Back in July, we scanned college football preseason Top 25 rankings from various media outlets, picked the 25 teams that appeared frequently and then ranked them in order of which teams we believed were most likely to make it to October undefeated.
It was a task that combined preseason prognosis of teams that we hadn’t seen play in seven months and speculation of which early-season schedules we believed were the most manageable given the talent level of a respective team.
It wasn’t a list of which 25 of the 130 FBS teams were most likely to be undefeated on Oct. 1, but rather which of the preseason Top-25ish teams were most likely to be unbeaten through September.
As September winds to a close, there are 18 undefeated teams left in college football, including the teams we ranked Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 15, 19 and 21 in our preseason likelihood-of-making-it-to-October-undefeated power rankings.
Now we’re ranking the 18 remaining undefeated teams based on their likelihood to make it to November undefeated.
18. No. 10 Florida (5-0)
- Oct. 5: vs. No. 7 Auburn
- Oct. 12: at No. 5 LSU
- Oct. 19: at South Carolina
- Oct. 26: BYE
Against its two best opponents so far this season, Florida pulled out wins against Miami 24-20 and at Kentucky 29-21. October is when we find out if the Gators were the beneficiaries of a bowl bump in their preseason ranking and if they’re beginning to close the gap with Georgia in the SEC East.
The SP+ rankings say Auburn is less than a point better than Florida on a neutral field, so we’ll see how good the Gators are against one of their peers on Saturday. Even if they win that, a trip to LSU the following week feels like a loss for a Florida team that’s only averaged 29 points against Power Five competition when LSU has proven multiple times that it’s capable of putting up twice that amount.
17. No. 7 Auburn (5-0)
- Oct. 5: at No. 10 Florida
- Oct. 12: BYE
- Oct. 19: at Arkansas
- Oct. 26: at No. 5 LSU
Before Tiger fans get too mad, Auburn is really good. Maybe even really, really good. You could argue no one in the country has three better wins than Auburn’s trio of Oregon (neutral field), at Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Even Auburn’s fourth-best win through Week 5 is pretty respectable — a 24-6 win over Tulane, which ranks No. 51 in SP+ just behind Cal and Boise State.
But road trips to Florida and LSU are daunting. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they probably need to win both to reach their ceiling with a November schedule that includes Georgia and Alabama, but odds are they lose in Gainesville or Baton Rouge — and potentially both.
In freshman quarterback Bo Nix’s only road game of his career so far, his longest completion went for 19 yards at Texas A&M. That may not get it done against Florida, and it definitely won’t in a game against a Heisman Trophy frontrunner in Joe Burrow.
If Auburn is 8-0 after a trip to Baton Rouge, the Tigers will have the best resume in the country and be deserving of a top-four ranking.
16. No. 8 Wisconsin (4-0)
- Oct. 5: vs. Kent State
- Oct. 12: vs. No. 25 Michigan State
- Oct. 19: at Illinois
- Oct. 26: at No. 4 Ohio State
Wisconsin’s ranking comes down to that final bullet point: “at No. 4 Ohio State.” The Badgers’ No. 1 defense (SP+) is the only unit ranked ahead of Michigan State’s defense and they’re much more competent on offense, so Wisconsin should be able to beat Michigan State, even if the game is ugly and borderline unwatchable.
But that trip to Columbus could potentially be the most difficult single game for anyone in the country this season — a road game against the Buckeyes. The SP+ rankings place Ohio State second nationally with a top-five offense and defense, and its offense might prove to be better than it ever was with Dwayne Haskins or J.T. Barrett.
If Wisconsin can win in Columbus, we’ll need to reevaluate who Wisconsin is this season and begin to have a real conversation about the Badgers making the 2019 College Football Playoff.
15. No. 12 Penn State (4-0)
- Oct. 5: vs. Purdue
- Oct. 12: at No. 14 Iowa
- Oct. 19: vs. No. 19 Michigan
- Oct. 26: at No. 25 Michigan State
The Nittany Lions don’t have a nightmare game like Wisconsin’s “at Ohio State” bullet point, but they have a three-week stretch to close the month against currently ranked teams, including two road games.
Penn State is ranked No. 7 in SP+ with a top-10 offense and top-20 defense, so there’s a chance the Nittany Lions are still being undervalued nationally and their October schedule gives them a chance to fix that.
They chewed up and spit out Maryland 59-0 in their Week 5 road trip, but Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State each have a defense that’s ranked in the top 25 of the SP+ rankings.
This feels like a 3-1 stretch for Penn State and all things considered, that would still be productive, especially if the Nittany Lions can sweep the Michigan schools.
14. No. 14 Iowa (4-0)
- Oct. 5: at No. 19 Michigan
- Oct. 12: vs. No. 12 Penn State
- Oct. 19: vs. Purdue
- Oct. 26: at Northwestern
October is when we find out if Iowa deserves to be mentioned as a co-Big Ten West frontrunner with Wisconsin. The Badgers surged onto the national scene with a pair of lopsided shutouts, followed by them demolishing Michigan, and now the Hawkeyes go to the Big House to face the Wolverines a week after Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis moved to the sideline to call plays.
Then Iowa will face another Big Ten East foe in Penn State, which is better than Michigan, at least in the eyes of AP poll voters, SP+ and in record. Purdue’s offense suffered major personnel losses in quarterback Elijah Sindelar and wide receiver extraordinaire Rondale Moore in Week 5, and Northwestern never had much of an offense to begin with, so the next two weeks are critical for Iowa climbing to 8-0.
13. Baylor (4-0)
- Oct. 5: at Kansas State
- Oct. 12: vs. Texas Tech
- Oct. 19: at No. 21 Oklahoma State
- Oct. 31: vs. West Virginia
Baylor’s trip to Stillwater might be the Bears’ only game in October in which they’re underdogs, according to Vegas, as they might be a small favorite at Kansas State and roughly a touchdown-favorite at home against Texas Tech. To borrow a line we used earlier in the rankings, this feels like a 3-1 stretch.
If Baylor navigates it unscathed, then things get interesting with the Bears hosting Oklahoma and Texas in November, which would give them a chance to play for the Big 12 Championship.
12. Memphis (4-0)
- Oct. 5: at UL Monroe
- Oct. 12: at Temple
- Oct. 19: vs. Tulane
- Oct. 26: at Tulsa
Memphis probably isn’t getting enough mention for its candidacy to be the Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Six bowls. The Tigers are No. 25 in the SP+ rankings, including the No. 9 defense and No. 17 special teams unit.
Their October schedule is perhaps more challenging than meets the eye, even for a quality team, as they have to go on the road three times, including trips to Temple (No. 45 SP+) and Tulane (No. 51 SP+).
11. No. 5 LSU (4-0)
- Oct. 5: Utah State
- Oct. 12: vs. No. 10 Florida
- Oct. 19: at Mississippi State
- Oct. 26: vs. No. 7 Auburn
LSU’s easiest game in October is in Week 6 at home against Utah State (No. 41 SP+), which is to say that even if (when) the Tigers are favored at kickoff in every game, their next four-game stretch is tough.
If quarterback Joe Burrow and passing game coordinator Joe Brady continue to engineer offensive numbers that Tiger fans haven’t seen in years, LSU appears to be able to score against anyone. The Tigers’ offense ranks No. 2 in SP+ and their special teams unit ranks No. 1, which surprisingly leaves their defense (No. 35 SP+) as the unit that could be LSU’s biggest concern as it tries to run through the SEC West gauntlet.
10. Minnesota (4-0)
- Oct. 5: vs. Illinois
- Oct. 12: vs. Nebraska
- Oct. 19: at Rutgers
- Oct. 26: vs. Maryland
Despite its best efforts otherwise, Minnesota made the list of FBS teams that are undefeated after September. Against a schedule that has featured South Dakota State, Fresno State, Georgia Southern and Purdue, the Golden Gophers have won all of their games by exactly three or seven points.
That leaves Minnesota as the worst good team in the country or the best OK team.
But do you want to hear the crazy part?
This shouldn’t-be-4-0 Minnesota team can legitimately hope to be 8-0 after October, then likely finish the regular season 8-4 or 9-3. Upcoming games against Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland — all of which are at home besides the game against the Scarlet Knights, who just fired their head coach and are being led by the tight ends coach — could lead to the Gophers being favored at kickoff on each of the next four Saturdays.
Not sure what else to say other than, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
9. No. 16 Boise State (4-0)
- Oct. 5: at UNLV
- Oct. 12: vs. Hawaii
- Oct. 19: at BYU
- Oct. 26: BYE
The Broncos only have two weeks in October in which they’re potentially on upset alert: Week 7 against Hawaii and Week 8 at BYU. Boise State is ranked No. 50 in the SP+ rankings with the country’s No. 48 defense.
Hawaii and BYU both struggle on one side of the ball as the Rainbow Warriors are No. 109 defensively, per SP+, and the Cougars’ offense ranks No. 93. A balanced Boise State team that opened its season with a win at Florida State *should* be able to climb to 7-0, but circle the Broncos’ trip to Provo as their most likely loss in October.
8. No. 24 SMU (5-0)
- Oct. 5: vs. Tulsa
- Oct. 12: BYE
- Oct. 19: vs. Temple
- Oct. 24: at Houston
AAC foes SMU and Memphis provide an interesting comparison because both are undefeated, but only SMU is ranked, while Memphis is 12 spots higher (and 7.1 points better on a neutral field) than SMU.
But the Mustangs only play three games in October, compared to Memphis’ four, and SMU has just one road game in the month compared to the Tigers’ three.
7. Appalachian State (4-0)
- Oct. 9: at Louisiana
- Oct. 19: vs. UL Monroe
- Oct. 26: at South Alabama
- Oct. 31: vs. Georgia Southern
The Mountaineers’ offense ranks No. 11 nationally in SP+ after Week 5, having scored 188 points in four games. Their defense (No. 101 SP+) leaves a lot to be desired, but their October schedule is manageable with games against Louisiana (No. 62 SP+), UL Monroe (No. 107 SP+), South Alabama (No. 122 SP+) and Georgia Southern (No. 108 SP+). If App State can win its road trip to Louisiana on Oct. 9, it should enter November with an 8-0 record.
6. No. 6 Oklahoma (4-0)
- Oct. 5: at Kansas
- Oct. 12: vs. No. 11 Texas
- Oct. 19: vs. West Virginia
- Oct. 26: at Kansas State
Like some other teams on this list, Oklahoma’s October schedule only features one game that jumps out as a potential loss. That’s not to disrespect Kansas State, which already cracked the AP Top 25 in the first year of Chris Klieman’s tenure, and appears at No. 35 in the SP+ rankings after Week 5, but the Wildcats might be at least a year or two away until they can contend with the teams atop the Big 12.
The Red River Showdown is the game to be circled on Oklahoma’s October schedule, but Texas’ No. 61 defense (SP+) feels exploitable for the nation’s No. 1 offense, which is more explosive under Jalen Hurts than it was through the same number of games with Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray.
5. No. 4 Ohio State (5-0)
- Oct. 5: vs. No. 25 Michigan State
- Oct. 12: BYE
- Oct. 18: at Northwestern
- Oct. 26: vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
The Buckeyes are No. 2 in the SP+ rankings after Week 5, and they’re barely behind Alabama for the No. 1 spot. They’ve already made it a habit of making competent, but not great, teams look like they shouldn’t be on the same field as them — teams like Indiana (No. 29 SP+), Cincinnati (No. 38 SP+) and Nebraska (No. 39 SP+).
Ohio State’s October projects to be more difficult than its September with a home game against Michigan State and the No. 2 defense nationally (according to SP+), a Friday night road game against a Northwestern team that played Wisconsin closer than anyone expected, then a home date with the Badgers, whose defense ranks No. 1 in SP+.
Even with games against two of the top defenses in the country — even Northwestern’s defense ranks No. 11 in SP+ — Ohio State’s offense looks like a juggernaut that has scored touchdowns at a higher rate with quarterback Justin Fields than it did with Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins or J.T. Barrett in either of the two seasons in which the Buckeyes made the College Football Playoff.
This 5-0 Buckeyes team feels like it’ll be an 8-0 Buckeyes team in a month, potentially one that could be ranked No. 1 in the country.
4. No. 22 Wake Forest (5-0)
- Oct. 5: BYE
- Oct. 12: vs. Louisville
- Oct. 19: vs. Florida State
- Oct. 26: BYE
Maybe Wake Forest should be ranked higher, maybe the Demon Deacons should be lower. They’re the only team on this list that only plays two (!) games in October, which is obviously great for their chances of making it to November undefeated. Wake Forest is off in Week 6 and Week 9 with home games against Louisville and Florida State in between.
Louisville is 2-2 and ranked among the worst Power Five teams in the country with a No. 70 SP+ ranking.
That should be a relatively easy win. It potentially gets tricky in Week 8 when Florida State comes to town.
The Seminoles (3-2) aren’t great, sure, but they’re ranked six spots higher than the Demon Deacons in the SP+ rankings, which say that Florida State is roughly one point better on a neutral field.
Would it be the craziest thing if Florida State won in Winston-Salem as a slight underdog?
3. No. 1 Alabama (5-0)
- Oct. 5: BYE
- Oct. 12: at No. 25 Texas A&M
- Oct. 19: vs. Tennessee
- Oct. 26: vs. Arkansas
The Crimson Tide’s October schedule looks like a cakewalk. Alabama is off in Week 6, giving Nick Saban & Co. an extra week to prepare for the only opponent it faces this month who has a pulse. Texas A&M is ranked No. 25 in the AP poll and No. 23 in SP+, but the SP+ rankings see Alabama as 16.2 points better on a neutral field.
When the Crimson Tide’s third or fourth-best receiver, DeVonta Smith, is capable of producing the single-best game of any wide receiver in Alabama history, like he did against Ole Miss, Alabama’s offense is beyond daunting. Games against Tennessee (1-3) and Arkansas (2-3) should effectively be over after the first quarter.
2. No. 2 Clemson (5-0)
- Oct. 5: BYE
- Oct. 12: vs. Florida State
- Oct. 19: at Louisville
- Oct. 26: vs. Boston College
Clemson survived a scare at North Carolina in Week 5, when the Tar Heels’ game-winning, two-point conversion attempt was stopped, but the Tigers’ October slate is more than manageable. They have a bye week in Week 6 to regroup before hosting Florida State, then they go to Louisville to face one of the worst teams in a down ACC, before coming home to host Boston College.
Even if Clemson isn’t inspiring much confidence after Week 5, the Tigers still have as much quarterback and skill position talent as any team in the country and their defense ranks No. 5 in SP+.
1. No. 3 Georgia (4-0)
- Oct. 5: at Tennessee
- Oct. 12: vs. South Carolina
- Oct. 19: vs. Kentucky
- Oct. 26: BYE
Georgia plays just three games in October, only one of which is on the road. That road game is in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Georgia State and BYU have already won this season. Then the Bulldogs host South Carolina and Kentucky inside Sanford Stadium, where Georgia has won 16 straight games.
For a ‘Dawgs team with playoff aspirations, this feels like a stretch for Georgia to make tune-ups and give its freshmen game experience before a more challenging November slate that includes No. 10 Florida in Jacksonville, Missouri at home, a trip to Auburn, and Texas A&M.