AP Top 25 Reality Check: 3 weeks, many mystery teams

Three weeks into the season, and there are more than a few teams with something to prove in the Associated Press College Football Poll.

The AP Top 25 presented by the Regions Bank was largely status quo this week after the top 10 teams cruised through Saturday almost untested. The final result: 521 teams from the top 10, opponents 120.

There were a lot of empty calories in those wins, and for some highly regarded, that’s basically been the case all season.

No. 4 Michigan is a prime example. The Wolverines have scored at least 50 points in each of their first three games, but those opponents are 0-9 overall against other FBS teams.

We’re pretty sure Michigan, who came into the playoffs with the most offense, is good. But the ranking is based more on faith than achievement.

This week the rankings are being checked in search of mystery teams.

#1 Georgia (3-0)

Next: vs. Kent State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Bulldogs played two Power Five teams, including an Oregon team that otherwise looked pretty good. Without a doubt, Georgia is wonderful.

Rating: Perfect.

#2 Alabama (3-0)

Next: vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday.

Reality check: The Tide showed some vulnerabilities on the road against Texas, but doubt Nick Saban’s team at your own peril.

Rating: Just right.

No. 3 Ohio State (3-0)

Next: vs. Wisconsin, Saturday.

Reality check: Notre Dame’s struggles leave the Buckeyes without a quality win, it would be hard to find fault.

Rating: Just right.

No. 4 Michigan (3-0)

Next: vs. Maryland, Saturday.

Reality check: The defense is probably more of an unknown for the Wolverines, and the Terps can at least give them a test this week.

Rating: Standard number 4.

#5 Clemson (3-0)

Next: at No. 21 Wake Forest, Saturday.

Reality check: So far, the Tigers’ only Power Five opponent is a pesky Georgia Tech team. Generally, the signs are positive for QB DJ Uiagalelei and the offense is better than last year, but by how much?

Rating: Too high.

No. 6 Oklahoma (3-0)

Up next: vs. Kansas State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Sooners look vastly improved defensively, just hitting better, though what does it mean to catch Nebraska in the midst of an overhaul?

Rating: Same as above.

#7 Southern California (3-0)

Next: at Oregon State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Trojans’ three opponents (Rice, Stanford, Fresno State) weren’t killers, but they still made it pretty clear what they were: A Strange Offense. Generous protection.

Rating: About yes.

#8 Kentucky (3-0)

Next: vs. Northern Illinois, Saturday.

Reality check: A successful trip to Florida lifted the Wildcats into the top 10, but the Gators now look far less formidable than they did after Week 1.

Rating: Too high.

#9 Oklahoma State (3-0)

Next: at No. 17 Baylor, Oct. 1.

Reality check: That win against Arizona State goes down in value, but the Cowboys were mostly in control of their games. There is still much to learn.

Rating: A bit high, but then who?

#10 Arkansas (3-0)

Next: vs. No. 23 Texas A&M, Saturday.

Reality check: The Hoggies were indeed caught napping by Missouri State, but lived up to their preseason expectations against Cincinnati and South Carolina.

Rating: Might be a little high, but relatively speaking, they’re worth it.

#11 Tennessee (3-0)

Next: vs. No. 20 Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: Made easy work of MAC teams and won a tough road game. The ceiling for the Vols is still unknown, but they put up a floor that looks good.

Rating: Good now.

No. 12 North Carolina State (3-0)

Next: vs UKB, Saturday.

Reality Check : The Wolfpack took two legal tests, showed some flaws in both, but passed. They are good.

Rating: A bit low.

#13 Utah (2-1)

Next: at Arizona State, Saturday.

Reality check: There’s a very real possibility that the Utes’ opening loss at Florida will look more like an anomaly and a missed opportunity as the weeks go by.

Rating: Too high.

#14 Penn State (3-0)

Next: vs. Central Michigan, Saturday.

Reality check: After two Power Five road wins, the question for the Nittany Lions is how seriously they will challenge Ohio State in the Big Ten.

Rating: Too low.

No. 15 Oregon (2-1)

Next: at Washington State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks proved that the disaster in Georgia had more to do with the defending national champions than themselves.

Rating: About yes.

#16 Mississippi (3-0)

Next: vs. Tulsa, Saturday.

Reality check: The Rebels are going to enter October pretty untested, but there’s no reason to worry about their performances.

Rating: About yes.

#17 Baylor (2-1)

Next: at Iowa State, Saturday.

Reality check: With just one competitive game, the Bears are unlikely to be as good as they were last year.

Rating: Too high. We must be for BYU.

#18 Washington (3-0)

Next: vs. Stanford, Saturday.

Reality check: The quick offensive turnaround led by freshman Cullen DeBor has been stunning and looks very real after the win over Michigan State.

Rating: Too high. Voters were somewhat over-enthusiastic.

No. 19 BYU (2-1)

Next: vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

Reality check: You can learn a lot about a team in matches against ranked teams. The Cougars are good, but they won’t make the playoffs.

Rating: About yes.

No. 20 Florida (2-1)

Next: at No. 11 Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: After a big opening win, the Gators looked more like a rebuilding program than a team to be evaluated. However, for now, you have to give them credit.

Ranking: Should be ahead of Utah.

#21 Wake Forest (3-0)

Next: vs. No. 4 Clemson, Saturday.

Reality check: The Deacs look a lot like the team they were last year, which makes sense because it’s mostly the same players.

Rating: Just right.

No. 22 Texas (2-1)

Next: at Texas Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: The Longhorns have played three mostly encouraging games, but recent history shows we still don’t have enough data to know where this is going.

Rating: It’s okay.

#23 Texas A&M (2-1)

Next: vs. No. 10 Arkansas, Saturday

Reality check: It’s safe to say the Aggies offense needs to be much better to stay ranked much longer.

Rating: Too high.

#24 Pittsburgh (2-1)

Up next: vs. Rhode Island, Saturday.

Reality check: The Panthers split two straight games against Power Five teams and won on the road with a third quarterback. Panthers are what we thought they were.

Rating: A bit low.

#25 Miami (2-1)

Next: at Middle Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: The Hurricanes didn’t beat Texas A&M, but what does that mean?

Rating: Too high.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.apppodcasts.com


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