- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2012

With the arrival of the midpoint of the college football season, a Dandy Dozen teams remain undefeated.

Certainly, one-loss SEC titans Louisiana State and South Carolina can climb back into the national title picture with a flawless second half. The same might even be true of Florida State, Oklahoma and Southern California if there’s chaos of the magnitude seen in 2007.

Yet for now, attention should pivot to the 12 teams without a loss. Their ranks will be winnowed soon enough, but the best way for any team to remain relevant on a national stage is to continue winning. That’s what this bunch has done over the first seven weeks:

Alabama (6-0): The defending national champion leads the country in rushing defense, passing defense, scoring defense and total defense and shares the top spot in turnover margin. A tough two-week stretch looms: Mississippi State visits Oct. 27, followed by a trek to LSU.

Cincinnati (5-0): The Bearcats own a pair of victories over lower-division teams, and their top triumph was arguably against disappointing Virginia Tech on a neutral field. They could easily trip up on the road over the next two weeks against Toledo and/or Louisville.

Florida (6-0): The early victory at Texas A&M looks better by the week, and the triumph over LSU was the most notable accomplishment of Will Muschamp’s brief tenure. Now comes a one-two punch for SEC East supremacy: South Carolina in the Swamp, followed by the annual Cocktail Party showdown with Georgia.

Kansas State (6-0): Sometimes, Bill Snyder’s sorcery isn’t too complex. The Wildcats run effectively (11th nationally), stop the run almost as well (15th) and rarely create headaches for themselves (seventh in turnover margin). K-State will, however, need to slow down the pass when it visits an angry West Virginia bunch next week.

Louisville (6-0): Sure, the Cardinals have beaten only one team with a winning record. But they play four of their next five at home before closing the season at Rutgers. You want a possible national title game sleeper? Charlie Strong’s bunch could be it.

Mississippi State (6-0): The Bulldogs have enjoyed the sort of start everyone expected a season ago. Better a year late than never. Nonetheless, their six victims are a combined 12-26 and trips to Alabama and LSU are on the horizon.

Notre Dame (6-0): The Fighting Irish’s ferocious defense, led by linebacker Manti Te’o and lineman Stephon Tuitt, is ranked second behind Alabama in points allowed and fifth in efficiency against the pass. There are two noteworthy opponents still to come: Visits to Oklahoma (Oc. 27) and Southern California (Nov. 24).

Ohio (7-0): The Bobcats are living a bit of a charmed existence, with four victories coming by a combined 19 points. A day-after-Thanksgiving trek to Kent State is a possible stumbling point. So, too, is a potential Mid-American Conference title game rendezvous with either Northern Illinois or Toledo (both 6-1). Ohio could earn a BCS appearance, but is not a national championship contender.

Ohio State (7-0): The Buckeyes are ineligible for the postseason, the Big Ten title game or the BCS title, but they could still be voted No. 1 in the Associated Press poll if they are the last of the unbeatens. The thought of a split national title sounds fun simply on principle. Ohio State’s greatest remaining challenges are against some two-loss teams: Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Oregon (6-0): The owners of the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense quietly have pieced together a perfect first half, but tough games await. The Ducks still must visit Arizona State, Oregon State and Southern Cal, and Stanford pays a visit to Eugene as well. If the Ducks run the table, they’ll be more than worthy of a crack at the national title.

Oregon State (5-0): The Beavers, whose postgame visits to In-N-Out Burger after road victories are fast becoming the stuff of legend, don’t have many more chances to patronize their favorite fast food chain. Five of their last seven are at home, including the season-ending Civil War against Oregon.

Rutgers (6-0): The Scarlet Knights are great against the run (second in the country). They’re also an incredibly pedestrian offensive team, ranking 97th in total yardage, and their opponents are a combined 15-23. Rutgers plays Cincinnati (Nov. 17) and Louisville (Nov. 29) late, so this unbeaten run could continue for a while even if the Scarlet Knights aren’t overly tested.



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