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Sifting through college football's unbeatens

Twenty-five teams remain undefeated, but don't think that all of them have a legitimate shot at a national title.

September 29, 2010|Chris Dufresne

Be true to your school but please don't ditch class, or reality.

Twenty-five major college schools remain undefeated, not all are equal, and only one is going to win this season's national title.

In fact, the title might not go to any of the 25. A one-loss team — say Iowa, which was brave enough to risk a nonconference game at Arizona — might have the backbone to fight back.

Know this: early season records and statistics in college football are only slightly less fraudulent than pro wrestling. The way you stockpile canned goods in advance of a twister, the big dogs load up early on yardage, points and victories.

Pass completions against Georgia State — which plays at Alabama on Nov. 18 — count just as much as they do against Georgia Tech.

Wisconsin just scored a school-record 70 points … against Austin Peay.

"It was good to have a game where we were clicking on full cylinders," Wisconsin running back Bradie Ewing said afterward.

Austin Peay Coach Rick Christophel agreed the difference may have been turbine engines.

"You laugh about things like this, but I have 10, 12 players who have never been on an airplane before," Christophel said.

Oregon leads the nation in scoring, with 141 points earned against New Mexico and Portland State.

California scored 52 points against UC Davis (wow!) and nine last week against Arizona (oh).

People argue that polls shouldn't be released until mid-October … what about statistics? The NCAA does a terrific job in September compiling meaningless mounds of misleading information.

Texas ranks No. 2 nationally in total defense, a week after UCLA ran roughshod for 264 yards against the Longhorns.

Six Big 12 schools have a combined record of 23-0. Terrific, but 21 of those were staged at home against less-than-inspiring competition.

The Big Ten, too, has six unbeaten teams — but 18 of its 22 wins were home-cooked, many against "directional schools."

"This may be the best the Big Ten has been in a long, long time," Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez said this week.

Based on what?

The Pacific 10 only has four undefeated teams, but half of those teams' 16 victories were on the road. The Southeastern Conference's four undefeated teams have a total of six road wins.

The serious stuff starts now, with conference play kicking in, and the number of undefeated teams is about to melt away like rubber soles this week on the streets of Los Angeles.

An assessment:

Posers

Indiana, Texas A&M, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma State.

These guys have put the "non" back in nonconference.

It would have been a " Hoosiers" sequel in Bloomington only if the any of the teams Indiana has defeated so far — Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron — had won.

The most impressive win among this group is … we can't find one. Maybe it's Missouri needing a last-minute miracle touchdown to beat San Diego State. Other cherished victories in the books for the "Fraud Five" include McNeese State, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech, Florida International, Troy, Washington State, Rice, Central Michigan and Miami of Ohio.

Good luck in conference play — you're going to need it.

Need more information

Florida, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Michigan, USC, Nebraska.

Florida seems to have found its footing after an awful opener against Miami of Ohio and skittish performances against South Florida and Tennessee. The Gators' trip to Tuscaloosa on Saturday should bring us up to date on Florida's progress.

Kansas State's opening victory against UCLA suddenly seems more impressive than it was at the time. Wisconsin, which struggled at home against San Jose State and Arizona State, is getting way more love in the polls than it has earned. Michigan started 4-0 last year, too, and finished 5-7. USC is off to the most predicable 4-0 start in school history and now faces the least predictable remaining nine games.

Nebraska's really big win at Washington (56-21) was countered by its really tiny home win against South Dakota State (17-3).

Impressed/not yet convinced

Oklahoma, Utah, Auburn, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Louisiana State.

Oklahoma is undefeated despite being outscored in the fourth quarter, while Utah hasn't been tested since escaping the overtime opener against Pittsburgh. Auburn could have/should have lost at home to Clemson but rebounded impressively against South Carolina. Arizona showed moxie in last drives to beat Iowa and California, but tough Pac-10 work is still to come. Nevada is ranked for the first time since 1948 but can't be trusted. Michigan State needed a trick play at home to outlast mediocre Notre Dame.

North Carolina State, led by marvelous quarterback Russell Wilson, could be the best team in the Atlantic Coast, but what does that mean? And LSU has this funny habit (2003, 2007) of sneaking up on people to win national titles.

The whole 10 yards

Alabama, Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, Texas Christian, Ohio State.

Alabama escaped at Arkansas and is only going to get better as the season and the defense progresses, so Florida (this week) or South Carolina (next week) had better take their best shots. Boise State has proved, without doubt, it belongs in this group, although the Broncos' next big test probably won't come until a late-November trip to Nevada. The winner of Stanford at Oregon on Saturday becomes the Pac-10 team to beat, although it's hard to see how the champion gets out without a loss or two. TCU is well-positioned in the top five, but needs a Boise State bobble to become this year's gate-crasher. Ohio State can't play every game at home this year (only eight), so its fate will likely be decided by trips to Wisconsin (Oct. 16) and Iowa (Nov. 20).

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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