NCAAF Top 6: Unbeaten contenders and pretenders
Not all unbeaten college football teams are on equal footing.
Thanks to wide variations in strength of schedule, some undefeated teams have had a much harder road to hoe than others. With a handful of weeks remaining in the season and plenty of upset possibilities in the offing, don't be surprised to see certain teams remain perfect - and others fall short.
Here is a look at three undefeated teams that are the real deal - and three that aren't:
Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0, 7-0 SEC)
Aside from a hiccup in a narrow victory over then-No. 6 Texas A&M, the defending-champion Tide have made it look easy. The Nick Saban-led juggernaut has rolled past one opponent after another, laying waste to LSU on Nov. 9 and most recently posting a 20-7 triumph over Mississippi State. An easy game against Chattanooga is followed by what should be Alabama's stiffest test of the year - a date with the sixth-ranked AuburnTigers.
Florida State Seminoles (10-0, 8-0 ACC)
The only thing keeping the Seminoles from top spot on the list is the number of cupcake games they have on their schedule. But take nothing away from what Florida State has accomplished this season - not only did it crush No. 3 Clemson 51-14 last month, it also has big victories over No. 7 Miami (41-14) and No. 25 Maryland (63-0). Finishing with games against Idaho and Florida, the Seminoles are virtually guaranteed a perfect record heading into bowl season.
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten)
The Buckeyes find themselves a distant third in the BCS standings - and on this list - thanks to a much easier schedule than the two teams ahead of them. Ohio State has made the most of it, boasting the fifth-most prolific offense in the nation and posting impressive wins over No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 16 Northwestern in back-to-back weeks. Despite that, the Buckeyes will need either the Tide or Seminoles to lose in order to secure a national championship game berth.
Fresno State Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 MWC)
The Bulldogs' unbeaten mark is attributed to pure luck more than any other factor. A Derek Carr touchdown pass with 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter kept Fresno State from losing in the season opener, and a missed San Diego State field goal as time expired in regulation provided second life in a wild overtime win late last month. If they win their final two games, they'll easily wind up the unlikeliest - and least deserving - of the unbeaten Division I teams.
Northern Illinois Huskies (10-0, 6-0 MAC)
A team surrendering 25.2 points per game doesn't often make it this far without losing a game, but the Huskies have managed to stave off all comers thanks to the sixth-ranked offense in the country. Northern Illinois opened the season with nail-biting victories over Iowa, Idaho and Eastern Illinois, then had to fend off a plucky but terrible Akron squad a month ago. An undefeated season looks promising with games against Toledo and Western Michigan on tap.
Baylor Bears (8-0, 5-0 Big 12)
This may seem sacrilegious to Baylor fans, but the Bears have benefited from a far easier schedule than the teams in the top half of this piece. Granted, an emphatic 41-12 thumping of No. 10 Oklahoma is a nice victory to have on the resume, but the fact that wins over Wofford, UL Monroe and Kansas are also there is hardly reason for celebration. Things are about to get a lot tougher for the Bears, who finish against Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.