AP Top 25 Reality Check: 3 weeks in, mystery teams plentiful

Three weeks into the season and there are still more than few teams ranked in The Associated Press college football poll that have a lot to prove.

The AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank was pretty much status quo this week after the first 10 teams swept on Saturday, almost untested. The final score: Top-10 teams 521, opponents 120.

There was a lot of empty calories in those wins and for some of the highly-rated it’s been mostly that way all season.

No. 4 Michigan is the prime example. The Wolverines have scored at least 50 in each of their first three games, but those opponents are a combined 0-9 against other FBS teams.

We’re pretty sure Michigan, coming off a playoff appearance with most of its offense back, is good. But where it is ranked is based more on faith than accomplishments.

Reality check rolls through the rankings this week, looking for mystery teams.

No. 1 Georgia (3-0)

Next: vs. Kent State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Bulldogs have toyed with two Power Five teams, including an Oregon squad that has otherwise looked pretty good. Georgia’s awesome, no doubt about it.

Ranked: Perfect.

No. 2 Alabama (3-0)

Next: vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday.

Reality check: The Tide showed some vulnerabilities on the road against Texas, but doubt Nick Saban’s team at your own peril.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 3 Ohio State (3-0)

Next: vs. Wisconsin, Saturday.

Reality check: Notre Dame’s struggles leave the Buckeyes without a high quality win, it would be hard to nitpick.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 4 Michigan (3-0)

Next: vs. Maryland, Saturday.

Reality check: The defense is probably more of an unknown for the Wolverines and the Terps could at least give them a test this week.

Ranked: The default No. 4.

No. 5 Clemson (3-0)

Next: at No. 21 Wake Forest, Saturday.

Reality check: The Tigers’ only Power Five opponent so far is a hurting Georgia Tech team. Generally, signs are positive QB D.J. Uiagalelei and the offense are better than last year, but how much?

Ranked: Too high.

No. 6 Oklahoma (3-0)

Next: vs. Kansas State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Sooners have looked much-improved on defense, simply tackling better, though what does it mean to catch Nebraska in the midst of a staff overhaul?

Ranked: Same as above.

No. 7 Southern California (3-0)

Next: at Oregon State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Trojans three opponents (Rice, Stanford, Fresno State) were no murderers’ row, but still they have pretty clearly shown who they are: Awesome offense. Generous defense.

Ranked: About right.

No. 8 Kentucky (3-0)

Next: vs. Northern Illinois, Saturday.

Reality check: A successful trip to Florida boosted the Wildcats into the top-10, but the Gators now look far less formidable than they did after Week 1.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 9 Oklahoma State (3-0)

Next: at No. 17 Baylor, Oct. 1.

Reality check: That victory against Arizona State is decreasing in value, but the Cowboys have mostly controlled their games. Still, much to learn.

Ranked: A little high, but then who?

No. 10 Arkansas (3-0)

Next: vs. No. 23 Texas A&M, Saturday.

Reality check: The Hogs absolutely got caught napping by Missouri State, but have proved worthy of their preseason expectations against Cincinnati and South Carolina.

Ranked: Might be a little high, but relatively speaking they’re worthy.

No. 11 Tennessee (3-0)

Next: vs. No. 20 Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: Easily handled the MAC teams and won a tough road game. The ceiling for the Vols is not yet known, but they have set floor that looks good.

Ranked: Fine for now.

No. 12 North Carolina State (3-0)

Next: vs. UConn, Saturday.

Reality check: The Wolfpack have faced two legitimate test, showed some flaws in both, but passed. They’re good.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 13 Utah (2-1)

Next: at Arizona State, Saturday.

Reality check: There is a very real possibility the Utes’ opening loss at Florida will look more like an anomaly and missed opportunity as the weeks go by.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 14 Penn State (3-0)

Next: vs. Central Michigan, Saturday.

Reality check: After two Power Five road wins, the question about the Nittany Lions is just how seriously will they challenge Ohio State in the Big Ten.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 15 Oregon (2-1)

Next: at Washington State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks have proved the Georgia debacle was more about the defending national champions than themselves.

Ranked: About right.

No. 16 Mississippi (3-0)

Next: vs Tulsa, Saturday.

Reality check: The Rebels are set to enter October fairly untested, but with no reason to be concerned about their performance.

Ranked: About right.

No. 17 Baylor (2-1)

Next: at Iowa State, Saturday.

Reality check: In only one competitive game, the takeaway so far on the Bears is they’re not likely to be as good as last year.

Ranked: Too high. Need to be behind BYU.

No. 18 Washington (3-0)

Next: vs. Stanford, Saturday.

Reality check: The quick offensive turnaround under first-year coach Kalen DeBoer has been astounding and looks very real after beating Michigan State.

Ranked: Too high. Voters were a bit overly enthusiastic.

No. 19 BYU (2-1)

Next: vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

Reality check: You can learn a lot about a team in back-to-back games against ranked teams. The Cougars are good, but they won’t make playoff run.

Ranked: About right.

No. 20 Florida (2-1)

Next: at No. 11 Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: After a big opening victory, the Gators have looked more like a rebuilding program than a team that should be ranked. Have to give them credit for now, though.

Ranked: Should be ahead of Utah.

No. 21 Wake Forest (3-0)

Next: vs. No. 4 Clemson, Saturday.

Reality check: The Deacs look very much like the team they were last year, which makes sense because it’s mostly the same players.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 22 Texas (2-1)

Next: at Texas Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: The Longhorns have played three mostly encouraging games, but recent history suggests we still don’t have enough data to know where this is heading.

Ranked: This is OK.

No. 23 Texas A&M (2-1)

Next: vs. No. 10 Arkansas, Saturday

Reality check: The can be said with certainty: The Aggies’ offense needs to be a significantly better to stay ranked much longer.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 24 Pittsburgh (2-1)

Next: vs. Rhode Island, Saturday.

Reality check: The Panthers have split two close games against Power Five teams and won on the road with a third-string quarterback. The Panthers are what we thought they were.

Ranked: A touch low.

No. 25 Miami (2-1)

Next: at Middle Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: The Hurricanes weren’t overmatched by Texas A&M, but what exactly does that mean?

Ranked: Too high.

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

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