Around this time last year, I put pen to paper on an article entitled “The Quest for Perfection”. It was a look at the teams that remained undefeated through week 4 of the 2018 College Football season. As week 5 of this 2019 season wrapped up with Hawai’i sticking it to Nevada, my attention turned to the teams who remain undefeated.
23 teams went in to week 5 without a defeat to their name. Of those, 5 have fallen by the way side.
Navy were the first to lose their unbeaten status. The Midshipmen lost to another undefeated team, Memphis on Thursday night.
The Cal Golden Bears were the next to fall. They were on the receiving end of a brutalisation by Eno Benjamin. Arizona State travelled to Berkeley and emerged with a 24-17 win.
Tyler Johnston III threw 4 interceptions as UAB lost to Western Kentucky, 20-13.
Virginia gave up 8 sacks to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as their unbeaten record fell in a 35-20 loss.
Finally, Kansas State defense wasn’t enough to contain Chuba Hubbard, as the Oklahoma State running back put up 296 rushing yards on the way to a 26-13 Cowboys win.
Which leaves 18 undefeated teams as we look ahead to College Football week 6. Some of these teams are undeniably better than the others. What better way to sort them out than by ranking them?! I’ve taken in to account the teams they’ve beaten on their way, and the manner of those wins. Here we go!
The Tigers are the best team in College Football. This may come as a surprise to some people, but not to me. I was banging the drum for them before the season. I wasn’t expecting this level of performance though. Joe Burrow is a man possessed. The change of offensive scheme has allowed him to excel. It’s allowed Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase to excel too. Combine the offense with a defense we knew would be amongst the best in the nation, and you have a difficult team to beat. The win over Texas was a marquee one early in the season. Now, they need to show the same against Alabama.
Alabama haven’t had a game where they have put up less than 40 points. The counter argument would be that they haven’t played a decent team yet. However, they beat Ole Miss in week 5 and South Carolina in week 3, so they have two SEC victories under their belt. Tua Tagovailoa has 1300 yards and 17 TDs to his name as he once again throws his name in to the Heisman hat. They have an embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver position, and have a one two punch at running back with Najee Harris and Brian Robinson. The defense has held the opposition to 10.8 points per game.
An in conference win at Vanderbilt, followed by two easy victories, and then a standout win over 7th ranked Notre Dame leaves Georgia as the third team in the undefeated rankings. If Notre Dame has been more impressive going in to that game, then I think the Bulldogs would have a claim to the 2nd spot. Like the two teams above them, they have excelled on defense, particularly in the shutout of Arkansas State. Jake Fromm put on quite the show in that game, before getting an early bath. D’Andre Swift continues to make a case for RB1 status going in to the 2020 NFL Draft.
There’s no denying the talent on the Clemson team. Travis Etienne is one of the best running backs in the nation. Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross are incredible wide receivers. The defense has a monster at it’s heart in Isaiah Simmons. Then there’s Trevor Lawrence. The second coming has had his struggles in his second year. The phrase “sophomore slump” has been slung at the QB, who guided Clemson to the National Championship as a freshman but 8 months ago. The Tigers have a game each year that they just sneak a win in. Last year it was Syracuse. This year’s may have come in week 5 against UNC. Last year it fired them to be better. Let’s see if the same happens in 2019.
5. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are one of the most entertaining teams out there right now. A lot of time has been spent looking at Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, but there’s a transfer QB at Ohio State who is doing the business every bit as well. Justin Fields has been incredible this year. He has fit perfectly in to Ryan Day’s offense. Field’s presence has also opened up the game for J.K. Dobbins. The running back looks back to his very best form. On defense, the latest product of “DBU”, Jeffrey Okudah, looks primed to be a top cornerback prospect.
This has come as a big surprise! Auburn are really good at football this year! They are right up behind Alabama in the SEC West, with two conference wins. Those wins include this week’s 56-23 destruction of Mississippi State. I’ve been impressed with freshman QB Bo Nix, and how they’ve mixed in Joey Gatewood to unsettle and confuse teams. However, the contribution of running back Jatarvious Whitlow can’t be understated.
The manner of the Badgers win over then 11th ranked Michigan in week 4, will carry them a long way in any rankings. It was a coming out party for running back Jonathan Taylor, but more than that it cast many questions on the Michigan program. The identity of this team lies with Taylor on offense, strength in the trenches, and an impressive defense that has shut out two teams. They’ve given up an average of just 4.7 points per game and just 27 rushing yards per game.
“Everyone loves showing highlights of a college QB having all day to throw” was levelled at me this weekend, when I posted a clip of Jalen Hurts unfurling his latest 50+ yard bomb downfield with the caption #HurtsForHeisman. The Oklahoma o-line, led by Creed Humphrey is giving Hurts all the time he needs to build an impressive 4 week Heisman resume. The knock on Oklahoma is that they haven’t played anyone of a standard yet. However, they look excellent on offense and have a sneaky good defense led by tackling machine Kenneth Murray.
9. Penn State
Penn State helped their season no end this week, with a crushing defeat of Maryland. It was badly needed improvement performance after a lacklustre performance versus Pitt last time out. Sean Clifford looks to be growing in to his role as the Trace McSorley successor, and has a genuine receiving threat in K.J. Hamler. Their defense has a number of really impressive pieces, and currently holding teams to 7.5 points per game.
Florida’s wins over fellow SEC opposition are just about enough to get them in to the Top 10. Their win over Miami in week 1 also plays a factor when you consider their strength of opposition against some of the other unbeaten teams around them. As we discussed on this week’s podcast, The Gators have looked better under backup QB Kyle Trask than injured starter Feleipe Franks. The Gators have some genuine talent on defense too.
13. Boise State
14. Wake Forest
I was quite high on Iowa before the season and although they are undefeated, it feels like we’re waiting for the next step up from Nate Stanley and co. They haven’t faced a high quality opponent yet, and they struggled to get past Iowa State.
SMU are a team flying under the radar. In beating USF this week, they go 5-0 for the first time since 1983. In James Proche they have a genuine talent at wide receiver. Their win over then ranked 25th, TCU, sees them higher for me than the two below.
Boise and Wake Forest are two teams riding hot hands at the QB position. The Broncos have true freshman Hank Bachmeier leading the way, and the Demon Deacons are 7-1 behind Jamie Newman, leading back to last season. Both teams have a chance to go deep in to the year undefeated, although Wake Forest come up against Clemson in mid-November.
15. Appalachian State
There really isn’t a lot to choose between the final four undefeated teams. Appalachian State get my nod due to them beating UNC, who played Clemson close this week. Memphis started strongly by getting a shock win over Ole Miss in week 1 but haven’t really beaten anyone of significance since. It’s easy to dismiss Baylor as they only narrowly beat Rice, but their win against Iowa State really stands out. Finally, all of Minnesota’s wins have come in tight games.
Photo Credit: Hilary Scheinuk (The Advocate)