AP Top 25 Reality Check: Who’s the best or rewarding success?

The AP Top 25 is embracing diversity.

Nine of the 10 FBS conferences have a ranked team this week, including all the leagues currently playing games. Plus, there is an independent.

There is something for everyone, but that kind of variety can make some fans question whether those non-Power Five teams really belong?

Cincinnati at No. 7? Would the Bearcats from the American Athletic Conference really beat the three Power Five teams — Texas A&M, Wisconsin and Florida — ranked directly behind them?

Is Marshall from Conference USA actually the 19th best team in the country?

No. 20 Coastal Carolina from the Sun Belt is a good story, but aren’t there a dozen unranked teams better than the Chanticleers?


Fair questions.

Odds makers probably wouldn’t be as high on those Group of Five teams as AP poll voters, but voters aren’t just speculating on hypothetical results. They’re also rewarding success.

Sure, Marshall and Coastal probably wouldn’t fair too well in a 10-game series against No. 24 Oklahoma. But go ask Sooners fans how satisfied they are with their team’s season so far. Doubt you’ll find many pleased with losses to Kansas State and Iowa State.

If you want to play the transitive wins games: No. 23 Iowa State lost to Louisiana-Lafayette, which then lost to Coastal Carolina. Hence, Coastal is better than Oklahoma.

Reality check doesn’t buy that, of course, but does believe that a ranking is a reward and has no issues with rewarding teams for success. Otherwise, why even play the games?

No. 1 Clemson (6-0)

Next: vs. Boston College, Saturday.

Reality check: Coach Dabo Swinney wasn’t thrilled about getting a mild grilling for his team’s meh performance against hapless Syracuse. Such is life at the very top of the food chain. Poll voters didn’t hold it against the Tigers.

No. 2 Alabama (5-0)

Next: vs. Mississippi State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Crimson Tide has so much talent that the loss of single player, even one as good as WR Jaylen Waddle, won’t make much of a difference against the majority of their opponents. But against the best competition, Waddle will be missed.

No. 3 Ohio State (1-0)

Next: at No. 18 Penn State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Buckeyes would probably like to get more production from running backs Trey Sermon and Master Teague (23 carries for 96 yards), if we’re being picky.

No. 4 Notre Dame (5-0)

Next: at Georgia Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: The theme with the Fighting Irish has been developing a down field passing game. They found it against Pitt with six plays of 20-plus yards after eight in the first four games. But losing WR Kevin Austin to an injury might be the bigger long-term news on that front.

No. 5 Georgia (3-1)

Next: at Kentucky, Saturday.

Reality check: After a week off to stew in that humbling loss to Alabama, the Bulldogs’ talented defense gets a Kentucky offense that has not cracked 300 yards in any of its last three games, averaging 3.97 yards per play.

No. 6 Oklahoma State (4-0)

Next: vs. Texas, Saturday.

Reality check: In the upside world of 2020 college football, the Cowboys have a lock-down pass defense (5.7 yards per attempt) and passing offense still searching for some pop to go along with star WR Tylan Wallace.

No. 7 Cincinnati (4-0)

Next: vs. Memphis, Saturday.

Reality check: DTs Curtis Brooks and Marcus Brown make the Bearcats tough to run against (3.16 yards per carry allowed).

No. 8 Texas A&M (3-1)