Florida State handed Notre Dame its first loss of the season last night, thanks in large part to an offensive pass interference call wiping off a go-ahead touchdown scored by the Irish in the final minute. With Notre Dame taking a loss, the number of undefeated teams in college football was reduced to four: Florida State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Marshall. At this point in the season, the college football season can finish with three undefeated teams at most, because Mississippi State and Ole Miss will play each other in the final game of the regular season.
We are starting to get close to a situation where all four of the undefeated teams could be given a lucrative postseason assignment by the College Football Playoff selection committee too. Odds are probably good if Florida State continues to run the table in ACC play and wins the ACC championship, the Seminoles will grab one of the four playoff spots. The same holds true for either Mississippi State or Ole Miss if either can manage to go undefeated and win the SEC championship. An undefeated ACC and SEC champion will be extremely likely to be in the playoff. If the loser of the Egg Bowl ends the season with that being the only loss, it would be arguable they would be the nation’s best one-loss team, and that could stack up well against any potential one-loss champion from the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12.
Marshall can go undefeated but there is no fooling anybody into thinking the Thundering Herd will be considered for a playoff spot. Marshall’s biggest problem is being a dominant program in a weak conference and not having a relatively marquee opponent on the non-conference schedule. Marshall may still go undefeated and be passed over for a spot in one of the access bowls by a team like East Carolina. The Pirates have lost a game, but East Carolina has two wins against ACC opponents on their resume, which would be expected to help a one-loss ECU trump an undefeated Marshall team.
So, which of these four teams has the best chance to go undefeated at this point in the season?
Marshall looks like the best bet based on what is in front of them. Marshall’s biggest challenge will come against Rice (3-3) and Western Kentucky (2-4), but both of those games are at home. Florida State should have the second best chance to go undefeated. The Seminoles get a week off before playing on a Thursday night at Louisville. As long as Florida State avoids an upset bid on the road against the newest ACC member, then Florida State should be staring down a 12-0 record with Virginia, Miami, Boston College and Florida remaining.
Ole Miss may have the most difficult path to a 12-0 regular season, with games against LSU and Auburn next up and Mississippi State in the final game. Mississippi State still must play at Alabama in mid-November, but that should be the only roadblock before facing Ole Miss on the road in the Egg Bowl.