College Sports

Late Hits: Seven teams could finish football season unbeaten

There’s a chance seven college football teams can finish the season unbeaten.

Well, the odds are about the same as Jim Harbaugh inexplicably calling a timeout on third down and then Michigan bumbling the punt on the last play of the game, but there’s still a chance.

Not many teams recently have been able to complete the regular season without a loss. There’s been only one in each of the past four seasons.

Halfway through the 2015 season, there are still 14 unbeaten teams with a mathematical possibility of as many as seven staying that way.

Back in 2004, there were five unbeatens before the bowl games. That’s the kind of chaos that rarely happens, but also helps push a change in the postseason format.

It’s still possible that each of the five major conferences could produce an unbeaten champion this season. Here’s your weekly reminder that there are only four spots in the College Football Playoff.

The ACC, and Clemson (6-0) specifically, arguably has the the best shot of any power conference at getting to CFP committee’s version of Selection Sunday without a loss.

That was the case last year, when Florida State was the only unbeaten team in the country but still went off as the No. 3 seed in the four-team playoff.

Seeding can be haggled over another day, the ACC would just like to have a seat at the table again this year.

The “Power 5” conference races and how the playoff picture is shaping up with seven weeks in the books and seven more until the final four teams are picked:

ACC: As much as the incredible Dalvin Cook has done to carry Florida State (6-0), the ACC is Clemson’s to lose. The Tigers (6-0) got their offense in gear in a 34-17 win over Boston College and quarterback Deshaun Watson gets healthier by the week.

These two Atlantic Division powers will meet on Nov. 7 at Clemson. But the way Miami and North Carolina play offense, and Duke plays defense, the ACC title game in Charlotte on Dec. 5 will not be a layup for the winner.

Big Ten: Ohio State (7-0) and Michigan State (7-0) will meet on Nov. 21 in Columbus, Ohio. The top-ranked Buckeyes will also have to handle Michigan. Iowa (7-0), over in the easier Big Ten West, actually looks like the safer bet to be the unbeaten team in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 5.

The Buckeyes are the champs, until someone takes the crown from them, but Urban Meyer’s crew hasn’t quite found its stride yet.

Big XII: How quaint, a round-robin format means TCU (7-0), Baylor (6-0) and Oklahoma State (6-0) will all play each other. There’s no conference championship game but if one of the teams makes it to 12-0, they’ll have earned a playoff spot.

Baylor looks like the best team in the country but it should be noted the Bears, who are averaging a preposterous 63.8 points per game, have to play both TCU and Oklahoma State on the road.

SEC: LSU (6-0) is the last unbeaten in the SEC but the Tigers still have to face Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. And if something happens to running back Leonard Fournette (1,202 rushing yards in six games), the Tigers are toast.

Pac-12: There’s no obvious loss on the schedule for Utah (6-0), but other than a home finale against Colorado, there are no gimmes, either.

Stanford, which hasn’t lost since a season-opening clunker at Northwestern, is a potential pitfall in the conference championship game.

Group of 5: There are three unbeaten teams (Temple, Houston and Memphis) in the American Athletic and one (Toledo) in the Mid-American.

Given Memphis’ win over Ole Miss on Saturday, it might be able to wiggle into the CFP race, especially if the Tigers are compared to Alabama, which lost at home to Ole Miss.

Memphis and Houston, both 6-0, meet on Nov. 14 in Houston. Memphis and Temple (6-0) play a week later in Philadelphia.

Toledo (6-0) has five MAC games left, only two are against teams with a winning record.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

Who’s trending

A weekly review of who’s trending:

Memphis (UP): Hard to accurately quantify how bad the Memphis program was before coach Justin Fuente got there in 2012. The 5-31 record in the three years before he was hired doesn’t quite paint the full picture.

After Saturday’s 37-24 home win over Ole Miss, the 6-0 Tigers are the feel-good story of college football. Fuente has a 16-4 record in the past 20 games with the Tigers.

Alabama (UP): Nobody keeps his team engaged after a loss like Alabama’s Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide has bounced back from a home loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19 with convincing wins over Georgia, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

Saban’s crew won’t get three defensive touchdowns every week but suddenly that Nov. 7 showdown with LSU looks like another SEC title notch in Saban’s belt.

State of Michigan (UP: The center of the college football universe for one afternoon and the “Michigan State Miracle” was a finish for the ages.

City of Los Angeles (DOWN: USC fires another coach, the Trojans lose another game to Notre Dame (the third in four years) and UCLA gets skunked on Thursday night at Stanford. Never fear, Lakers season is almost here. Never mind.

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