AP Top 25 Reality Check: Group of 5 teams struggling to break into rankings with lack of P5 upsets


The Group of Five teams have arrived in the AP Top 25.

For the first time this season, more than one team that plays in a non-Power Five conference is ranked in The Associated Press college football poll. Air Force from the Mountain West entered for the first time since 2019 at No. 22 and No. 23 Tulane of the American Athletic Conference re-entered the rankings after starting off the season that way but falling out after a Week 2 loss to Mississippi.

G5 teams tend to work their way into the rankings at this point in the year, but there could be a dearth this season due to a lack of marquee victories over Power Five teams.

Including the preseason poll, there were three weeks when there were no teams representing the group of FBS conferences that includes the American Athletic, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American.

Fresno State from the Mountain West is the only other G5 team to be ranked. The Bulldogs had a two-week stint.

Conference realignment is a factor, of course. Three of the American’s strongest programs, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston, moved to the Big 12 this year.

There also just haven’t been the notable upsets that propel G5 teams into the rankings.

The only Power Five teams with winning overall records to lose to G5 teams are Oklahoma State (routed at home by South Alabama of the Sun Belt) and Iowa State (lost at Ohio of the MAC) from the Big 12.

That’s going to be a stumbling block for all Group of Five teams this season. Big upsets like Tulane beating Kansas State or Marshall winning at Notre Dame last year trickle down throughout a conference.

So what G5 team is next to crack the Top 25?

James Madison (7-0) received the most points of any team not ranked this week, but the Dukes will be hard to keep out if they keep winning in a tricky Sun Belt East Division.

Liberty (6-0) received five points this week but getting into the Top 25 is going to difficult for the Flames without running the table. They don’t have a Power Five team on the schedule and Conference USA isn’t providing much of a test.

Reality Check believes a ranking is a reward, and encourages poll voters to keep an open mind for any team that navigates its schedule unscathed or close to it.

No. 1 Georgia (7-0)

Next: vs. Florida, Oct. 28.

Reality check: What does this defense look like against a quality passing game? South Carolina is the best it has faced so far and the Bulldogs had one good half and one bad. Florida, Ole Miss, Missouri and Tennessee should provide answers down the stretch.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 2 Michigan (7-0)

Next: at Michigan State, Saturday.

Reality check: The J.J. McCarthy Heisman Trophy campaign is likely to pick up. Winning every game by 30 holds down the counting stats, but the third-year quarterback is second in the nation in efficiency rating at 195.91.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 3 Ohio State (6-0)

Next: vs. No. 7 Penn State, Saturday.

Reality check: Buckeyes are going to need some healthy running backs this week after they were down to No. 4 on the depth chart last Saturday. Ideally, TreVeyon Henderson, who averages 6.7 yards per carry, will be ready to go.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 4 Florida State (6-0)

Next: vs. No. 16 Duke, Saturday.

Reality check: After Keon Coleman put up 140 yards receiving and a 72-yard punt return against Syracuse, Orange coach Dino Babers said of the receiver: “God was showing off when he made him.”

Ranked: Too low.

No. 5 Washington (6-0)

Next: vs. Arizona State, Saturday.

Reality check: Keeping RB Dillon Johnson healthy is going to be essential for the Huskies. The reliable depth behind him isn’t great and he showed against Oregon he is a valuable weapon.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 6 Oklahoma (6-0)

Next: vs. UCF, Saturday.

Reality check: Sooners are tied for fourth in the country and best in the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 8.67 per game, led by LB Danny Stutsman (10 1/2).

Ranked: Too low.

No. 7 Penn State (6-0)

Next: at No. 3 Ohio State, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Drew Allar is the only quarterback in the country to have started all of his teams games and not yet thrown an interception. Can he keep up that ball security against the Buckeyes while not being overly cautious?

Ranked: Just right.

No. 8 Texas (5-1)

Next: at Houston, Saturday.

Reality check: Want a dark-horse Heisman contender to go with all those quarterbacks? Jonathon Brooks leads all Power Five running backs in rushing at 121.0 yards per game and has a chance to become the focal point of a playoff contending offense down the stretch.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 9 Oregon (6-0)

Next: vs. Washington State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks are 36th in the country in fourth-down conversion rate at 61.5 percent and their 13 attempts rank 41st. In case you were wondering.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 10 North Carolina (6-0)

Next: vs. Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: The addition of WR Tez Walker (three TDs against Miami), back from NCAA eligibility issues, could provide another jolt to an already good offense.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 11 Alabama (6-1)

Next: vs. No. 17 Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: For all the concerns about QB Jalen Milroe’s ability to avoid mistakes, Alabama has the second-lowest turnover percentage in the country at 5.95% of its possessions, according to SportSource Analytics.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 12 Oregon State (6-1)

Next: at Arizona, Oct. 28.

Reality check: Beavers play Washington and Oregon in their final two games of the season. The Pac-12 won’t be decided without them having a say.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 13 Mississippi (5-1)

Next: at Auburn, Saturday.

Reality check: Few offenses are better at breaking off big plays than Lane Kiffin’s. The Rebels are second in the SEC in plays of more than 20 yards behind only LSU, despite playing one fewer game than most of the conference’s other teams.

Ranked: About right.

No. 14 Utah (5-1)

Next: at No. 18 USC, Saturday.

Reality check: Utes found a new offensive weapon, playing starting safety Sione Vaki at running back against Cal, but how far can a team go with one of the worst passing attacks in the country?

Ranked: Little high.

No. 15 Notre Dame (6-2)

Next: vs. Pitt, Oct. 28.

Reality check: Despite the score, the Fighting Irish offense was just OK against USC. They’re just not going to be very explosive.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 16 Duke (5-1)

Next: at No. 4 Florida State, Saturday.

Reality check: Blue Devils made a statement by methodically burying North Carolina State without QB Riley Leonard (ankle). Probably not staying competitive at Florida State throwing 12 passes though.

Ranked: About right.

No. 17 Tennessee (5-1)

Next: at No. 11 Alabama, Saturday.

Reality check: This is a running team now, with QB Joe Milton having thrown just six touchdown passes with four interceptions against Power Five opponents. Fortunately, the Vols are in good hands with RB Jaylen Wright, who needs to get the ball more often.

Ranked: About right.

No. 18 Southern California (6-1)

Next: vs. No. 14 Utah, Saturday.

Reality check: All of a sudden the defense might not be the Trojans’ biggest problem. The offensive line is making it hard to get the best out of QB Caleb Williams.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 19 LSU (5-2)

Next: vs. Army, Saturday.

Reality check: If the Tigers could avoid playing teams with functional passing attacks they would be the best team in the country.

Ranked: About right.

No. 20 Missouri (6-1)

Next: vs. South Carolina, Saturday.

Reality check: Tigers are a win away from having a week off to ponder the possibility of the most exciting November the program has had since it won the SEC East in 2013 and ’14.

Ranked: This is fine.

No. 21 Louisville (6-1)

Next: vs. No. 16 Duke, Oct. 28.

Reality check: After a brutally disappointing loss at Pitt, the Cardinals still have a fortuitous road to the ACC championship. It’s just hard to have confidence they won’t slip up again.

Ranked: Probably should still be ahead of Notre Dame.

No. 22 Air Force (6-0)

Next: at Navy, Saturday.

Reality check: The Falcons finally crack the rankings, but do so with the status of QB Zac Larrier (knee) uncertain after he went out late in the Wyoming victory.

Ranked: Tad high.

No. 23 Tulane (5-1)

Next: vs. North Texas, Saturday.

Reality check: Green Wave are back in the Top 25 and ready to roll, with QB Michael Pratt healthy. He has a 185.4 efficiency rating that would rank fifth in the nation if he qualified.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 24 Iowa (6-1)

Next: vs. Minnesota, Saturday.

Reality check: P Tory Taylor is a weapon, and a frequently used one. He averaged 50 yards on 10 punts and put six inside the 20 against Wisconsin.

Ranked: Too high, but the Hawkeyes are probably just going to keep on winning ugly.

No. 25 UCLA (4-2)

Next: at Stanford, Saturday.

Reality check: Freshman QB Dante Moore has not improved quickly enough to make the Bruins a viable Pac-12 contender.

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

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