucks. Like Florida, it's here based on circumstances outside its control. The Nittany Lions have been terrific through their first five games, but other than the Pitt game, they haven't been tested much. This weekend's trip to Iowa City marks the point in Penn State's season when the schedule becomes much tougher. Beating the Hawkeyes at Kinnick is never simple, and next week Michigan comes to Happy Valley. After that, the Nittany Lions have road games against both Michigan State and Ohio State, as well as a road game against a Minnesota team that's currently 5-0 itself. I think the Nittany Lions are good, but they've got a lot of other good teams left on the schedule.
3. Wake Forest: I don't think Wake Forest sucks. Still, I have a hard time judging what's going to happen with the Demon Deacons for the rest of the season. On the one hand, they're 5-0 with a 2-0 record in ACC play. On the other hand, three of their five wins have come by six points or fewer. Their lone blowout wins have come against Rice and Elon, who aren't exactly what anybody is going to consider elite competition. But then there's the rest of Wake's schedule. Yes, a road trip to Clemson is looming, but outside of the Tigers, who is there to truly fear in the ACC? It's not crazy to think Wake is better than everybody left on its schedule other than Clemson. It's just ... is it so much better than them that it will avoid losing to a few of them? I mean, sure, Wake has been better than Florida State this year, but would you be shocked if it lost to the Seminoles? Or on the road at Syracuse? At Virginia Tech? This weekend against Louisville? No, you wouldn't be.
2. Baylor: I don't think Baylor sucks. In fact, this hurts my heart a little bit because I've really enjoyed what the Bears have done so far this season, and I'm an admirer of Matt Rhule. All that said, the rest of Baylor's schedule will be more difficult than what it has faced to this point. That's no disrespect to either Iowa State or Kansas State, whom the Bears beat as underdogs in both contests. Still, the Bears must go on the road for Oklahoma State and TCU later this week, and still have to play both Oklahoma and Texas. Furthermore, the games against Oklahoma and Texas may both be in Waco, but they're in consecutive weeks. While I like this team a lot, I don't see it winning those games, and it could easily slip up in one of its other five remaining Big 12 games.
1. Minnesota: I don't think Minnesota sucks. I also don't think it's as good as its 5-0 record suggests. Last week's 40-17 win against Illinois was the first time Minnesota played like a team with its record, controlling the game for the most part. None of its first four wins felt like that, however, and while this is a good team, it isn't an (extreme P.J. Fleck voice) elite team. Plus, there are a lot of difficult games left to play. I wouldn't be shocked if the Gophers are 6-0 after this weekend's game against Nebraska, or maybe even 8-0 by the end of October. But November? November is rough. That's when the Gophers will have to play Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks. Iowa and Northwestern are both on the road, and while Northwestern's been dreadful offensively this season, its defense is still a bear. I won't be surprised at all if the Gophers head into November at 8-0 but finish the month at 9-3 or possibly even 8-4. That's why I have them at No.1 on this list.
Honorable Mention: Georgia, LSU, Wisconsin
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