AP Top 25 Reality Check: Sun Belt is scorned in the rankings

Appalachian <a class=State defensive back Kaleb Dawson (1) waves his school’s flag inside Kyle Field after upsetting Texas A&M 17-14 during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 10 2022 in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)” title=”Appalachian State defensive back Kaleb Dawson (1) waves his school’s flag inside Kyle Field after upsetting Texas A&M 17-14 during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 10 2022 in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)” loading=”lazy”/>

Appalachian State defensive back Kaleb Dawson (1) waves his school’s flag inside Kyle Field after upsetting Texas A&M 17-14 during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 10 2022 in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)


The biggest weekend in Sun Belt football history wasn’t enough to push one of the conference’s upstarts into the Associated Press poll.

Marshall and Appalachian State were left at the top of other voting lists in Sunday’s AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank, the day after the Thundering Herd won at Notre Dame and the Mountaineers beat Texas A&M at College Station.

The Fighting Irish have completely disappeared from the standings with their 0-2 start. The Aggies managed to stay at No. 24, a curious development with App State unranked.

Oregon moved back to 25th after being knocked out of the standings in Week 1 by Georgia.

With Georgia moving up to No. 1 and Oregon having no problem against Eastern Washington on Saturday, some voters appeared to show deference to the Bulldogs by staying with the Ducks.

Reality Check would have preferred to ditch those preseason expectations and reward surprises from the Sun Belt. And maybe also North Carolina. The Tar Heels opened the season with two road wins over the Sun Belt, including the wild Week 1 win at Appalachian State.

Reality Check had a few more tussles with voters this week, but not the decision to make Georgia No. 1.

No. 1 Georgia (2-0)

Next: in South Carolina, Saturday.

Reality check: don’t resist. Embrace the Stetson Bennett Heisman Trophy campaign.

Rated: Perfect.

No. 2 Alabama (2-0)

Next: against Louisiana-Monroe, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Jahmyr Gibbs leading the team in catches with 10 and not a player averaging more than 12 yards per catch is just not what the Tide has grown accustomed to on reception. It is necessary that Tyler Harrell and JoJo Earle, transferred to Louisville, return from an injury.

Rated: Good.

3rd Ohio State (2-0)

Next: vs. Toledo, Saturday.

Reality check: WR Marvin Harrison’s last three games dating back to the Rose Bowl: 18 catches, 311 yards and six touchdowns.

Rated: Just right.

No. 4 Michigan (2-0)

Next: vs. UConn, Saturday.

Reality check: The question voters face at this stage of the Top 25 is whether to stick with highly ranked preseason teams that blew pushovers or pushed teams that faced tests more difficult towards the top.

Classified: You can take this approach.

No. 5 Clemson (2-0)

Next: against Louisiana Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: We’ll see about the offense, but the Tigers defense seems to be as fierce as advertised behind LB Trenton Simpson.

Rated: still seems high.

No. 6 Oklahoma (2-0)

Next: in Nebraska, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Dillon Gabriel’s start to Oklahoma’s career was splendid: 70% completions, five touchdowns, no picks, 10.4 passing yards.

Classified: as above.

No. 7 Southern California (2-0)

Next: vs. Fresno State, Saturday.

Back to reality: the Trojans have 11 takeaways and nine bags. The plan appears to be in full swing on this side of the ball, but if 5 1/2 turnovers per game is what USC needs, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Ranked: Trojans are definitely among the 10 most entertaining.

8th Oklahoma State (2-0)

Next: vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Saturday.

Reality check: Fifth-year WR Braydon Johnson, returning after missing last year through injury, quickly became Oklahoma State’s latest deep threat with 10 catches for 214 yards.

Rated: Maybe a bit high.

No. 9 Kentucky (2-0)

Next: vs. Youngstown State, Saturday.

Reality check: The SEC’s Big Ten team made a big mess in Florida to earn promotion early in the season.

Ranked: Of course, why not ninth?

No. 10 Arkansas (2-0)

Next: vs. Missouri State, Saturday.

Reality check: Two weeks later, no team is more impressive compared to their competition simply because the Razorbacks played real competition every week.

Rated: Too low.

No. 11 Michigan State (2-0)

Next: in Washington, Saturday.

Back to reality: The Spartans eliminated two MAC opponents, which won’t earn them any trophies, but it’s better than not eliminating two MAC opponents.

Rated: Low.

#12 BYU (2-0)

Next: at No. 25 Oregon, Saturday.

Reality check: Be kind to recover WRs Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney from injuries for the trip to Oregon, but that’s still uncertain.

Rated: Little low.

#13 Miami (2-0)

Next: at No. 25 Texas A&M, Saturday.

Back to reality: Faced with two outclassed opponents, only one encouraging sign: 2.25 yards per rush granted. Miami has been pretty soft on the run in recent years. Let’s see if the improvement holds.

Rated: too high.

No. 14 Utah (1-1)

Next: against San Diego State on Saturday.

Reality Check: Utes blasted a boatload of frustration on poor Southern Utah after the Florida loss.

Rated: too high. I can’t be in front of the Gators. At least not yet.

No. 15 Tennessee (2-0)

Next: against Akron, Saturday.

Reality check: Vols beat the team (Pitt) on the road that beat them last season at home. Tennessee is making real progress.

Rated: Little low.

No. 16 North Carolina State (2-0)

Next: against Texas Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Demie Sumo-Karngbaye could be the point guard the Wolfpack needed to emerge after losing last season’s top two rushers.

Rated: About right.

#17 Baylor (1-1)

Next: vs. Texas State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Bears and Blake Shapen were limited to 4.9 yards per pass against BYU because they haven’t yet found replacements for last year’s top three receivers.

Rated: About right.

No. 18 Florida (1-1)

Next: against South Florida on Saturday.

Back to reality: Hit the brakes on QB Anthony Richardson’s Heisman campaign. Whether by choice or as a reaction to the Kentucky defense, he’s too good a runner to make just six carries for 4 yards.

Ranked: Should be ahead of Utah.

No. 19 Wake Forest (2-0)

Next: vs. Liberty, Saturday.

Back to reality: welcome back, Sam Hartman. After being sidelined with a health issue, the fifth-year quarterback passed for 300 yards and four touchdowns against Vandy.

Rated: Just right.

No. 20 Mississippi (2-0)

Next: at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Reality check: Without as much attention, coach Lane Kiffin also threw different quarterbacks in the first two games. Luke Altmyer left with an upper body injury against Central Arkansas, so maybe a final decision between him and Jaxson Dart won’t come this week.

Rated: too high.

No. 21 Texas (1-1)

Next: vs. UTSA, Saturday.

Reality check: Can the Longhorns play with the same tenacity and urgency against the rest of their schedule as they did against Alabama? If so, and QB Quinn Ewers (shoulder) isn’t out too long, they can face off in the Big 12.

Rated: About right.

No. 22 Penn State (2-0)

Next: in Auburn, Saturday.

Reality check: Qualifying required it was only against Ohio, but maybe, just maybe, RB rookie Nick Singleton (10 carries for 179 yards) can bring the running game back to Penn State after a two-year absence.

Rated: Touch down.

No. 23 Pittsburgh (1-1)

Next: in Western Michigan, Saturday.

Reality Check: Pitt plays two hard-fought home games against Power Five opponents, then takes a road trip to the MAC. What could go wrong?

Rated: Just right.

No. 24 Texas A&M (1-1)

Next: Against No. 13 Miami, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Haynes King and the Aggies are averaging 4.9 yards per pass against a defense North Carolina burned for 9.8 per attempt a week earlier.

Rated: too high.

No. 25 Oregon (1-1)

Next: Against No. 12 BYU, Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks dropped 70 on Eastern Washington, a very good FCS program. It’s probably a good sign, after the game against Georgia. But probably not worth ranking.

Rated: too high.


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


More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

This story was originally published September 12, 2022 12:05 a.m.

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