AP Top 25 Reality Check: Is Georgia really the best team in the country? We look at each team and where they really belong

0
315

So much about Nick Saban’s 17 seasons at Alabama represents unprecedented success in college football football that even the slightest dip in performance is notable.

For any other program, permanent residence in the top 10 of The Associated College football poll going on nine consecutive seasons would be celebrated. For the Crimson Tide, it’s a sign of slippage.

No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Michigan held their places atop the AP poll Sunday, with Florida State moving up to No. 3 and Texas vaulting into the top five at No. 4 after beating ‘Bama.

The Tide slipped seven spots to No. 10, keeping its streak of consecutive appearances in the top-10 alive at 128.

But look a little closer. From 2009-2020, the season of Alabama’s sixth and most recent championship under Saban, the Crimson Tide appeared in the AP poll top-five 88% of the time. Not only was that the best mark in college football over that span, next best wasn’t even close. Ohio State appeared in the top five 50% of the time.

From 2021 through the first couple of weeks of this season, the Tide has been a top-five team 77% of the time. That’s still second-best in the country behind Georgia (100%) and ahead of Ohio State (68.6%) and Michigan (60%).

The loss to Texas marked the earliest in a season Alabama has dropped a game during Saban’s tenure and it ended a record 57-game winning streak against nonconference opponents in the regular season.

Saban pointed out that while disappointing this was not Alabama’s final exam and there was plenty of time to improve.

Reality check is in no rush to declare the dynasty dead, but it is fair to say that Alabama is in a rut.

No. 1 Georgia (2-0)

Next: vs. South Carolina, Saturday

Reality check: Mekhi Mews, a 5-8 walk-on receiver, has been the Bulldogs breakout star during two blowouts. The third-year speedster leads the team with six catches for 102 yards and he returned a punt for a touchdown against Ball State.

Ranked: Based purely on results, a voter could bump the Bulldogs down. But not doing so is OK.

No. 2 Michigan (2-0)

Next: vs. Bowling Green, Saturday.

Reality check: Wolverines have not yet gotten RB Donovan Edwards (18 carries, 46 yards) going as the complement to Blake Corum.

Ranked: Same as with Georgia.

No. 3 Florida State (2-0)

Next: at Boston College, Saturday.

Reality check: Seminoles seemed to already have a No. 1 receiver in Johnny Wilson, but the spring addition of Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman gave them an even better option.

Ranked: Could be No. 1.

No. 4 Texas (2-0)

Next: vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

Reality check: Freshman LB Anthony Hill could be this season’s Harold Perkins. Hill has similar explosive athleticism to the LSU star who became a major impact player in his first year.

Ranked: Could also be No. 1.

No. 5 Southern California (3-0)

Next: at Arizona State, Sept. 23.

Reality check: The much-maligned defense has been better the last two weeks (24 points allowed), but between the huge leads the Trojans have had and the weak opposition, hard to gauge progress

Ranked: Just right.

No. 6 Ohio State (2-0)

Next: vs. Western Kentucky, Saturday.

Reality check: The Buckeyes rank 114th in the country in third-down conversions at 30.4%. Something to keep an eye on.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 7 Penn State (2-0)

Next: at Illinois, Saturday.

Reality check: The Nittany Lions have scored at least 30 points in nine straight games, longest streak in the nation.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 8 Washington (2-0)

Next: at Michigan State, Saturday.

Reality check: The best trio of receivers in college football — Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk — have combined for 696 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns. They each have a rushing touchdown.

Ranked: About right.

No. 9 Notre Dame (3-0)

Next: vs. Central Michigan,

Reality check: There is always another tight end at Notre Dame. Holden Staes is a little different variety, not quite as big but more explosive. He’s got three touchdowns and is averaging 23 yards per catch.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 10 Alabama (1-1)

Next: at South Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Jalen Milroe wasn’t good enough to beat Texas. He might be good enough to beat most of the other teams on the Tide’s schedule. So what’s the play? Hope he develops or go to another player who might have a lower ceiling but might not make as many costly errors?

Ranked: This is fine.

No. 11 Tennessee (2-0)

Next: at Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Joe Milton and the Vols’ passing game didn’t click against Austin Peay (6.9 yards per pass). That a reason to worry?

Ranked: About right.

No. 12 Utah (2-0)

Next: vs. Weber State, Saturday.

Reality check: Utes have absorbed some early losses the last two years before rolling to Pac-12 titles. Now they’ve beaten two Power Five opponents without their starting quarterback. Lots to be optimistic about.

Ranked: Maybe a little low.

No. 13 Oregon (2-0)

Next: vs. Hawaii, Saturday.

Reality check: Ducks pass rush was key against Texas Tech, getting four sacks and forcing Tyler Shough into making a heroic performance — which the former Oregon quarterback almost did.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 14 LSU (1-1)

Next: at Mississippi State, Saturday.

Reality check: After using dynamic pass rusher Harold Perkins mostly to do things other than rush the passer against Florida State — without much success — how much will LSU tinker with that plan going forward?

Ranked: Too high.

No. 15 Kansas State (2-0)

Next: at Missouri, Saturday.

Reality check: The Wildcats have had an uneventful and highly-effective opening two weeks.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 16 Oregon State (2-0)

Next: vs. San Diego State, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Damien Martinez’s 9.96-yard average per carry is the highest in the Power Five among players with at least 20 carries.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 17 Mississippi (2-0)

Next: vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Jaxson Dart, who struggled late last season and faced a challenge from transfers to keep his starting job, has responded so far with a 206.57 passer rating.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 18 Colorado (2-0)

Next: vs. Colorado State, Saturday.

Reality check: Colorado and Utah are the only teams in the country with two Power Five victories.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 19 Oklahoma (2-0)

Next: at Tulsa, Saturday.

Reality check: A solid but unspectacular performance against SMU makes this still mostly a mystery team until Big 12 play starts.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 20 North Carolina (2-0)

Next: vs. Minnesota, Saturday.

Reality check: Tar Heels showed they have another star in RB Omarion Cooper (234 yards vs. App State) to go with QB Drake Maye.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 21 Duke (2-0)

Next: vs. Northwestern, Saturday.

Reality check: Blue Devils got a well-deserved break with Lafayette coming to town after the Clemson victory.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 22 Miami (2-0)

Next: vs. Bethune-Cookman, Thursday.

Reality check: New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has unlocked the 2021 version of QB Tyler Van Dyke and found him some weapons in WRs Colbie Young and Jacolby George.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 23 Washington State (2-0)

Next: vs. Northern Colorado, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Cam Ward seems to have taken a step forward in his second year with the Cougars after transferring up from FCS.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 24 UCLA (2-0)

Next: vs. Northern Colorado, Saturday.

Reality check: Took freshman QB Dante Moore about half a game to become entrenched as the starter. He has thrown five TDs in 39 attempts.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 25 Iowa (2-0)

Next: vs. Western Michigan, Saturday.

Reality check: Four offensive touchdowns in two games and still perfect. Same as it ever was so far for the Hawkeyes.

Ranked: Too high.

___

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

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll