Thursday, November 7, 2013

Who Can Stop the Undefeateds?

Right now, there are only five undefeated teams left. With Alabama and Oregon currently in a position to reach the title game, Florida State, Ohio State, and Baylor are all waiting in anticipation of a loss by anyone who is in front of them. For some, the path to perfection will be more daunting than others. But statement wins mean everything at this point of the season and this is when a team can make it's bid for a shot at the championship. Below are the games in which the currently undefeated teams might lose against. For the most part, I don't think many of these teams will actually drop a game though.

Alabama Crimson Tide
November 9, home against LSU Tigers
The Iron Bowl might seem like the obvious choice here, but I think that Auburn is too one-dimensional on offense to take down Alabama. LSU has a much more balanced offense that would allow them to keep Alabama out of a rhythm on defense. Alabama is weak in the secondary, very uncharacteristic of their trend in recent years. The only player that is playing up to the caliber of past defensive backs is Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, but he can't cover the entire field by himself. Zach Mettenberger has really had a strong year under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, throwing for 2500 yards and 19 touchdowns against only 7 interceptions. He has a terrific tandem of receivers with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, who have combined for 106 catches and 16 touchdowns and will both be on their ways to the NFL after this year. Mettenberger had his best game last year against Alabama throwing against a secondary better than this year's. LSU also possesses numerous running backs who can gain crucial yards and give the quarterback a break. However, this game would most likely be a shootout much like LSU's game against Georgia. LSU has shown that they have some holes at several spots on the defense and it has been exploited by numerous teams this year. A great coach like Nick Saban is going to find ways to score points against LSU this year. I'm still a believer in Alabama going undefeated in the regular season, but LSU could definitely give them a scare.

Oregon Ducks
November 7, at Stanford Cardinal
Stanford was the only team to hand Oregon a loss last year, so why would it change this year? Oregon is not as unbeatable as many people might believe but that doesn't mean they are going to just lay down and take a beating from Stanford. Oregon has the nation's second most explosive offense behind Baylor, but there have been a couple of close games this year (Washington, tied with UCLA late in the third quarter). For Stanford to win this game, they need to keep the Ducks from getting to the outside on runs and can't give the receivers a free release off of the line. The receivers are too shifty and Marcus Mariota is too talented to allow the receivers to have a big bubble to work with immediately off the line. Oregon's newest running back to put up video game numbers is Byron Marshall, who has the ability to go outside but is a more one cut, downhill running back than previous Oregon backs like LaMichael James. Stanford definitely has the athleticism at the second and third level to make plays on the outside, but this will play into Oregon's plan to run them down and get them tired. Stanford players like Shayne Skov and Ed Reynolds are going to have to corral the running backs to the inside and allow the defensive line to do its job. Stanford needed only 17 points to win last year, but they can't rely on that again. Oregon has some good play makers on defense, but I can see Kevin Hogan having a good day if he stays away from Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's side of the field. I predicted Stanford to take the Pac 12 North, but after seeing them drop to Utah and after watching Oregon continue to slaughter opponents, I have to pick Oregon in this game.

Florida State Seminoles
December 7, neutral field against Miami Hurricanes
Well I had to choose someone. Right now, the rest of the Seminoles' schedule looks like this: @ Wake Forest, home against Syracuse and Idaho, @ Florida. Any other year, this would easily be about Florida. But the Gators are having a shockingly down year, prompting me to believe that the only way Florida State loses is to Miami in the ACC Championship game. This really isn't as far fetched as it may seem at first though. While Miami did lose Duke Johnson for the rest of the year, he was having marginal success against the Noles. Stephen Morris did what he could, but by this time he would have his favorite receiving target back in Phillip Dorsett. And truthfully, the Hurricanes were the only team to make Jameis Winston look somewhat human despite him still having a great night. Given a second chance, Miami head coach Al Golden could look back and find ways to force Winston into more mistakes. The fact that it would also be played at a neutral location could also be a difference maker when these two teams meet back up.

Ohio State Buckeyes
November 30, at Michigan Wolverines
It had to be. It always has to be. Despite Michigan being very average this year, they will not take this game off and will do anything that they can to ruin Ohio State's dream at a second straight undefeated season. Last year, Michigan gave Ohio State their biggest scare of the season outside of the Purdue game in the Shoe. But after watching Michigan struggle to stop Penn State and fail to score a touchdown against Michigan State, the Buckeyes shouldn't have a lot of trouble in this game. The defense has been very disappointing this season, allowing 43 points to Penn State and another 47 to Indiana. Devin Gardner has been wildly inconsistent while primary running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has looked like he is running in mud. But Gardner is a mobile quarterback who can make moves with his feet and give Ohio State fits when the Buckeyes are on defense. The Buckeyes haven't played a true dual threat quarterback all season, so Gardner's presence on the field could pose some problems. The OSU secondary has also been shaken up due to some injury and the inexplicable drop of play from pre-season All American Bradley Roby. Roby goes against the best each opponent has to offer and so far hasn't lived up to the pre-season billing. Wolverines receiver Jeremy Gallon would be the one lining up across from Roby, and his conference record setting performance a couple of weeks ago could be a preclude of some problems to come. If he can make three or four big, downfield plays like he is capable of, Michigan is looking at pulling off the upset.

Baylor Bears
November 23, at Oklahoma State Cowboys
After watching Oklahoma State go and win against Texas Tech in Lubbock, I believe that they could be the only team to hand Baylor a loss this year. The Cowboys have the ability to play a balanced style of offense to limit what the bears can do. Now, in their last game against Tech the time of possession was actually 50-50. But, when your running backs can gain 280 yards on 55 carries, you are going to be able to control the tempo of the game. They need to be able to string a lot of runs together and not be forced to throw if they get into late down and long distance situations. Balance will be key to this game as Baylor has just way too many people who can score with the ball on offense.

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