There are seven teams still unblemished in college football and I want to break down each of these team's schedules, see where they may slip up, and look to the future, specifically January 7th in Pasadena.
In my opinion, the order of likelihood to be in Pasadena:
Big 12 Title (Nebraska, KSU, Mizzou, KU)
Friendly schedule. Like come over and eat everything in my fridge and have my wife friendly. We've been lucky and good and that's a potent combination. A&M represents a possible threat if we completely lose our composure in College Station, but that seems unlikely. I didn't consider Kansas much of a threat when they were healthy and they're less so now. The North winner will have too many holes to win in Dallas.
We're currently averaging 319 ypg on offense against Big 12 opponents which is a level of underachievement not seen since Mickey Rourke went off the rails back in the early 90s. If we don't shore this up - and we're fully capable of doing so - this team might just need to put up '85 Penn State posters over their beds and pray. HEAR ME, O' PETE GIFTOPOULOS!
@ South Carolina
SEC Title Game (LSU or Bama)
Florida's schedule has been friendly. Like, nearly Texas-friendly. They'll get credit for playing "a SEC schedule" though and that's a nice benefit for them. The Gamecocks on the road are a legitimate challenge and the SEC title game will be the most credible win in college football. They're still my SEC favorite even though they don't have much at WR, they miss Percy Harvin as the all-purpose caulk for their offensive cracks, and they still have two legitimate threats remaining on their schedule.
Florida's recent success has always been defined not by Tebow, but by the supporting cast. And Urban Meyer, that sonofabitch genius. When Tim Tebow didn't have a D in his first year as a starter, Florida was a thoroughly unremarkable 9-4. Give him the best D in the country and Percy Harvin and he's the greatest gutty winner of all time. Now he just has that D and Chris Leak can attest that the D is enough.
Florida fans are having small doubts prompted by their sluggish offense. Behold EDSBS Florida maven Orson Swindle who now has Texas ranked #1 in his BlogPoll. Why is Texas more worthy than Florida? Because bright people overanalyze and overthink their own team. What do you think Barking Carnival is?
@ Miss State
SEC Title Game (Florida)
This is a grim schedule for Bama compared to the aforementioned. LSU has a solid chance on the road and Auburn has a shot. A title game against Florida would be a major hurdle as well. This is the least favorable draw down the stretch of any of the undefeated. If you favor chaos, a LSU or Auburn win over Bama (followed by a LSU choke to negate their tie-breaker advantage) and a SEC title game win over Florida would be just fine. Particularly, if Iowa stubs their toe.
Bama fans can't feel really good about that passing game right now and their total absence of a LT is troubling. Still, they appear to be able run the ball against anyone and dey got dat Saban D.
After the three above, the percentages drop considerably for any one of these teams, so please don't equate the distance from Florida to Bama as being the same from Bama to Iowa. However, I will argue that the aggregate percentage chance of all of these teams below added together could be greater than that of Alabama. Meaning: I think there's a decent chance for chaos in the anointed Top 3 and the folks that believe the national championship road is crystal in its clarity suffer from an absence of imagination. I agree with Lawrence of Arabia: Nothing is written.
You'd also have to tell me how a one-loss SEC champion would be assessed vis a vis an undefeated TCU/Cincy/Boise if Iowa loses...
@ Ohio State
The strength of Iowa's situation is that they have only three remaining games, two of them at home. And if they beat OSU, they'll have credit for wins over four ranked opponents. One of them - Arizona - is fully capable of doing great mischief on Iowa's behalf in the Pac 10. Or losing all of their remaining games.
If Iowa were a better football team, you'd have to consider moving them up to the three spot. However, Iowa is a team with a legitimate chance of losing any game they play and it's not clear that they can go into Columbus and get a win no matter the profundity of Jim Tressel's offensive retardation. You'll see a small movement for Iowa credibility if they win the Ohio State game, but they don't control their destiny. Why?
Two reasons. Iowa is objectively shitty for long stretches of play and if you want to call that style points, so be it. In a world where most people are governed by result (I won lottery! Thus playing the lottery good!), I value process too. Mediocre football is mediocre football, even when it wins. Reality always catches up though. The second reason is simple prejudice: the nation has no tolerance for another Big 10 team in a national title game. Even a stronger Iowa would have to deal with this aversion. Iowa fans must hate the hell out of Ohio State right now. And Ricky Stanzi for at least two quarters of any game.
If you want to understand Iowa and how their fans are processing their improbable season, you must read the immensely entertaining BlackHeart GoldPants.
@ San Diego State
You have to love that schedule down the stretch if you're a TCU fan and that's why Cincy isn't here. Utah is the only hurdle and they get them in front of 32,000 rabid delusional fans who will remind you that TCU would beat Texas by two touchdowns at a neutral site in Mart, Texas if only Mack Brown were not terrified of them. I love their D and their offense is evolving into one of the more fascinating hybridized creatures (sort of a PossumSlothSharkLocust combination) in all of college football where they line up mutliple QBs in the wildcat, every receiver is a potential runner, and QB Andy Dalton gets snaps at fly half which isn't a position in football but in rugby and proves their open-mindedness.
The great EDSBS says it best with the thousand silent words of a picture.
Brian Kelly has done an amazing job and I don't see a major threat save for Pitt. People who were touting West Virginia two weeks ago just weren't watching them carefully. It's Noel Devine and a bunch of JAGs. Counting on Wannstache to deliver an upset is a humorous idea, but that's where things sit.
Pitt is fully capable of getting this done, I'm also fully capable of cleaning my dishes and yet there they sit.
The problem with a Cincy is that they have some great players, but they don't have great talent. They also lack compelling resume wins.
Boise State 8-0
@ Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
Oregon's ascendance is giving them credibility in the minds of people who are comfortable with the idea of a season opener at home followed by twelve bye weeks as a good gauge of team strength. Their best shots for a loss are tonight in Ruston and perhaps in a shootout with Nevada.
They scheduled 13 regular season games? I guess Boise State will try to use that extra UC-Davis win as an integral part of their BCS pitch. There's a whole segment of stupidity in our population that say things like, "Well, 13-0 is 13-0!" which makes me want to box all of the children in my neighborhood and get a title shot payday with a Klitschko brother: "59-0 with all of his opponents being ambulanced from the ring in the first round is impressive, no matter the competition!"
Some people get incensed over traffic or their in-laws, I lose it when I hear people repeat that kind of stupid fucking dogma.
I have very little regard for the arguments advanced on Boise State's behalf and they are solidly on the outside looking in. Like Henry James when his neighbors forget to pull down their blinds.
Now is where you attack me and my worldview. Begin.