AP Top 25 Reality Check: Rankings stagnant with few big upsets pushing voters to shake-up the poll

Notre Dame Louisville Football
Fans flood the field following Louisville’s victory over Notre Dame in an NCAA college football game in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

The AP Top 25 has stagnated.

Seven ranked teams lost Saturday, including six that were unbeaten. Seems like a perfect time for a major shakeup in the rankings, but it didn’t play out that way.

No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Michigan held their spots — again. The Bulldogs and Wolverines have held steady since the preseason. No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Florida State each moved up a spot and Oklahoma climbed to No. 5.

No. 14 Louisville made a big jump by beating Notre Dame, which plummeted to No. 21.

Only two teams fell out of the rankings: Missouri and Fresno State. The two moving in were No. 18 UCLA and No. 23 Kansas, both previously ranked, each with a loss to another ranked team.

It was a historic poll for basketball blue bloods.

Through six weeks an unranked team has beaten a ranked team 10 times, but only one of those games involved a top-10 team. In Week 1, Duke beat No. 9 Clemson. The Blue Devils have been ranked since and Clemson eventually fell out.

College football has had few big upsets this season.

The current Top 25 has 16 total losses. Fourteen of those losses have come against other teams that are currently ranked. That leads to voters shuffling the Top 25 instead of cycling in new teams.

Now, that doesn’t excuse the patience some voters showed this week with No. 25 Miami, which managed to stay ranked after an all-time blown game against Georgia Tech.

But Reality Check understands sticking with teams that lose to other ranked, even if it makes the Top 25 a little boring.

No. 1 Georgia (6-0)

Next: at Vanderbilt, Saturday.

Reality check: With a new quarterback there was some thought Georgia might revert back to a more run-heavy style. Nope. The Bulldogs are pass-first with QB Carson Beck, who has three straight 300-yard passing games.

Rankings: Just right, again.

No. 2 Michigan (6-0)

Next: vs. Indiana, Saturday.

Reality check: Is there a downside to all these blowouts? Do the Wolverines need to be tested? Guess we’ll find out in about a month.

Rankings: Just right.

No. 3 Ohio State (5-0)

Next: at Purdue, Saturday.

Reality check: Can a defense that doesn’t create many negative plays be an elite defense? The Buckeyes are trying to find out. They rank near the bottom of the country in tackles for loss at 4.8 per game and have only seven sacks, but are also allowing only 4.07 yards per play, fourth in FBS.

Rankings: Too high.

No. 4 Florida State (5-0)

Next: vs. Syracuse, Saturday.

Reality check: Last week, Reality Check gave a heads up on the Seminoles getting their running game cranked up over the next few week against lesser opponents. FSU went for 282 on the ground against Virginia Tech, including 200 on 11 carries for Trey Benson. Told you so.

Rankings: Little low.

No. 5 Oklahoma (6-0)

Next: vs. UCF, Oct. 21.

Reality check: The Sooners are back in the top five, deservedly so, and could be here for a while. OU has only one ranked team left on the schedule in No 23 Kansas.

Rankings: Little low.

No. 6 Penn State (5-0)

Next: vs. UMass, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Nick Singleton had 12 runs of 20-plus yards and nine of 30-plus last year, making him one of the best home-run hitters in the country as a freshman. So far his longest run is 19 yards. Is a breakout coming?

Rankings: Little high.

No. 7 Washington (5-0)

Next: vs. No. 8 Oregon, Saturday.

Reality check: Huskies offensive line, not the deepest group, is hoping to get OG Julius Buelow back for the big game to face maybe the best defensive line in the Pac-12.

Rankings: Too low.

No. 8 Oregon (5-0)

Next: at No. 7 Washington, Saturday.

Reality check: Khyree Jackson has been a lock-down cornerback for the Ducks. They’ll need him to be at his best against the Huskies’ trio of star receivers.

Rankings: Too low.

No. 9 Texas (5-1)

Next: at Houston, Oct. 21.

Reality check: Bright side for the Longhorns: They looked like the better team against Oklahoma. Downside? Not so much that they couldn’t lose to the Sooners again.

Rankings: Just right.

No. 10 Southern California (6-0)

Next: at No. 21 Notre Dame, Saturday.

Reality check: The soft part of the schedule is over and the Trojans are unbeaten but inspiring little confidence. This team could absolutely finish 8-4.

Rankings: Too high.

No. 11 Alabama (5-1)

Next: vs. Arkansas, Saturday.

Reality check: The evolution of the Jalen Milroe offense continues: Unable to run against Texas A&M, the Tide turned to its quarterback and he delivered, throwing 33 passes for 321 yards yards and three TDs.

Rankings: Too low.

No. 12 North Carolina (5-0)

Next: vs. No. 25 Miami, Saturday.

Reality check: Warning: You might look up in a month to see the Tar Heels 9-0 and hosting a ranked Duke team.

Rankings: Maybe a tad low.

No. 13 Mississippi (5-1)

Next: at Auburn, Oct. 21.

Reality check: Rebels are on pace to have their best run defense since 2015, and by a good clip. They are currently allowing 3.17 yards per rush.

Rankings: About right.

No. 14 Louisville (6-0)

Next: at Pitt, Saturday.

Reality check: This is how special seasons happen. The Cardinals didn’t do anything particularly great to get to 5-0, but they were awesome in getting to 6-0 against Notre Dame. Now they get to have legitimate conversations about ACC titles and maybe even being this year’s TCU.

Rankings: Too high.

No. 15 Oregon State (5-1)

Next: vs. No. 18 UCLA, Saturday.

Reality check: Beavers aren’t as tough defensively this year, but QB DJ Uiagalelei has brought some balance to the offense, allowing them to win a shootout like they did at Cal.

Rankings: Little low.

No. 16 Utah (5-1)

Next: vs. California, Saturday.

Reality check: Still on Cam Rising watch in Salt Lake City, but the news didn’t sound overly promising about the quarterback playing this season.

Rankings: Too high.

No. 17 Duke (4-1)

Next: vs. North Carolina State, Saturday.

Reality check: Speaking of being on quarterback watch: After a week off, the main story about the Blue Devils will be the status of Riley Leonard’s (right ankle).

Rankings: Little high.

No. 18 UCLA (4-1)

Next: at No. 15 Oregon State, Saturday.

Reality check: This Bruins defense is no joke, leading the nation in yards per play allowed (3.74). Now can Chip Kelly get freshman QB Dante Moore up to speed to make this a legitimate Pac-12 contender?

Rankings: Too low.

No. 19 (tie) Washington State (4-1)

Next: vs. Arizona, Saturday.

Reality check: Life’s tougher away from Pullman for the Cougs and that’s where games against Oregon and Washington will be later in the year.

Rankings: About right.

No. 19 (tie) Tennessee (4-1)

Next: vs. Texas A&M, Saturday.

Reality check: Return of C Cooper Mays from injury gave the Vols a boost up front that they’ll really need against the Aggies and Alabama the next two weeks.

Rankings: About right.

No. 21 Notre Dame (5-2)

Next: vs. No. 10 USC, Saturday.

Reality check: The Irish lack top-end receivers and pass rushers, the types of players who make game-changing plays. Life’s a grind without them.

Rankings: Just right.

No. 22 LSU (4-2)

Next: vs. Auburn, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Jayden Daniel has been spectacular, averaging 398.5 yards of total offense. He also seems to take one or two hits per game that make you fear for his safety.

Rankings: Tigers are probably a Top 25 teams, but don’t necessarily deserve to be ranked.

No. 23 Kansas (5-1)

Next: at Oklahoma State, Saturday.

Reality check: Third-best team in the Big 12? Why not?

Rankings: Just right.

No. 24 Kentucky (5-1)

Next: vs. Missouri, Saturday.

Reality check: Landing QB Devin Leary as a transfer from North Carolina State was supposed to be a big deal, but so far he doesn’t he has struggled, completing 54.8% of his passes.

Rankings: About right.

No. 25 Miami (4-1)

Next: at No. 12 North Carolina, Saturday.

Reality check: It’s hard to even provide a reasonable assessment of the state of the ‘Canes going forward after that debacle of a loss against Georgia Tech.

Rankings: Too high.