Throwing out the truncated regular season of 2020, there have been an average of two teams per year to enter bowl season undefeated. After seven weeks of 2021, there are still 10 teams that claim a ‘O’ on the right side of the W-L ledger, and you can see below how many of them came perilously close to having a ‘1’. As a group, they have six wins on the final play of the game, plus two others needed a game-saving blocked field goal and a game-saving interception. It is hard, and some luck is needed.
How do these teams stack up? Who has the best shot of staying perfect come Selection Sunday in December?
Here is a rundown of the current undefeated teams, which are spread across eight conferences.
1. Georgia (7-0)
Best win: Georgia 37, Arkansas 0
Georgia blitzed Arkansas at home in early October. Arkansas entered the game ranked No. 8 at 4-0 with wins over Texas and Texas A&M. The Bulldogs jumped all over the visitors, building a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and cruised home. Arkansas entered Georgia territory on just two possessions and finished with 162 total yards.
Biggest scare: Georgia 10, Clemson 3
The most watched game of the season to date did not feature an offensive touchdown as the Bulldogs won the game on an interception return for touchdown by Christopher Smith in the second quarter. Georgia sacked Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei seven times and limited the Tigers to a paltry 180 yards.
Highest remaining hurdle: SEC championship game, Dec. 4
Florida is capable of standing up to Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 30, but Alabama will likely be waiting in Atlanta for the SEC championship game. Georgia has played Alabama in Atlanta for either the SEC title or national title in 2012, 2017 and 2018 and lost by four, three and seven points. Will this be the year Georgia breaks through?
2. Oklahoma (7-0)
Best win: Oklahoma 55, Texas 48
When the Red River Showdown history book is written, this game gets its own chapter. The Sooners rallied from a 28-7 deficit and scored the winning touchdown with three seconds to play. In the middle of the Cotton Bowl chaos, a star may have been born as freshman quarterback Caleb Williams came on to spark the rally and cement himself as QB1 ahead of preseason Heisman front-runner Spencer Rattler.
Biggest scare: Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 13
The Sooners have had a few scares, but they needed a field goal on the game’s final play to beat the visiting Mountaineers. OU entered the fourth quarter down 13-10 but a pair of Gabe Brkic field goals and a key fumbled snap by West Virginia with five minutes to go allowed OU to escape.
Highest remaining hurdle: at Oklahoma State, Nov. 27
OU may have to beat Oklahoma State twice in two weeks to maintain its perfect season as the longtime rivals will meet in Stillwater on Thanksgiving weekend and then likely again the next week in Dallas for the Big 12 championship. Oklahoma has won six in a row in the series.
3. Cincinnati (6-0)
Best win: Cincinnati 24, Notre Dame 13
The Bearcats leaned into the narrative that this was the biggest game in school history, and the day ended with quarterback Desmond Ridder waving the Cincinnati flag to the UC flags in the Notre Dame end zone. Cincinnati never trailed and sealed the win with a Ridder touchdown with 5:08 to play to hand the Irish their first loss.
Biggest scare: Cincinnati 38, Indiana 24
Cincinnati trailed at the end of the first quarter, second quarter and third quarter in Bloomington before turning on the jets in the fourth quarter and earning the win. Cincinnati held IU to know points inside the red zone three times in a game the Hoosiers gained more yards and had more time of possession.
Highest remaining hurdle: SMU, Nov. 20
The Mustangs also find themselves on this undefeated list and are the only ranked team left on Cincinnati’s schedule. Cincinnati may have to play SMU in the AAC championship game as well, unless Houston earns a spot ahead of the Mustangs.
4. Michigan (6-0)
Best win: Michigan 38, Wisconsin 17
The Wolverines went on the road and throttled Wisconsin. Michigan held the Badgers to 210 total yards and forced three turnovers. The players joined the Wisconsin tradition of dancing during the playing of ‘Jump Around’ at the end of the third quarter, and proceeded to score 17 straight points to start the fourth quarter.
Biggest scare: Michigan 32, Nebraska 29
Michigan trailed in the fourth quarter on the road, but after tying things on a field goal with three minutes left, the Wolverines recovered an Adrian Martinez fumble and kicked the winning field goal with 1:24 remaining. Hassan Haskins ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Highest remaining hurdle: Ohio State, Nov. 27
Michigan has plenty of challenging games in the back half, notably road tests at Michigan State and Penn State, but nothing compares to the season finale vs. Ohio State. Everyone is familiar with the history here and Michigan will likely be a heavy underdog even if it is unbeaten after losing the last three by an average of 21 points.
5. Michigan State (7-0)
Best win: Michigan State 38, Miami 17
The Spartans made a statement that they were ahead of schedule in Year 2 of the Mel Tucker rebuild at Miami in Week 3. Michigan State ran away from the Canes in the fourth quarter and forced four turnovers for the game. Kenneth Walker III ran for 172 yards, which is only his third highest total of the season.
Biggest scare: Michigan State 23, Nebraska 20 (OT)
Nebraska outgained MSU 442-254 and was in control of the game in the fourth quarter until a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown tied the game with 3:47 to play, and an interception in overtime led to the game-winning field goal. Michigan State did not gain a first down in the second half, but pulled out the win.
Highest remaining hurdle: at Ohio State, Nov. 20
Michigan State is the only Big Ten team to win at Ohio Stadium since 2012, so there’s that. Otherwise, it will be a monumental task to keep up with the Ohio State offense. Walker is the nation’s most productive back, and Ohio State is 10th in the Big Ten in rushing defense, but expect the Spartans to be heavy underdogs.
6. Oklahoma State (6-0)
Best win: Oklahoma State 32, Texas 24
The Cowboys fell behind 17-3 midway through the second quarter and the Longhorns were driving again when Jason Taylor II flipped the game with an 85-yard pick six. Oklahoma State dominated the second half, holding the Longhorns to three points. Running back Jaylen Warren outgained his counterpart Bijan Robinson with 193 yards.
Biggest scare: Oklahoma State 21, Boise State 20
Oklahoma State blocked a 36-yard field goal with 2:06 to play as the Cowboys survived on the blue turf. Neither team scored in the second half despite having opportunities. Warren gained 218 yards and had two touchdowns. He is third in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game at 117.5 per game.
Highest remaining hurdle: Oklahoma, Nov. 27
See above. Oklahoma State will be tested this weekend at Iowa State, but it does not face another ranked opponent until the season’s final week. Like OU, they will have to beat their archrival twice in two weeks to hit Selection Sunday unscathed.
7. Wake Forest (6-0)
Best win: Wake Forest 37, Louisville 34
In a game where both teams gained over 500 yards, Wake Forest needed a 29-yard field goal by Nick Sciba with 22 seconds left to outlast the visiting Cardinals. Quarterback Sam Hartman threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns.
Biggest scare: Wake Forest 40, Syracuse 37 (OT)
Syracuse forced overtime with a 28-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds to play, but Wake Forest regrouped to post the win in the Carrier Dome. The Deacons forced a field goal on the opening possession of OT, then Hartman hit A.T. Perry for a 22-yard touchdown to clinch the walk-off win. Hartman finished with 330 yards and three touchdowns.
Highest remaining hurdle: NC State, Nov. 13
As much of a surprise as Wake Forest is, NC State is sitting at 5-1 when their preseason over/under win total was 6. The Wolfpack hammered BC 33-7 on the road and already own a win against Clemson.
8. SMU (6-0)
Best win: SMU 42, TCU 34
Whenever you can bring an iron skillet home from a football game, it is a good win. SMU won a heated battle with its Dallas rival that resulted in some post-game pushing and shoving. Tanner Mordecai threw four touchdowns and three interceptions and Ulysses Benley IV ran for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Biggest scare: SMU 39, Louisiana Tech 37
Needing a Hail Mary on the last play of the game counts as a scare, right?
Highest remaining hurdle: at Cincinnati, Nov. 20
Cincinnati has been a legit top 10 program the past two seasons under Luke Fickell. SMU was 5-0 prior to last season’s matchup with the Bearcats and was pounded 42-13 at home. Expect SMU to be heavy underdogs on the road this year in late November.
9. San Diego State (6-0)
Best win: San Diego State 33, Utah 31 (3 OT)
Utah is 3-0 in the Pac-12 and has the inside track to the Pac-12 championship game. San Diego State survived a dramatic fourth-quarter rally by the Utes that forced overtime. In the third OT, the Aztecs ran a successful Philly Special for a two-point conversion, then celebrated after a video review overturned Utah’s successful two-point pass. It was a wild finish to a wild game that featured an 80-yard punt return touchdown by Utah’s Britain Covey and a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown by SDSU’s Jordan Byrd.
Biggest scare: San Diego State 19, San Jose State 13 (2 OT)
Nitpicking here on the biggest scare since a triple-overtime game is pretty scary, but you can’t omit a double-overtime game in which the first touchdown didn’t come until overtime from a backup quarterback. Lucas Johnson replaced an ineffective Jordan Brookshire for the Aztecs and his first completion was a touchdown in overtime. He completed a second in the second overtime, and SDSU survived against the Spartans.
Highest remaining hurdle: at Air Force, Oct. 23
The Aztecs are 3.5-point underdogs this week in Colorado Springs, and they will also probably be underdogs against Fresno State next week. SDSU ranks just eighth in the Mountain West in offense, and its No. 1 defense will be tested by Air Force.
10. UTSA (7-0)
Best win: UTSA 31, Memphis 28
UTSA has the nation’s 131st ranked schedule according to the Sagarin ratings, so there isn’t a lot of meat on the bone, but the Roadrunners did win at Memphis the week after Memphis beat Mississippi State. Sincere McCormick, the best player you’ve never heard of, ran for 184 yards and three TDs.
Biggest scare: UTSA 52, Western Kentucky 46
WKU had a first-and-goal in the final minutes, but Clarence Hicks came up with an interception with 42 seconds to play on the two yard-line to preserve UTSA’s perfect season. The teams combined for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns, but it was the defense that stood tall when it mattered most.
Highest remaining hurdle: UAB, Nov. 20
UTSA still has UTEP, which is a surprising 6-1, but UAB is probably the best team left on the slate. The Blazers are 5-2 and have the No. 1 scoring defense in C-USA, just a tick ahead of UTSA.