Alabama and Florida State are in the driver’s seat to play for the national title, but there’s a spirited debate to find the top one-loss team in college football.
Is it Stanford? The Cardinal rank as the highest one-loss team in the BCS (No. 4), and David Shaw’s team is coming off a huge win on Thursday night against Oregon. Stanford’s only loss in 2013 was at Utah.
After Stanford, Oregon, Auburn, Clemson and Missouri are all in the mix. Auburn might be playing as well as anyone outside of Alabama, Florida State and Baylor right now, but the Tigers rank No. 7 in the BCS.
Who is College Football's Best One-Loss Team in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Could go a couple of different directions in this answer, but on a neutral field, I would take Stanford as the best one-loss team in the nation. The Cardinal convincingly beat Oregon last Thursday and rank as the highest one-loss team in the BCS standings at No. 4. Stanford’s passing attack doesn’t scare most opposing defenses (averaging only 177.4 ypg in Pac-12 play), but the Cardinal boast one of the nation’s best defenses, holding the last 18 opponents under 30 points. The offensive line also has an argument as one of the best in college football, and running back Tyler Gaffney is averaging 116.4 yards per game in conference play. Stanford isn’t necessarily going to win any style points most weeks or impress anyone with flash, but the bottom line with David Shaw’s teams is they are stout on defense and find just enough offense to win.
My choice comes with a caveat. With a healthy Marcus Mariota, I believe Oregon is the best one-loss team in the nation. Yes, I know that Stanford beat Mariota and the Ducks last Thursday, somewhat convincingly at that, but the Heisman Trophy contender wasn't at 100 percent and Oregon still had a chance to win a game in which they were thoroughly dominated for three quarters. Even with a loss, which could end up ruining the Ducks' national title hopes, I still think Oregon is one of the nation's top teams. It's certainly one of the most talented teams, one that is capable of getting the job done on either side of the ball. However, taking into consideration Mariota's knee injury, I would lean towards Clemson over Stanford as the best one-loss team. Clemson's lone defeat was against Florida State, a team that is seemingly headed to the BCS National Championship Game, as it has pretty much dominated the rest of its opponents. While the Seminoles absolutely manhandled the Tigers on their own home field, I like Clemson's offense, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and feels its defense is not getting the credit it deserves. I know that Stanford arguably "earned" this title by virtue of its victory over Oregon, but the Tigers get my paw, er stamp, of approval when it comes to this debate.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
To me, it’s pretty clear that’s Stanford. I’m not sure if I would’ve said that a week ago before the Cardinal defeated Oregon. Sometimes teams like Oregon, Florida State and Alabama spoil us. Even Baylor is doing the same. They’re making it look too easy to pile up points quickly. Stanford’s not built the same way, and sometimes it’s easy to overlook Stanford that way. Stanford is as brutally efficient and overpowering as Alabama. Stanford is more of a classic SEC team on the field than most of the SEC this season. And the SEC-like quality of the schedule is why Stanford needs to be taken most seriously. According to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, Stanford is 4-1 against top-30 teams right now. Part of that is because Sagarin is far higher on Arizona State and Washington than the rest of the BCS or the pollsters. Granted, there’s little excuse for Stanford to have lost to Utah, but anyone paying close attention knows how difficult Utah is in Salt Lake City.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com and Crystal Ball Run
Stanford has exactly the kind of overall team that can cause problems for everybody in the country. They may not be a team capable of beating a team like Alabama or a Florida State, but as we saw against Oregon Stanford has proven they have a very good defense capable of shutting down even the most explosive offenses. Auburn’s running game is phenomenal but what will happen when a team shuts that down? I also can’t trust their defense too much against better competition. Missouri is a bit of a wild card for me but I’m paying attention to them. For now, I feel comfortable counting on Stanford to come out on top if paired up against any other one-loss team, including Clemson.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Despite their loss to Stanford last week, I'm still going to say Oregon is the best one-loss team. The Cardinal match up very well against Oregon, but on a neutral field I would put my money on Mark Helfrich's squad as the better overall team. In fact, I think this is actually the best team Oregon has had in the last decade. Marcus Mariota has had a Heisman-caliber season, but he just wasn't 100 percent last week and, as a result, the Ducks seemed off rhythm all game. Despite this, they still almost beat Stanford. If I look at Oregon compared to the other one-loss teams I think the only one they would have trouble with is Stanford, while I think the Cardinal would struggle against Missouri, Clemson and Auburn.