A win is a win, sure, but some wins are more equal than others.
As we head into the October portion of the college football calendar, 21 Subdivision Bowl teams have made it through the first four full weeks of the season unscathed. Of those, 18 are 4-0 with Oklahoma State, TCU and FBS rookie James Madison 3-0.
Obviously, not everyone can keep their records perfect. This weekend, the ranks of the invincibles are guaranteed to shrink.
We know – or at least we think we know – who many of the real contenders are. No. 4 Michigan is out of the house for the first time this weekend and could get hit by a strong Iowa defense, while No. 10 NC averted disaster in East Carolina in the first game. But for the most part, the teams that are currently in the top 10 can count on at least one qualitative result.
However, it is fair for many other members of the undefeated club to wonder how good they are. Here are the 10 undefeated ones we know the least about and when we could get answers about them.
The Nittany Lions’ rapid rise from unranked in the preseason to No. 12 in the polls was fueled by a dominant victory over Auburn, but that result may be more indicative of the Tigers’ state of affairs. A slight lead from Purdue in week one may be a stronger indicator that PSU is closer to the middle of the Big Ten than it is to the top.
When we find out more: The next two Saturdays won’t tell us much; a week-long vacation follows a house date with Northwestern. Three after that – in Michigan, then in Minnesota and Ohio at home – will determine the season.
The 11th-placed Rebels are the only SEC team that hasn’t played a conference yet. A straight win at Georgia Tech doesn’t tell us much about Ole Miss, but we also shouldn’t put too much emphasis on last week’s struggle to get rid of the pesky Tulsa team given what lies ahead.
When we find out more: If the Rebels can beat Kentucky at Oxford on Saturday, they have a great chance of going 7-0 before the October 22 visit to LSU marks the start of an extremely tough final stretch.
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University of California at Los Angeles
The Bruins were one point clear of South Alabama in Week 3, and last week’s rout of the hapless Colorado that launched the Pac-12 roster did little to win voters’ attention. However, this is the team’s first 4-0 start since 2015 and the first under Chip Kelly.
When we find out more: Friday night’s home competition with Washington will tell us a lot more about UCLA’s league prospects. A win would likely land the Bruins in the top 25, but it might not be for long as Utah and Oregon are next.
While it’s hardly an aesthetic masterpiece, the Seminole victory over LSU looks better. They also have two ACC wins in the pot, though both Louisville and Boston College are at risk of missing the bowl season. You see progress compared to previous seasons. But can momentum continue?
When we find out more: Saturday’s home fight against Wake Forest – if it happens – will immediately be followed by a trip to North Carolina and a home fight with Clemson.
The Golden Gophers season started off with three easy home wins, including one win over Colorado (the poor buffaloes just keep showing up here, don’t they?), but last week’s Michigan State demolition in East Lansing intensified significantly. more fanfare.
When we find out more: Considering the state of the rest of the West’s Big Ten, Minnesota’s schedule is very good. There’s a visit to Penn State on October 22, but the Gophers have an excellent 9-1 chance when the final clashes with Iowa and Wisconsin come up.
Three of the club’s 18 4-0 members have played all their games at home to date. Washington is one of these three states, Ohio and Michigan are the others. Again, the Huskies’ result against Michigan State got the most attention, so they, like the Minnesota, are hoping the Spartans can reverse their recent fortunes.
When we find out more: Life on the road begins for Washington on Friday night with the aforementioned meeting with UCLA. Plus, there’s no USC or Utah on the Husky list, so a November 12 trip to Oregon could be key.
The Jayhawks may need to get more credibility than they are with two real road wins, including a conference win already secured. Perhaps due to the program’s less-than-stellar history and the fact that KU has yet to face any of the presumed Big 12 favorites, voters are still apparently on the fence.
When we learn more: KU stays in Lawrence for the next two weeks to meet with Iowa State and TCU, but then successive trips to Oklahoma and Baylor could serve as a reality check.
Orange opened with a surprisingly easy fuss past Louisville. But the Purdues almost gave Syracuse a third win, and the Oranges did their best to give up last week’s game against the Virginias. But an ugly win is better than a loss, especially since coach Dino Babers needs success to avoid pressure.
When we learn more: This week’s home date with FCS member Wagner is followed by an open week, so the Oranges will almost certainly go 5-0 on October 15th. an immediate trip to Clemson.
We know less about the Horned Frogs than we do about Oklahoma State, who are also 3-0 but have more returning talent from last season’s Big 12 runner-up team. TCU did its job in Colorado and won the rivalry with SMU, but it still remains a mystery where the Horned Frogs will land in a wide-open conference under freshman coach Sonny Dykes.
When we learn more: It won’t be long. Saturday’s home competition with an angry Oklahoma team is followed by a trip to Kansas. This is followed by home dates with the states of Oklahoma and Kansas.
With the exception of James Madison, who is still in transition and not yet eligible for the Sun Belt Championship, the Chanticleers are the last undefeated team in the Group of Five conferences. Unfortunately, they don’t have Power Five triumphs on their resume like some of their SBC brethren. But they own the victory over the army and started the conference with a road victory over the state of Georgia. Star QB Grayson McCall left the game against the Panthers with an apparent leg injury but is not expected to miss any further action.
When we learn more: Going through the league unscathed will be tough starting this week with Georgia Southern. The Chants have a shot at the Power Five in Virginia on Nov. 19, but it’s Thursday night’s clash with Appalachian State on Nov. 3, which should be scheduled for review.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Penn State, Mississippi tops college football list of undefeated mystery players