AP Top 25 Reality Check: Places change but teams remain same

It took 12 weeks of regular-season play to have a turnover-free AP Top 25.

For the first time in 2021 all the teams that were ranked in The Associated Press college football poll presented by Regions Bank last week stayed ranked this week.

There were some significant changes near the top of the poll Sunday though, with Ohio State moving past both Alabama and Cincinnati into second behind No. 1 Georgia.

The Buckeyes’ landslide victory against Michigan State, combined with Utah pounding Oregon created the opportunity for movement in the top 10. Overall four ranked teams lost, three to other ranked teams, moving the total for the season to 78.

Through 12 weeks of play, that’s the second-most behind the 2018 season (83), according to the website College Poll Archive.

The lone victory by a unranked team over a ranked team on Saturday came in a game the unranked team was favored. Clemson topped Wake Forest, but it was not enough to get the Tigers (8-3) back in the Top 25 for the first time since last September.

Arkansas, which lost a one-score game to Alabama, managed to hang onto the final spot in the Top 25 by four points over Clemson, which was first among other teams receiving votes.

As the ranked teams finally begin to settle in there is less for Reality Check to complain about — but not nothing.

No. 1 Georgia (11-0)

Next: vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: DT Jordan Davis scored a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge and led the band after the Charleston Southern game. He might get another touch or two against the Yellowjackets.

Ranked: Perfect.

No. 2 Ohio State (10-1)

Next: at No. 6 Michigan, Saturday.

Reality check: The Buckeyes are on pace to have three 1,000-yard receivers with Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Coming into this season, Ohio State has had five individual 1,000-yard receiving seasons in program history.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 3 Alabama (10-1)

Next: at Auburn, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Bryce Young’s Heisman chances come down to this: How well does he play against Georgia in the SEC championship. Any quarterback who can find success against that defense probably deserves the Heisman.

Ranked: Maybe a tad too high?

No. 4 Cincinnati (11-0)

Next: at East Carolina, Friday.

Reality check: Bearcats responded when facing what was supposed to be a tough test by smashing SMU. Notable: RB Jerome Ford was back and healthy and ran for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Ranked: Touch low.

No. 5 Notre Dame (10-1)

Next: at Stanford, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Jack Coan has completed 73.7% of his passes during the Irish’s six-game winning streak.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 6 Michigan (10-1)

Next: vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday.

Reality check: Wolverines have one of the best pass defenses in the nation by just about every measure (54.6% completions against, 5.8 yards per pass), but they haven’t faced anything remotely close to the Buckeyes.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 7 Oklahoma State (10-1)

Next: vs. No. 10 Oklahoma, Saturday.

Reality check: The Cowboys’ defense is currently third in the nation in yards per play against (4.34). The last time a Big 12 team finished in the top three in that category was 2009 when Texas was first and Nebraska was third.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 8 Mississippi (9-2)

Next: at Mississippi State, Thursday.

Reality check: Matt Corral has had a tremendous season and might be the first quarterback drafted in April, but at this point he is more of a fringe Heisman candidate than a serious contender.

Ranked: About right.

No. 9 Baylor (9-2)

Next: vs Texas Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: Bears need a victory and some help to reach the Big 12 title game. They enter the week with some uncertainty around QB Gerry Bohanon, who left the victory at Kansas State with an apparent right leg injury.

Ranked: About right.

No. 10 Oklahoma (10-1)

Next: at No. 7 Oklahoma State, Saturday.

Reality check: Strange season for the Sooners’ offense. They rank fourth in the nation in yards per play (6.94), but have had five games where they were held under 6.0, including the last two.

Ranked: About right.

No. 11 Oregon (9-2)

Next: vs. Oregon State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks’ can still reach the Pac-12 title game by beating the Beavers, but they’ll have to do it with a depleted group of receivers due to injuries to Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd and the departure of Mycah Pittman.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 12 Michigan State (9-2)

Next: vs. Penn State, Saturday.

Reality check: Spartans’ point differential in the Big Ten is plus-six. That’s one point fewer than Nebraska, which is 1-7 in the conference. It’s been a great year for Spartans, but fair to call them overachievers.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 13 BYU (9-2)

Next: at USC, Saturday.

Reality check: Is the Cougars’ next game a job interview for coach Kalani Sitake?

Ranked: About right.

No. 14 Texas A&M (8-3)

Next: at LSU, Saturday.

Reality check: Isaiah Spiller (984 yards rushing) and Devone Achane (861) could become the first Texas A&M teammates to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Ranked: About right.

No. 15 UTSA (11-0)

Next: at North Texas, Saturday.

Reality check: Roadrunners have five one-possession victories and none wilder than beating UAB with a last-second touchdown pass on Saturday.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 16 Utah (8-3)

Next: at Colorado, Friday.

Reality check: No team in the country is so reliant on its tight ends. The versatile Brant Kuithe (41 catches, 487 yards and five TDs) and Dalton Kincaid (25 for 349 and five) are Nos. 1 and 2 in yards receiving, and Cole Fotheringham also has 13 catches.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 17 Iowa (9-2)

Next: at Nebraska, Friday.

Reality check: Hawkeyes lead the country with 21 interceptions, and they have come in bunches. Iowa has six games with multiple interceptions and five games with none.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 18 Wisconsin (8-3)

Next: at Minnesota, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Graham Mertz is coming off his best three-game stretch of the season, completing 72% of his passes. Sure, it’s only 54 attempts, but he’s averaging 10.5 yards per throw..

Ranked: Little low.

No. 19 Houston (10-1)

Next: at UConn, Saturday.

Reality check: CB Marcus Jones is tied for the national lead with five interceptions to go along with his four return touchdowns on special teams.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 20 Pitt (9-2)

Next: at Syracuse, Saturday.

Reality check: WR Jordan Addison leads the nation with 15 touchdown catches after a career-game against Virginia with 14 catches and four scores.

Ranked: Touch low.

No. 21 Wake Forest (9-2)

Next: at Boston College, Saturday.

Reality check: Deacs’ defense has allowed more than 300 yards rushing in two of the past three games and four times on the season.

Ranked: Tad low.

No. 22 San Diego State (10-1)

Next: vs. Boise State, Friday.

Reality check: No ranked team has thrown for fewer yards than the Aztecs at 141.9 per game.

Ranked: About right.

No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette (10-1)

Next: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Saturday.

Reality check: Ragin’ Cajuns like to play ground and pound, but the running game has been a bit of a grind over the last four games averaging 4.03 yards per carry. on 159 attempts.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 24 North Carolina State (8-3)

Next: vs. North Carolina, Friday.

Reality check: A victory in the rivalry game and a loss by Wake Forest sends North Carolina State to the ACC title game of the first time.

Ranked: About right.

No. 25 Arkansas (7-4)

Next: vs. Missouri, Friday.

Reality check: WR Treylon Burks dominated Alabama with eight catches for 179 yards and two scores, playing through injuries.

Ranked: About right though Clemson would be fine here, too.

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

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