|BAGNATO ON FOOTBALL: In topsy-turvy season, 6 teams remain perfect - so far|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 16 October 2007 10:23|
Ohio State, Boston College, South Florida.
Sounds like the field at the Maui Invitational.
They are, in reality, the remaining unbeatens in major college football.
It's mid-October, and six of 119 teams have navigated their way to a perfect record in this stormiest of college football seasons. They're a combined 40-0.
Hang on, Sloopy. It's too early for any of these teams to put down a nonrefundable deposit on a block of rooms in New Orleans, site of the Bowl Championship Series title game.
We expect perfection from the top-ranked Buckeyes, who have become a monotonous victory machine under Jim Tressel, notwithstanding their embarrassing loss to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game last January.
That's twice-beaten Florida this season, by the way.
But what do the six unbeatens have in common, aside from unbeaten records?
Time zones ... no.
Tradition ... no. South Florida moved to college football's top level in 2001.
Rankings ... no. They range from No. 1 (Ohio State) to No. 17 (Hawaii).
``They've all traveled different paths,'' Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said this week from Connecticut, where he was making a campus visit.
Chalk their records up to a combination of talent, coaching, parity and forgiving schedules.
Or maybe ``forgiving'' is too kind.
The NCAA ranks schedules in a variety of ways, but the most telling is based on a team's previous opponents.
By that measure, South Florida's schedule ranks 12th. Among the other unbeatens, the next-toughest schedule belongs to Ohio State at No. 72.
Arizona State ranks 84th, Boston College 92nd, Kansas 100th.
Hawaii has played the easiest schedule so far, according to the NCAA - and the Warriors had to go into overtime to beat Louisiana Tech and San Jose State.
No. 2 South Florida can hang its hat on wins over Auburn (on the Plains) and West Virginia.
The other five don't have a suitable-for-framing victory among them.
The Buckeyes may or may not win the national title. After whipping Youngstown State, Akron and Kent State, they're a lock for state honors.
But we shouldn't mock perfection. Salute these half-dozen teams for what they've achieved so far - bowl eligibility, or close to it.
Southern California, LSU and Oklahoma would gladly swap records with any one of them.
Tressel knows how hard it is to go unbeaten across a season. His 2002 team went 14-0, surviving numerous scares on its way to the Fiesta Bowl, where it had still more scares before defeating Miami for the national title.
``It's extremely hard,'' Tressel said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. ``It doesn't happen very often. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't.''
Sometimes the official calls pass interference in the end zone, and sometimes he doesn't. That one went the Buckeyes' way in the Fiesta.
``To go through with winning all your games obviously is the most difficult thing there is,'' Tressel said.
In this loony autumn, just winning is difficult. Every team in The Associated Press preseason Top 10 has lost. (Ohio State opened at No. 11).
So congratulations to the Buckeyes, Jayhawks, Sun Devils, Eagles, Bulls and Warriors.
And take a good look at them now, because their ranks may thin in the next few weeks.
Five of the unbeatens are about to face rugged road tests. Only Hawaii gets a hall pass - and the way Colt Brennan has been going lately, it might be intercepted.
South Florida visits Rutgers on Thursday night.
On Saturday, Kansas plays at Colorado, where Oklahoma went down a few weeks ago.
Boston College goes to Blacksburg to take on No. 11 Virginia Tech on Oct. 25.
Ohio State visits Penn State on Oct. 27. And if that's not hard enough, the Buckeyes take on resurgent Michigan in Ann Arbor on Nov. 17.
Arizona State plays at No. 7 Oregon on Nov. 3.
One look at that list makes you wonder if anyone can go unbeaten.
What if South Florida and Boston College are the only survivors? They're already No. 2 and No. 3 in the BCS standings, so they won't need much help to move up.
The Eagles, remember, fled the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big East then plucked the Bulls away from Conference USA.
Tranghese chuckled at the suggestion that they might meet in New Orleans.
``Wouldn't that be something?'' he said. ``There's a long way to go.''