AP Top 25 Reality Check: How to rank Pac-12 contenders?

Sports

Oregon beat UCLA, which beat Washington, which beat Oregon.

UCLA beat Utah, which beat USC.

Rank’em.

The Pac-12 is better than it has been in recent years, but is also eating its own and undercutting its best teams’ chances to earn a College Football Playoff berth.

The Pac-12’s consolation prize for its exciting games and parity, which included two top-10 teams losing at home Saturday night, is more teams ranked in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank this week than any other league with six.

The last time the Pac-12 was the conference with the most ranked teams (no ties) was Sept. 5, 1995, when the then-Pac-10 had five and the Southeastern Conference and Big Eight each had four.

Of less importance to the Pac-12, but quite important to Reality Check, how are the voters in The Associated Press college football poll supposed to rank these teams?

Conceding that any attempt to use head-to-head results will tie voters in knots, Reality Check would like to make some suggestions.

No. 1 Georgia (10-0)

Next: at Kentucky, Saturday.

Reality check: When the Bulldogs use tight ends Brock Bowers (39 catches for 615 yards) and Darnell Washington (24 for 392) together, it seems unfair.

Ranked: Perfect.

No. 2 Ohio State (10-0)

Next: at Maryland, Saturday.

Reality check: Buckeyes have had few games with both RBs Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson healthy. At this point, getting one of them 100% by the Michigan game would be huge.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 3 Michigan (10-0)

Next: vs. Illinois, Saturday.

Reality check: Probably not enough credit given to how well Michigan rebuilt its defense, with only four of last year’s top-12 tacklers back. The Wolverines are allowing 4.33 yards per play after 4.76 in 2021.

Ranked: This works.

No. 4 TCU (10-0)

Next: at Baylor, Saturday.

Reality check: Horned Frogs won a grinder against Texas with undoubtedly their best defensive performance of the season. They allowed 2.42 yards per carry to Bijan Robinson. Where did that come from?

Ranked: Just right.

No. 5 Tennessee (9-1)

Next: at South Carolina, Saturday.

Reality check: If you thought Georgia put forth a blueprint to slowing down QB Hendon Hooker and the Vols’ explosive offense, forget it. Without Georgia’s players, there is no blueprint.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 6 LSU (8-2)

Next: vs. UAB, Saturday.

Reality check: Everybody now knows how good freshman OLB Harold Perkins is. Just as important for the Tigers has been how well two freshmen offensive tackles — Will Campbell and Emery Jones Jr. — have held up.

Ranked: Feels high, but fair.

No. 7 Southern California (9-1)

Next: at No. 16 UCLA, Saturday.

Reality check: The loss of RB Travis Dye to a leg injury was heartbreaking. The Trojans have other good backs, but his combination of toughness, versatility and leadership will be missed.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 8 Alabama (8-2)

Next: vs. Austin Peay, Saturday.

Reality check: Maybe we should have seen this season coming for Alabama. The Tide has played four games decided by a touchdown or less so far. Last year, ‘Bama played in five such games in the regular season.

Ranked: A touch low. Look at the competition.

No. 9 Clemson (9-1)

Next: vs. Miami, Saturday.

Reality check: The passing game seems to have regressed, failing to break 200 yards in any of the last three games with two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Ranked: About right.

No 10 Utah (8-2)

Next: at No. 12 Oregon, Saturday.

Reality check: Letting that opener in the Swamp get away is keeping the Utes out of the playoff conversation. Still has to sting.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 11 Penn State (8-2)

Next: at Rutgers, Saturday.

Reality check: Nittany Lions have 13 sacks in their last two games, including three by Chop Robinson.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 12 Oregon (8-2)

Next: vs. No. 10 Utah, Saturday.

Reality check: The offense finally couldn’t overcome a defense that despite some talented individual players — LB Noah Sewell, Edge DJ Johnson —- has no answers to get stops.

Ranked: Seems high.

No. 13 North Carolina (9-1)

Next: vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: WR Josh Downs over the last three games: 37 catches, 422 yards and six touchdowns. All-America stuff.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 14 Mississippi (8-2)

Next: at Arkansas, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Jaxson Dart and the passing game has been inconsistent all season and it cost the Rebels against the Tide.

Ranked: Touch low.

No. 15 Washington (8-2)

Next: vs. Colorado, Saturday.

Reality check: If anything has been established in Kalen DeBoer’s first season as coach of the Huskies it is that quarterbacks should want to play in this offense. Only Mississippi’s State Will Rogers in the Air Raid has thrown more passes among Power Five players than Michael Penix Jr.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 16 UCLA (8-2)

Next: vs. No. 7 USC, Saturday.

Reality check: The Bruins’ defense can’t get off the field on fourth down. They have allowed 17 fourth-down conversion (129th in FBS) at a rate of 73.91% (126th).

Ranked: Should be ahead of Washington.

No. 17 UCF (8-2)

Next: v. Navy, Saturday.

Reality check: John Rhys Plumlee has been everything expected in Gus Malzahn’s offense, leading all quarterbacks in rushing with 708 yards.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 18 Notre Dame (7-3)

Next: vs. Boston College, Saturday.

Reality check: Irish have blocked seven punts this season, including six in the last five games.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 19 Kansas State (7-3)

Next: at West Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: In the three games he has had to play because of injuries to Adrian Martinez, QB Will Howard has been a godsend with nine touchdown passes and one interception.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 20 Florida State (7-3)

Next: vs. Louisiana, Saturday.

Reality check: Remember all those questions about whether Jordan Travis could become a reliable passer? He is currently 12th in the nation and seventh among Power Five quarterback with a 161.54 efficiency rating.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 21 Tulane (8-2)

Next: vs, SMU, Thursday.

Reality check: Green Wave got out of their element, falling behind against UCF and having to chase. Still, Tulane can earn a rematch by winning out.

Ranked: About right.

No. 22 Cincinnati (8-2)

Next: at Temple, Saturday.

Reality check: Bearcats replaced two cornerbacks drafted by the NFL, including All-American Ahmad Gardner, and still have the best pass defense in the American Athletic Conference.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 23 Coastal Carolina (9-1)

Next: at Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: Chants reached the rankings the week they lost QB Grayson McCall for at least three weeks.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 24 Oklahoma State (7-3)

Next: at Oklahoma, Saturday.

Reality check: Cowboys have been all over the place at quarterback with Spencer Sanders nursing injuries. Probably need him to win Bedlam.

Ranked: Hard to tell.

No. 25 Oregon State (7-3)

Next: at Arizona State, Saturday.

Reality check: Not much defense being played in the Pac-12 this season, but credit to the Beavers and their tough secondary for leading the conference in fewest TD passes allowed (nine) and lowest completion percentage (56.6) and yards per attempt (6.3).

Ranked: Little low.

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

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