College football's midseason point is here, and six undefeated Power Five teams remain heading into Week 8 of the 2021 season, the fewest at this juncture since the 2018 campaign. We were destined for parity at the top of the college football rankings given the dank offseason conversations dominated by ho-hum projections of chalk painting the national title canvas, and we have arrived at that point.
This season is as unpredictable as ever with several potential final four newcomers looking to make a splash with their first appearances. No. 6 Michigan, No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 16 Wake Forest are each vying for unbeaten seasons along with No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Oklahoma.
Then there's No. 2 Cincinnati, a Group of Five behemoth no one wants to play in a semifinal setting. Just look at what coach Luke Fickell's veteran group has already managed at Notre Dame and Indiana.
Projecting the first loss for these unblemished teams moving forward is a futile exercise, but let's give it a try before highlighting a coach from the SEC who deserves more recognition and another with a dire quarterback situation.
Which undefeated team will fall next?
Is Wake Forest legit? Can Oklahoma State remain unscathed after the win at Texas? How much longer can Oklahoma survive close finishes? These are all questions that will be answered in short order with the ACC and Big 12, respectively, as those two conference races heat up over the next few weeks. The Demon Deacons only face one team currently ranked inside the top 25 the rest of the way (No. 18 NC State on Nov. 13), but a trip to Clemson the following week will be a considerable challenge.
Oklahoma State is a touchdown-underdog in Saturday's game at Iowa State. The Cyclones had an extra week to prepare, too, and should play angry now that coach Matt Campbell's squad is no longer mentioned in the league championship circle. For Oklahoma, the Sooners are banking on quarterback Caleb Williams to run roughshod through the remaining slate after his special performance after accounting for five touchdowns in his first career start against TCU. Coach Lincoln Riley's team is the best bet to stay unbeaten moving forward from the aforementioned group, but by no means is Oklahoma weakness-free.
One last remark on the remaining Power Five unbeatens: Will the real Big Ten favorite please stand up? No. 11 Iowa was exposed last week at home against Purdue with the Hawkeyes to cover Boilermakers wide receiver David Bell for the third time in his career and costing themselves nine spots in the AP Top 25.
Michigan and Michigan State remain as the conference's lone unbeatens, but most consider one-loss Ohio State to be the favorite at this point. The good news? The No. 5 Buckeyes play the Spartans and Wolverines over the final two weeks of November, so that'll work itself out.
Kentucky's shot at winning out
Big Blue Nation often sifts through a loaded roster and gears up for life on the hardwood this time of year, but not this fall -- not yet, anyway. Basketball coach John Calipari's hopeful return to prominence for the Wildcats can wait as the football team continues to prove they're one of the SEC's top programs, even after a double-digit loss to Georgia over the weekend.
Kentucky became the first team this season to score two touchdowns against the Bulldogs, managing to maintain its spot inside the top 15 of the AP Top 25 despite the setback in Athens, Georgia.
It's puzzling to me why Kentucky coach Mark Stoops isn't mentioned more often as a frontrunner for major job openings around the country, especially now with the vacancies at USC and LSU, programs that could use a nose-to-the-grindstone coach who prefers brawn over flair with a track record that speaks for itself.
Here's a guy who has routinely done more with less at a program coming off its third straight bowl win for only the second time in school history that will once again capsize oddsmakers' expectations for seven wins. At 6-1, the Wildcats will be favored in each of their final five games following this week's bye, and they'll have a shot at finishing with 11 wins and a New Year's Six berth that would undoubtedly bring maximum exposure on a grand scale.
Can you imagine what Stoops could do with increased resources, a top 10 roster and no longer be coaching in the shadow of a blue blood basketball program? Stoops speaks with a sense of confidence that does not cross into arrogance at the podium, and with a bigger spotlight, he could ascend to new heights in the coaching profession.
South Carolina turns to Zeb Noland
First-year South Carolina coach Shane Beamer announced Tuesday that starting quarterback Luke Doty would miss the rest of the season after reaggravating a foot injury suffered before the season during Saturday's win over Vanderbilt. That means former graduate assistant Zeb Noland, who now has led two come-from-behind wins to his credit this season, is QB1 moving forward.
This could actually be a positive development for South Carolina, which no longer has to worry with potentially stunting Doty's growth or asking him to handle all of the snaps at less than 100%. The Gamecocks are 4-3 this season with a realistic shot at getting to a bowl game in Year 1 under a new regime, a far cry from where most expected a struggling program to be this early with a rookie staff.