Friday, October 07, 2022

AP Top 25 Reality Check: CFP preview unlikely for Cincinnati

Never in the seven-year history of the college football playoffs did the first top four teams on a selection committee exactly match the AP Top 25 that preceded it.

The latest Associated Press college football poll presented by Regions Bank is highly unlikely to happen earlier this year.

Georgia remained No. 1 in the AP Top 25 on Sunday and looks like a lock to finish first in the committee’s rankings on Tuesday night.

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 in the media poll and the chances of the CFP ranking going in that direction are pretty much zero. The selection committee has never placed a team in the Group of Five above number 7 in any of its rankings.

Cincinnati started in seventh place last year and then moved up to eighth in the latter rankings.

AP voters have generally treated G5 teams better than the selection committee, especially the highest ranked teams outside the Power Five. For example, last year Cincinnati moved up to sixth place in an AP poll during the final few weeks of the regular season, while the Bearcats were falling – while remaining unbeaten – in the CFP rankings.

The rest of the AP’s top four this week were Alabama at No. 3 and Oklahoma at number four. Michigan state reached No.

Twice in the last three seasons the CFP had four teams in the first ranking, similar to the previous AP poll, but number 3 and 4 were flipped.

Ranking teams after Georgia is getting harder every week for AP voters. Reality Check has some questions but is sympathetic to the challenge.

No. 1 Georgia (8-0)

Next: Vs. Missouri, Saturday.

Reality check: Touchdowns allowed by the Bulldog’s defense: Five. Touchdowns scored by the Bulldog’s defense: Three.

Rank: Exactly.

No. 2 Cincinnati (8-0)

Next: vs. Tulsa, Saturday.

Reality check: Two straight performances where the Bearcats failed to grab the 20-plus-point underdog were not ideals leading up to the first CFP rankings.

Rank: Still, okay.

No. 3 Alabama (7-1)

Next up: Vs. LSU, Saturday.

Reality check: Crimson Tide allowed 244 yards in Florida but no more than 94 in any other games. Considering Alabama’s toughest remaining opponents (Arkansas, Auburn and potentially Georgia) are notable, races all rank in the top six in the SEC.

Rank: Exactly.

No. 4 Oklahoma (9-0)

Next: No. 14 Boiler, November 13.

Reality check: QB Caleb Williams has 14 touchdown passes and has averaged 11.1 yards per attempt in 3 1/2 games since taking over for Spencer Rattler.

Rank: Slightly higher.

No. 5 Michigan State (8-0)

Next: At Purdue, Saturday.

Reality Check: Kenneth Walker III is a worthy Heisman Trophy contender as the nation’s leading Rush in an unbeaten team, but he’s had an interesting season. Close victories over Indiana and Nebraska included three huge games of 197 yards of rush or more and a double when bottled (145 on 42 carries).

Rank: Slightly lower.

No. 6 Ohio State (7-1)

Next: In Nebraska, Saturday.

Reality Check: Buckeye’s pass defense is boom or bust. Ohio State averages 3.5 sacks per game (sixth in the nation), with DE Zach Harrison leading and 10 interceptions. There’s plenty of room for the receiver to operate, without the pressure.

Rank: Flip-Flops with Oregon.

No. 7 Oregon (7-1)

Next: Washington, on Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks could use a second race to emerge as Travis Dye’s complement for the season with CJ Wordell. Freshman Byron Cardwell broke against Colorado (seven races for 127 yards), but will it carry over to a non-jerk?

Rank: Slightly lower.

No. 8 Notre Dame (7-1)

Next up: Vs. Navy, Saturday.

Reality Check: First five games: 2.4 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns; Last three games: 5.12 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns.

Rank: Very High.

No. 9 Michigan (7-1)

Next up: Vs., Indiana, Saturday.

Reality check: Cade McNamara and the Wolverines show they can pass when needed with the program’s first 400-yard passing game since 2015 against Michigan State.

Rank: Very low.

No. 10 Wake Forest (8-0)

Next: In North Carolina, Saturday.

Reality Check: It’s tempting to wonder how well the Demon Deacon’s offense will go with Kenneth Walker, who moved to Michigan State in the off-season. The three-man rotation of Christian Biel-Smith, Justice Ellison and Christian Turner has been solid with 1,149 yards running, 4.85 yards per carry, and 14 TDs.

Rank: Exactly.

No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1)

Next: In West Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: The Cowboys are a running team that averages 3.94 yards per carry—and that’s a boost after playing Kansas. Will this be a problem for Bedlam?

Rank: Very High.

No. 12 Auburn (6-2)

Next up: No. 13 Texas A&M, on Saturdays.

Reality check: The Tigers are elite in two areas: they never go out of schedule with negative plays allowed (29 allowed, the second lowest in the SEC) and they are second in the SEC for losses with 7.88 per game.

Rank: About right.

No. 13 Texas A&M (6-2)

Next: Versus Auburn, Saturday.

Reality check: The Aggies have the second best defense in the SEC behind Georgia. Led by DT DeMarvin Leal, A&M is allowing 4.76 yards per game.

Rank: About right.

No. 14 Boiler (7-1)

Next: In TCU, Saturday.

Reality Check: The Bears caught Texas star RB Bijn Robinson on 17 carries for a season-low 43 yards.

Rank: About right.

No. 15 Mississippi (6-2)

Next: Versus Liberty, Saturday.

Reality check: Rebels lead the nation in fourth-down conversion attempts at 34, no surprise there. They are converting at 70.59%, which is the 18th best in the country. Keep it up, Coach Kiffin.

Rank: It works.

No. 16 UTSA (8-0)

Next up: UTEP, on Saturday.

Reality Check: You’re Not Running on the Roadrunner. Only two opponents have made 2.50 yards per carry in a game.

Rank: Very High.

No. 17 BYU (7-2)

Next: Vs. State of Idaho, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Tyson Algier, a former walk-on linebacker, has rushed for 457 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two games against Washington State and Virginia.

Rank: Very low.

No. 18 Kentucky (6-2)

Next: vs. Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: There was a lot of excitement about QB Will Lewis at the start of the season, but he now leads the SEC in interceptions (nine) and has held under 5.5 yards per pass in four of the last five games.

Rank: Sounds like a lot but there are clearly not many good options behind the Wildcats.

No. 19 Iowa (6-2)

Next up: Northwest, on Saturday.

Reality check: A two-game losing streak has buried the Hawkeyes’ playoff dreams, and if they can’t figure out a way to do better than their 6.3 yards per pass and 57% completion rate, they’ll have a hard time Will happen. Just staying rank.

Rank: See Kentucky.

No. 20 Houston (7-1)

Next up: In South Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: Cornerback Marcus Jones has had four return touchdowns this season, including a 100-yard run back on the last-minute kickoff that beat SMU, and nine in his college career.

Rank: Slightly lower.

No. 21 Coastal Carolina (7-1)

Next up: Georgia Southern, on Saturday.

Reality check: Chanterelles can be susceptible to running. The next two opponents (Georgia Southern and Georgia State) rank in the top four of the Sun Belt in yards per rush.

Rank: Very High.

No. 22 Penn State (5-3)

Next: In Maryland, Saturday.

Reality Check: The Nittany Lions have no chance of winning the Big Ten East after three straight losses, but with healthy QB Sean Clifford they could still spoil Michigan and Michigan State contenders.

Rank: Slightly higher.

No. 23 SMU (7-1)

Next: Memphis, on Saturday.

Reality check: Mustangs are allowing 8.6 yards per pass, which puts them in some unpleasant company, ranked 115th in the nation, behind Georgia Tech, tied for Tulane and just ahead of UNLV.

Rank: About right.

No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette (7-1)

Next: Vs. State of Georgia, Thursday.

Reality Check: Ragin Cajun has won seven in a row since losing his opener to Texas.

Rank: Probably shouldn’t be ranked, but okay.

No. 25 Fresno State (7-2)

Next: vs. Boise State, Saturday.

Reality Check: The Bulldogs’ loss to a game in Oregon and Hawaii left QB Jake Hainer with an injury. After Cincinnati, it is possibly the second best G5 team.

Rank: Very low.

Voters quickly gave up on Pittsburgh after a second close defeat of the season this week.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


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