In major college football, 14 teams made it through the first half of the season undefeated. That is an insane, abnormally high number. Consider that last season, only six teams (Mississippi State, Florida State, Ole Miss, Baylor, Notre Dame and Marshall) made it the first seven weeks unscathed. Notre Dame and Baylor would lose the next week, and Ole Miss fell the week after. Only Florida State made it through the regular season untouched before getting obliterated in the Rose Bowl.
All this to say, we aren't finishing with 14 undefeated teams. Not even close. The maximum possible number is seven, and history says the final total will be closer to one or two.
If you had to place your life on one of those 14 finishing the regular season unbeaten (through Conference Championship Saturday), who would it be? Let's break down each of the candidates.
Remaining schedule: at East Carolina, vs. Notre Dame, at SMU, at South Florida, vs. Memphis, vs. Connecticut.
Betting your life? No. With a defense that ranks among the top dozen nationally in yards per play allowed and scoring defense, I'd place money on the Owls winning 10 games and reaching the AAC title game. But not to beat Notre Dame and Memphis, possibly twice.
Remaining schedule: at Central Florida, vs. Vanderbilt, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Memphis, at Connecticut, vs. Navy.
Betting your life? The Cougars are an interesting candidate. They're the only team left on Memphis's schedule that can score with the Tigers, and their four toughest remaining games are all at home. Let's hold this thought.
Remaining schedule: at Tulsa, vs. Tulane, vs. Navy, at Houston, at Temple, vs. SMU
Betting your life? No. Far be it for me to bet against Justin Fuente and his 13-game winning streak, but I'm not placing my life on Memphis making it through Navy, Houston and Temple in consecutive weeks unscathed. And if they do, Chad Morris and SMU are exactly the type of team that can sneak in the house with Memphis is asleep and start lighting stuff on fire.
Remaining schedule: at Miami, at N.C. State, vs. Florida State, at Syracuse, vs. Wake Forest, at South Carolina
Florida State (6-0)
Remaining schedule: at Georgia Tech, vs. Syracuse, at Clemson, vs. N.C. State, vs. Chattanooga, at Florida
Betting your life? Odds are high that one of these teams finishes unbeaten. However, considering their Nov. 7 date at Clemson is a complete toss-up, that eliminates both in a life-or-death scenario.
Remaining schedule: vs. Maryland, at Indiana, vs. Minnesota, vs. Purdue, at Nebraska
Betting your life? Hold that thought. Iowa can run the football (23rd in rushing offense) and stop the run (fourth in rushing defense). And have you seen that schedule?
Michigan State (7-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. Indiana, at Nebraska, vs. Maryland, at Ohio State, vs. Penn State
Betting your life? There are two ways to view the Spartans. They're either impostors and close wins over Oregon, Purdue, Rutgers and Michigan either prolonged the inevitable, or they're a 2002 Ohio State-style team of destiny. Either way, we may not find out until their Nov. 21 visit to Columbus. I'll bank on the former and pass.
Ohio State (7-0)
Remaining schedule: at Rutgers, vs. Minnesota, at Illinois, vs. Michigan State, at Michigan
Betting your life? The Buckeyes are the sure bet to start 10-0. Beyond that, though? Michigan State is slightly worse than expected, Michigan much better. Either is capable of beating the Buckeyes under the right conditions. Let's table this for later.
Remaining schedule: vs. Iowa State, at Kansas State, vs. Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, at TCU, vs. Texas
Betting your life? It's entirely possible this Bears team is Art Briles's best, the one capable of doing what his 2013 and '14 teams could not. It's also possible 2015 Baylor is a clone of the last two teams that started 9-0 (2013) and 6-0 (2014) before losing a road game by double digits. Their schedule has been so soft to this point it's impossible to tell. That their three road games are all in locales Briles's teams have historically struggled makes me nervous.
Remaining schedule: vs. West Virginia, at Oklahoma State, vs. Kansas, at Oklahoma, vs. Baylor
Betting your life? No team is closer to reaching the finish line, with seven wins down and only five to go. TCU's defense, so decimated by injuries, attrition and rotten luck, has gotten better, especially when it counts. Gary Patterson's adjustments Kansas State in check when it looked like the Wildcats were going to run away from the Frogs. But the fact that TCU allowed three 14-point quarters at Texas Tech, a 35-point half at Kansas State and a 21-point quarter at Iowa State tell me at some point, either in Stillwater or Norman or at home against Baylor, TCU will find itself in a hole on a day Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson don't have their A-plus games.
Oklahoma State (6-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. Kansas, at Texas Tech, vs. TCU, at Iowa State, vs. Baylor, vs. Oklahoma
Betting your life? If TCU or Baylor had this schedule, it'd be an easy 'yes.' Getting TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma at home? It doesn't get more perfect than that. Alas, I just don't see the fortune Oklahoma State received against Texas and Kansas State extending when the difficulty increases.
Remaining schedule: at Massachusetts, at Central Michigan, at Bowling Green, vs. Western Michigan
Betting your life? Right off the bat, I'm more likely to take Baylor winning at TCU or Ohio State pulling the Michigan State-Michigan two-step than Toledo winning at Bowling Green, so the Rockets are out. Sorry, Matt Campbell.
Remaining schedule: at USC, vs. Oregon State, at Washington, at Arizona, vs. UCLA, vs. Colorado
Betting your life? We can all agree there's some prejudice going on here, right? Put the players and coaches in opposite uniforms and a 6-0 USC is a double-digit favorite at 3-3 Utah, bar none. However, hard as I try to see past any bias, I don't like any Pac-12 team navigating three more road games and a de facto road game against Cal or Stanford in the conference title game undefeated.
Remaining schedule: vs. Western Kentucky, at Alabama, vs. Arkansas, at Ole Miss, vs. Texas A&M
Betting your life? Leonard Fournette is going to win the Heisman (knocks on all the wood). But, good as he is, I'm not placing my life on him winning in Tuscaloosa.
With all 14 teams on the table, we're left with Houston, Iowa, Ohio State, and Baylor.
Iowa has the clearest path to 12-0, but the difficulty jumps considerably when looking at 13-0. Hawkeyes are out. Houston's schedule has been incredibly light so far and, as big a fan as I am of Tom Herman, I'm not banking on a rookie coach to go undefeated, not with Ohio State and Baylor still on the table.
Baylor appears better than they've been but, again, how can you tell at this point? Those 2013 and 2014 teams looked invincible, too, until they weren't.
Then there's Ohio State. This team has a 2009 Florida, 2014 Florida State, 2003-04 Lakers quality to it, where expectations are so impossibly high that they suck the fun right out of winning. Clearly everything isn't perfect in Camelot or they wouldn't have changed quarterbacks at midseason. And how sure are we that Mark Dantonio hasn't tapped into some mystical forces to carry him to that elusive national championship, or that the return of Jim Harbaugh didn't unlock the hex old Michigan teams held on title-bound Buckeye teams?
But the point of this exercise is to look for the surest bet their is, the closest thing to a guarantee we can find. There are few sure things in college football, but talent is one of them. Ohio State won't step on the field against an equally talented opponent until New Year's Eve, and maybe not until the national championship game. When your hypothetical life is on the line, you need a real-life sure thing.
That's why I'm taking Ohio State.