Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where Central Florida’s Josh Heupel is the only first-year coach left in FBS without a loss:
UNBEATEN AND UNLOVED
We’re down to 21 unbeaten teams left, and that number will drop to less than 20 (perhaps significantly less) after this week. You know most of the usual suspects, but here are 10 unusual unbeatens who are receiving something less than unconditional love despite their perfect records:
Kentucky (21). Record: 4-0, with wins over Central Michigan, Florida, Murray State and Mississippi State. Noteworthy: The Wildcats are 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 1977. Player you need to know: Running back Bennie Snell, who is third nationally in rushing yards per game (135), tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns (seven) and sixth in carries per game (21.75). Next up: South Carolina in Lexington on Saturday.
Looking for love: The pollsters have shown the Wildcats some affection, ranking them for the first time since 2007 after their upset of Mississippi State. But get this: Kentucky opened Sunday as a one-point home underdog at the Wynn Casino against South Carolina — a program it has beaten four straight years. If that isn’t disrespect, what is?
California (22). Record: 3-0, with wins over North Carolina, BYU and Idaho State. Noteworthy: This is the first time since 2009 the Golden Bears have held their first three opponents to less than 24 points. Player you need to know: Safety Ashtyn Davis leads the Pac-12 in kickoff return yardage (highlighted by a touchdown return against Idaho State), has two interceptions and 11 total tackles. Next up: Oregon comes to Berkeley for a #Pac12AfterDark Special on Saturday night.
Looking for love: The Bears are ranked by the AP but remain unranked in the coaches poll because the coaches would rather rank a Virginia Tech team that lost to previously winless Old Dominion. Like Kentucky, Cal has opened as an undefeated home underdog. Will the Ducks be over their devastating blown lead against Stanford? Cal is coming off a bye.
Colorado (23). Record: 3-0, with wins over Colorado State, Nebraska and New Hampshire. Noteworthy: The Buffaloes scored more than 30 points in each of their first three games for the first time since 1995. Player you need to know: Sophomore receiver Laviska Shenault leads the nation in receptions per game (8.7) and receiving yards per game (151.7). Next up: Winless UCLA wobbles into Boulder on Friday night.
Looking for love: The disrespect has been partially self-inflicted, thanks to the infamous T-shirt cannon misfire by the (non-animal) mascot during the New Hampshire game. The poll voters have followed suit, keeping the Buffs out of the top 25. That’s understandable when you look at the combined record of the teams Colorado has beaten so far: 1-10.
North Carolina State (24). Record: 3-0, with wins over James Madison, Georgia State and Marshall. A big game against West Virginia was canceled by Hurricane Florence. Noteworthy: Befitting a team with a senior standout quarterback, the Wolfpack leads the ACC and is fourth nationally in third-down conversions at 58.5 percent. Player you need to know: Quarterback Ryan Finley leads the ACC in passing yards per game at 352, more than 80 yards ahead of the league’s second-most prolific passer. Next up: Virginia comes to Raleigh on Saturday.
Looking for love: Not only are the Wolfpack unranked, they’re not even close to being ranked in the AP poll — they’re 10th among those also receiving votes. But when your three victories are over an FCS opponent, a Sun Belt team and someone from Conference USA, it’s hard to complain.
Syracuse (25). Record: 4-0 for the first time since 1991, with wins over Western Michigan, Wagner, Florida State and Connecticut. Noteworthy: At 49.5 points per game, the Orange are tied for 10th nationally in scoring offense. Their previous five national rankings in that category are 75th, 90th, 77th, 121st and 99th. Player you need to know: Senior quarterback Eric Dungey could well finish his career as the school’s No. 2 all-time passer, with a shot at knocking Ryan Nassib out of the top spot — if he stays healthy, never a sure thing. Dungey also leads the Orange in rushing. Next up: at Clemson, a large but daunting opportunity as Syracuse seeks its first 5-0 start since 1987.
Looking for love: The Orange are even farther down the pecking order in the AP poll than N.C. State, checking in at 36th. That’s what happens when a would-be signature win over Florida State disintegrates due to the Seminoles’ incompetence. Rest assured, the ‘Cuse will be ranked if it can beat Clemson for the second straight year.
Duke (26). Record: 4-0, with wins over Army, Northwestern, Baylor and North Carolina Central. Noteworthy: The victories in Evanston and Waco marked the first time the Blue Devils have won their initial two road games of the year against Power Five competition since 1999. (That was a weird year, wherein Duke won at Virginia and Maryland but finished 3-9 and didn’t win a home game until Nov. 13.) Player you need to know: Whoever is playing quarterback. Duke has used three of them due to injuries, but they’ve combined to throw 110 passes without an interception — one of just four teams without a pick this season. Standout Daniel Jones is back practicing after clavicle surgery; his return date is unclear. Next up: Virginia Tech, fresh off a shocking loss to Old Dominion in which its starting quarterback broke his leg, comes to Durham on Saturday.
Looking for love: Duke entered the rankings for the first time this season this week, landing at No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 23 with the coaches. The basketball team would never have been unranked after a 3-0 season start.
Cincinnati (27). Record: 4-0, with wins over UCLA, Miami (Ohio), Alabama A&M and Ohio. Noteworthy: The last time Cincinnati was 4-0 was 2012, on its way to 10-3, after which coach Butch Jones departed to commit career suicide at Tennessee. Player you need to know: Sophomore running back Michael Warren was a Luke Fickell recruiting coup out of Toledo, pulling him away from several Power Five schools. He’s been the Bearcats’ bellcow, averaging 23 carries and 109 yards per game. Next up: at reeling Connecticut (1-3) Saturday.
Looking for love: Cincy’s undefeated start has scarcely registered — it’s 38th with AP voters and 40th with the coaches. As with Colorado, it doesn’t help when your putative signature road victory is over a team that still hasn’t won a game.
Buffalo (28). Record: 4-0, with wins over Delaware State, Temple, Eastern Michigan and Rutgers. Noteworthy: Buffalo has never been 4-0 as an FBS school, or even close to it. Last time the Bulls were 4-0 was 1981, when they were a Division III program. (That team finished 5-5.) Player you need to know: Junior quarterback Tyree Jackson, who is becoming an increasingly familiar name to NFL scouts. He’s 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, has wheels and a siege-gun of an arm as seen in this 55-yard bomb thrown on the run Saturday. Next up: Army visits Saturday in what could be Buffalo’s toughest remaining game.
Looking for love: Poll voters have barely noticed the Bulls. They’ve received six points in the AP poll (tied for 42nd) and two in the Coaches poll (tied for 52nd). Buffalo football fans underwhelmed by the NFL team should turn out to support their unbeaten college program.
North Texas (29). Record: 4-0, with wins over SMU, Incarnate Word, Arkansas and Liberty. Noteworthy: Hope has traditionally been extinguished early in Denton. Last time the Mean Green started 4-0 was 1966; since then they have started 0-4 11 times. Player you need to know: Receiver Keegan Brewer is the fearless freshman who perpetrated the most audacious fake punt in years against Arkansas. Next up: Louisiana Tech visits UNT Saturday.
Looking for love: The Mean Green are only moderately more loved by the pollsters than Buffalo, sitting well outside the top 25.
South Florida (30). Record: 4-0, with wins over Elon, Georgia Tech, Illinois and East Carolina. Noteworthy: In a rebuilding year, the Bulls join BYU as the only non-Power Five teams with two victories over Power Five schools. Player you need to know: Quarterback Blake Barnett has been around — started at Alabama and was beaten out there by Jalen Hurts, transferred to Arizona State but was beaten out by incumbent Manny Wilkins, and now is at USF and finally a starter. Barnett ripped Illinois for 411 passing yards and had 293 yards total offense against Georgia Tech. Next up: a bye week, followed by a trip to Massachusetts.
Looking for love: The Bulls are close, sitting 27th with the coaches and 29th with the writers. Since they’re guaranteed to still be undefeated Sunday, they might move into the top 25.
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