AP Top 25 Reality Check: Giving Group of 5 teams their due


The last Associated Press college football poll before the first College Football Playoff selection committee rankings prompts comparisons.

The two have never had the same teams in the same order in the top four since the playoff rankings started in 2014. In fact, last year was the first time the AP Top 25 prior to the first CFP rankings had the same four teams but in a different order.

That said, the differences between the two rankings – even beyond the first rankings – are rarely great. Last season, the first playoff ranking and the preceding AP poll had 23 of the same teams, six in the exact same spots and most within a few places of each other. Where the voters and committee diverge most is assessing teams outside the Power Five conferences.

The AP rankings had UCF No. 7 before they were 12th in the first playoff rankings. Houston and Utah State were top-20 teams in the AP poll, but unranked by the selection committee, which worked Iowa State and North Carolina State into the final five instead.

This is notable going into Tuesday’s rankings because Sunday in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank, the American Athletic Conference placed four teams, a high for the league and more than any conference other than the Big Ten and SEC. There were also a couple of Mountain West teams ranked to make it six out of 25 from outside the Power Five.

Reality Check approves of the voters rewarding teams from Group of Five conferences for having good seasons rather than looking for yet another multiple-loss Power Five team to fill out the back half of the ballot. The selection committee should be more open-minded to that approach.

No. 1 LSU (8-0)

Next: at No. 2 Alabama.

Reality check: In regular-season 1 vs 2 matchups, No. 1 is 15-8-2. The Tigers opened as a six-point underdog.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 2 Alabama (8-0)

Next: vs. No. 1 LSU.

Reality check: The question of the week: How’s Tua Tagovailoa’s sprained right ankle?

Ranked: Little high, but this will get all sorted out Saturday.

No. 3 Ohio State (8-0)

Next: vs. Maryland.

Reality check: The next two weeks the Buckeyes play Maryland and Rutgers so whatever you think about them likely won’t change for a while.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 4 Clemson (9-0)

Next: at North Carolina State.

Reality check: That Travis Etienne surge Reality Check predicted a few weeks back? Etienne’s last four games: 640 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Yes, he had 212 yards on nine carries against Wofford. Still.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 5 Penn State (7-0)

Next: at No. 13 Minnesota.

Reality check: Nittany Lions fans are questioning why their team with a couple of top-20 victories has been stuck behind Alabama and Clemson. Reality check is not buying their argument.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 6 Georgia (7-1)

Next: vs. Missouri.

Reality check: This next group of four is difficult to sort through. The Bulldogs have the worst loss (South Carolina at home), but the best couple of victories (No. 10 Florida and No. 15 North Dame). They are also have the most talented roster of the bunch.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 7 Oregon (8-1)

Next: vs. Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 16.

Reality check: Best loss of the group (vs. Auburn) and won big at USC, where Utah lost.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 8 Utah (8-1)

Next: vs. UCLA, Saturday, Nov. 16.

Reality check: The Utes played so poorly against USC, but star RB Zack Moss missed most of the game because of an injury and QB Tyler Huntley was banged up.

Ranked: A touch too high.

No. 9 Oklahoma (7-1)

Next: vs. Iowa State.

Reality check: Losing at Kansas State might not look too bad after all.

Ranked: Little too low.

No. 10 Florida (7-2)

Next: vs. Vanderbilt.

Reality check: The Gators are looking good for another 10-win season. Wish they hadn’t played two FCS teams.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 11 Baylor (8-0)

Next: at TCU.

Reality check: If the Bears can get through TCU – far from a given in the volatile Big 12 – they setup a huge home game against Oklahoma. And maybe another against Texas.

Ranked: Touch too high.

No. 12 Auburn (7-2)

Next: vs. No. 6 Georgia, Saturday, Nov. 16.

Reality check: Now that there is a defensive end (Ohio State’s Chase Young) getting Heisman buzz, how about a defensive tackle? Derrick Brown has been dominant.

Ranked: Little too low.

No. 13 Minnesota (8-0)

Next: vs. No. 5 Penn State.

Reality check: The Gophers’ next four opponents are a combined 21-11 and that includes Northwestern (1-7).

Ranked: Just right.

No. 14 Michigan (7-2)

Next: Michigan State, Saturday, Nov. 16.

Reality check: The Wolverines have two more games to fool us into thinking they can beat Ohio State.

Ranked: Too high. Should be behind Wisconsin.

No. 15 Notre Dame (6-2)

Next: at Duke.

Reality check: The Irish will be favored in all their remaining games, but it would be a little surprising if they won out.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 16 Wisconsin (6-2)

Next: vs. No. 18 Iowa.

Reality check: It was a while ago, but the Badgers did beat Michigan 35-14.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 17 Cincinnati (7-1)

Next: vs. UConn.

Reality check: Bearcats are the highest ranked of the American teams, but a case could be made they are actually the fourth-best of the bunch.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 18 Iowa (6-2)

Next: at No. 16 Wisconsin.

Reality check: Expect another rock fight against the Badgers because that’s pretty much all the Hawkeyes do this season.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 19 Memphis (8-1)

Next: at Houston, Saturday, Nov. 16.

Reality check: The most fun stat line of the weekend was Antonio Gibson’s: 386 all-purpose yards, including 97 rushing and 130 receiving and touchdowns via rush, reception and kick return, all covering at least 50 yards.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 20 Kansas State (6-2)

Next: at Texas.

Reality check: QB Skylar Thompson has run for eight touchdowns in the last three games and 10 on the season, conjuring up memories of Collin Klein in Manhattan.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 21 Boise State (7-1)

Next: vs. Wyoming.

Reality check: The Broncos have a streak of 10 straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher, the longest active in FBS. Freshman George Holani (589 yards) has some work do to but he might be up to the task.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 22 Wake Forest (7-1)

Next: at Virginia Tech.

Reality check: You do realize that if Wake Forest wins out it would have a very real – if rather slim – chance of being in the playoff?

Ranked: Too low.

No. 23 SMU (8-1)

Next: vs. East Carolina.

Reality check: The AAC’s depth could be its undoing. Going to be hard for these teams to get through the league championship game with only one loss.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 24 San Diego State (7-1)

Next: vs. Nevada.

Reality check: The Mountain West is fortunate its best teams did not draw each other in a cross-division matchup. The Aztecs and Boise State could both get to the conference title game 11-1.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 25 Navy (7-1)

Next: at No. 15 Notre Dame, Saturday, Nov. 16.

Reality check: One of the best bounce-back seasons in the country as the Midshipmen have already more than doubled last season’s three victories.

Ranked: Just right.

Instead of San Diego State how about five AAC teams and add UCF?

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