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by Larry Ness - 09/29/2005
The calendar turns to October on Saturday and of college football's 119 Division I-A members, just 26 remain unbeaten with only 10 of the 26 still unbeaten ATS! NINE other schools are unbeaten ATS, although they are hardly perfect SU.
Heading the list of non-perfect SU but perfect ATS teams is 0-2 Navy. The Midshipmen are either 2-0 or 1-0-1 ATS depending on how one grades the team's 41-38 loss to Stanford on September 10 (game closed at Stanford minus-3 1/2). The rest of the schools in alphabetical order are Akron, Arizona, East Carolina, South Florida, Southern Miss, UAB, Utah State and Wyoming. These nine schools are a combined 14-12 SU but 22-0 ATS with four non-lined games and giving Navy the benefit of the better 'number' in the Stanford game.
The surprise teams among the 10 schools which are both unbeaten SU and ATS are 3-0 Baylor (2-0 ATS), 3-0 UCLA (3-0 ATS) and 4-0 Vanderbilt (3-0 ATS). Baylor's last winning season came in 1995 and entered this year with 24 consecutive road losses but is already 2-0 on the road in '05. UCLA, playing in the long shadow of cross-town rival USC the last few years, had gone just 12-13 in Karl Dorrell first two season's but could be 4-0 (hosts Washington this Saturday) when Cal comes to the Rose Bowl on October 8. Vanderbilt's story has been well-documented (last winning season was 1982!) but the 'Dores could be bowl-bound with two more wins.
The other 16 unbeaten schools range alphabetically from 4-0 Alabama to 4-0 West Virginia and are a combined 55-0 SU but a less-than-impressive 21-26 ATS with eight non-lined contests. Alabama will host No. 5 Florida this Saturday and West Virginia hosts No. 3 Virginia Tech. It's not just Alabama and West Virginia that have tough games this weekend among the unbeatens as Baylor is at Texas A&M, Indiana is at No. 17 Wisconsin, Kansas is at No. 16 Texas Tech, Kansas State plays a desperate Oklahoma team at Norman, Nebraska is at No. 23 Iowa State and Penn State hosts No. 18 Minnesota.
Six of the above mentioned eight games are between teams that are both undefeated at this point, so the number of unbeaten teams will drop dramatically after Saturday's action. In fact, there are many more undefeated teams facing tough tasks this Saturday. Top-25 teams facing tough tasks are No. 1 USC at No. 14 Arizona State (see closing note!), No. 11 Michigan State hosting Michigan and No. 19 Virginia at Maryland. Unranked teams like 3-0 Oklahoma State must host Colorado, 3-0 UTEP travels to Memphis and 3-0 Washington State is at Oregon State.
The season's first month has been full of surprises, so why not expect more this Saturday? Seven top-25 teams lost last weekend bringing the total to 24 through the season's first four weekends. FOUR top-10 teams have lost to an unranked opponent, one each Saturday. No. 7 Oklahoma started the ball rolling by losing at home to TCU on September 3, No. 8 Iowa lost at then-unranked Iowa State on September 10, No. 10 Notre Dame lost at home to then-unranked Michigan State on September 17 and No. 9 Louisville capped a month of upsets by losing at unranked South Florida last Saturday, 45-14 (as a three TD favorite!).
To be fair, I don't just want to mention the unbeatens. How about those "lovable losers?" Currently, 12 of college football's 119 Division I-A schools remain winless heading into Saturday's games. Army and Rice are tied for the nation's longest current losing streak (eight) and join Ball State, Buffalo (owns the nation's longest current road losing streak at 19 games), Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Idaho (which actually got votes in the new Harris poll last week!), Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Navy, New Mexico State and Temple. The 12 teams are a combined 0-37 but the with pointspread being the great equalizer, are a little more respectable with a 14-23 record ATS.
ABOUT THE POLLS
How about the accuracy of the preseason polls? THREE of the AP's top-11, No. 4 Michigan, No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 11 Iowa, are nowhere to be found in the latest top-25 rankings, just a MONTH into the season. Michigan's beaten only Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan in its 2-2 start, Oklahoma's lost to unranked TCU and UCLA while beating only Tulsa (led just 17-15 late in the 4th quarter of a 31-15 win) and Iowa's beaten only Ball State (playing without 15 suspended players) and Division I-AA Northern Iowa.
Also of note is this regarding the latest coaches' poll. Since the media polls began ranking at least 20 teams back in 1968, this marks the first time that a coaches' poll has been minus Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same week.
USC enters this week's game at Tempe versus No. 14 Arizona State with the nation's longest current winning streak (25), the nation's longest current road winning streak (11), a current 16-game Pac-10 winning streak and the No. 1 ranking in the AP for the last 23 polls (an all-time record). Should the Trojans, a 16-point favorite at press time, be worried? Not unless they believe in deja vu.
Back in 1996, Nebraska was the two-time defending national champs and on a 26-game winning streak (sound familiar?) when the Cornhuskers visited Tempe for their second game of the year. As 24-point favorites, Nebraska lost 19-0 to the Sun Devils, led by a QB named Jake Plummer and a LB named Pat Tillman. That loss basically ended Nebraska's hopes for a record third-straight national title.
Will Tempe be USC's "Waterloo" as well? Many, myself included, thought USC was vulnerable last week in Eugene and for about 25 minutes, we were right. However, after Oregon jumped out to a 13-0 lead, USC responded by scoring the game's final 45 points!