The ultimate for a football team is to win a championship, whether it be the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff or a high school state championship.
But an even more elusive goal is to win that championship while going undefeated. It hasn’t happened in the NFL in 47 years, when the 1972 Miami Dolphins (featuring Bob Baumhower, the defensive tackle turned self-described chief dishwasher and head fry cook at restaurants around Mobile and the state) recorded the only perfect season in modern NFL history.
Last year, Clemson was the first college football team to go 15-0 in the modern era.
Of the 400 football-playing schools in the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), only UMS-Wright, Central-Phenix City and Fyffe made it through last season undefeated.
Two months into the 2019 – 2020 season, the pursuit of perfection may turn out to be even more elusive.
But here’s the good news: This season could still be one of the all-time bests for some fans in Mobile.
Four of the 25 undefeated teams in the AHSAA are from Mobile County.
Alabama is one of only 10 major college football teams that still has a chance at a perfect season. And the New Orleans Saints, while not undefeated, may be the best team in pro football. Their win at Chicago Sunday was the kind of dominating performance under adverse circumstances that signals this could be a special season for the Saints.
Let’s take a look at which teams have reached the final 10 days of October with a chance at perfection.
NFL: Two teams remain undefeated, the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.
When you think of the Patriots you think Tom Brady. But the Patriots are on top of the AFC because of a defense that has been the best in the NFL so far this season.
The 49ers are also relying on a strong defense, which recorded a road shutout against Washington Sunday. The Redskins are a bad NFL team, but a shutout is still an incredible accomplishment in the NFL.
College football: The 10 remaining undefeated teams are Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Baylor, SMU, Minnesota and Appalachian State.
This list was supposed to include Wisconsin, but the Badgers lost to 31-point underdog Illinois last Saturday, underscoring how difficult it is to go through an entire season unscathed. The same thing happened to Boise State Saturday night at BYU.
One of those 10 teams will be visiting Mobile this weekend when South Alabama hosts Appalachian State. The Jags have had some tough losses this season, but the program has made a name for itself as a team that plays its best against the toughest competition. That has also proven to be true this season for a USA team that played its best football at Nebraska. The Mountaineers have already beaten North Carolina, but still have to visit South Carolina.
The only state with more than one undefeated team is Texas — and those teams are Baylor and SMU. Who would have guessed that?
Alabama and LSU are expected to arrive for their Nov. 8 matchup in Tuscaloosa undefeated. Alabama needs only to beat lowly Arkansas before a bye week. LSU is a 12-point favorite over Auburn this weekend in a game that could be tricky.
High school: The four Mobile teams still undefeated are McGill-Toolen, Saraland, UMS-Wright and Faith Academy. There are 21 other undefeated teams around the state.
No other county has as many undefeated teams as Mobile. It’s possible, if not probable, that all four will finish the regular season undefeated, since all four are in different classifications.
McGill-Toolen has already beaten Theodore in what should have been its biggest threat of the regular season.
Saraland looks invincible so far this season, even with Blount and Spanish Fort remaining on the schedule.
UMS-Wright has won 27 games in a row. When the Bulldogs win at W.S. Neal Friday night they will complete another perfect regular season. The Bulldogs’ winning streak is so impressive that their most recent loss was to St. Paul’s, a team they now have a two-game winning streak against.
It’s hard to believe Faith Academy is on this list, but the Rams are for real. This is a legitimate championship contender in Class 5A, and senior running back Caullin Lacy should be a Mr. Football candidate. The South Alabama commitment is as impressive with the ball in his hands as any player in the state. Can he lead Faith to an undefeated season?
The odds are against them — just as they are against every other team still pursuing perfection in the NFL, college football and high school ranks. But these teams have at least put themselves in position to accomplish the near impossible.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 17 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. Follow him on Twitter: @kennedy_randy.
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