AP Top 25 Reality Check: Clemson shows staying power in poll
Clemson lost at Syracuse on Oct. 13, 2017, and fell five spots to No. 7 in the AP Top 25 the following day.
The Tigers needed a few weeks to climb back into the top-five and settled in at No. 4 after winning at No. 20 North Carolina State in early November.
The Tigers have been a fixture in the top-five ever since. On Sunday — after an open week for No. 4 Clemson — the Tigers’ streak of top-five appearances reached 50, the longest active streak in the country and the third-best in the history of the AP poll.
After only one top-five team played this weekend — three had their games called off because of COVID-19 — the AP poll was almost unchanged. Alabama remained an overwhelming No. 1 with 60 first-place votes.
The top-eight teams held their places, and overall 14 teams saw no change in their ranking from last week.
Alabama has the record for most consecutive top-five appearances in the AP poll with 68. That run was snapped last year after the Crimson Tide lost to Auburn to end its regular season with two losses.
Alabama also is tied for the fourth-longest streak of top-five appearances with 48 from 2011-13.
The Tigers need six more weeks in the top-five to pass Miami’s streak of 55 straight top-five appearances from 2000-03. If Clemson can stay in the top-five for the rest of this season, it will be No. 2.
As for this week, Reality Check sizes up the stagnant rankings and hopes that next week provides a lot more action.
No. 1 Alabama (6-0)
Next: vs. Kentucky, Saturday.
Reality check: RB Najee Harris is making the most of his surprising return for a senior year, leading the SEC in rushing (119 yards per game) and touchdowns (14).
No. 2 Notre Dame (8-0)
Next: at North Carolina, Nov. 27.
Reality check: QB Ian Book has never been better, with 17 touchdowns accounted for (11 TD passes and six touchdown runs) and only one interception.
No. 3 Ohio State (3-0)
Next: vs. No. 9 Indiana, Saturday.
Reality check: A nit to pick with Ohio State’s offense: The Buckeyes could use a third receiver to develop and go with the excellent pair of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
No. 4 Clemson (7-1)
Next: at Florida State, Saturday.
Reality check: QB Trevor Lawrence should be back to resume his run at a Heisman after a bout with COVID-19, but can he overcome missing two games — including a really big one — when so many other quarterbacks are lighting it up?
No. 5 Texas A&M (5-1)
Next: vs. Mississippi, Saturday.
Reality check: Aggies were put on pause by COVID-19, but as long as Florida keeps rolling A&M’s victory over the Gators will keep it in the playoff picture.
No. 6 Florida (5-1)
Next: at Vanderbilt, Saturday.
Reality check: The Kyle Trask-Joe Burrow comparisons are getting pretty eerie. Trask through six games: 2,171 yards passing, 28 TDs, three INTs. Burrow through six games: 2,157 yards passing, 25 TDs, three INTs. And Trask has done it all against SEC teams.
No. 7 Cincinnati (7-0)
Next: at UCF, Saturday.
Reality check: The Bearcats have not allowed more than 17 points in a game against any of their FBS opponents. Austin Peay managed to put up 20 in a clear-the-bench blowout in September.
No. 8 BYU (8-0)
Next: vs. North Alabama, Saturday.
Reality check: Could Pac-12 teams who lose opponents to COVID-19 arrange hastily scheduled games with the Cougars, who only have two games left and open dates on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5?
No. 9 Indiana (4-0)
Next: at No. 3 Ohio State, Saturday.
Reality check: The Hoosiers have built their unbeaten start against teams (Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State) that are more famous than good this year. Combined record of opponents: 3-13.
No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0)
Next: at No. 19 Northwestern, Saturday
Reality check: As the Badgers buried Michigan, they got 87 yards rushing and a touchdown from freshman RB Jalen Berger. He has the highest ceiling among Wisconsin’s runners.
No. 11 Oregon (2-0)
Next: vs. UCLA, Saturday.
Reality check: Through two games with a new starting quarterback and an offensive line with five new starters, the Ducks are averaging 8.16 yards per play, best in the nation.
No. 12 Miami (7-1)
Next: vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday.
Reality check: The Hurricanes dropped out of the top-10 after slipping by Virginia Tech, which is probably wise move by voters. While this has been a terrific bounce-back season for coach Manny Diaz, this isn’t a top-10 team.
No. 13 Georgia (4-2)
Next: vs. Mississippi State, Saturday.
Reality check: A healthy Bulldogs’ defense should chew up the rest of Georgia’s schedule.
No. 14 Oklahoma State (5-1)
Next: vs. No. 18 Oklahoma, Saturday.
Reality check: The Cowboys would all but wrap up a spot in the Big 12 title game if they can win Bedlam with their stingy defense.
No. 15 (tie) Coastal Carolina (7-0)
Next: at Appalachian State, Saturday.
Reality check: For all of the Chanticleers’ success, they still need to beat App State to win their Sun Belt division. And that’s not going to be easy.
No. 15 (tie) Marshall (7-0)
Next: vs. Charlotte, Saturday.
Reality check: Among teams with more than two games, the Thundering Herd lead the nation in scoring defense at 10.1 points per game.
No. 17 Iowa State (5-2)
Next: vs. Kansas State, Saturday.
Reality check: The Cyclones are in the Big 12 race, but face a difficult back stretch with Texas and West Virginia coming after this week’s Farmageddon rivalry.
No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2)
Next: vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State, Saturday.
Reality check: The next star receiver for the Sooners: Freshman Marvin Mims has seven touchdowns on 25 catches.
No. 19 Northwestern (4-0)
Next: vs. No. 10 Wisconsin, Saturday.
Reality check: The best set of linebackers in the Big Ten play for the Wildcats, with Paddy Fisher, Chris Bergin and Blake Gallagher.
No. 20 USC (2-0)
Next: at Utah, Saturday.
Reality check: This team has looked nothing like the prohibitive favorite in the Pac-12 South, but a troubling 2-0 is still two steps closer to playing for the conference championship.
No. 21 Liberty (8-0)
Next: at North Carolina State, Saturday.
Reality check: Hugh Freeze’s team is looking to go 3-0 against the ACC. Not a bad resume builder for the former Ole Miss coach.
No. 22 Texas (5-2)
Next: at Kansas, Saturday.
Reality check: Few teams are better than Texas at undermining themselves. The Longhorns are 119th in the country in penalties per game at 8.6.
No. 23 Auburn (4-2)
Next: vs Tennessee, Saturday.
Reality check: Auburn enters the final stretch of the season well-positioned to spoil some seasons if the offensive gains can be sustained.
No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette (7-1)
Next: vs. Central Arkansas, Saturday.
Reality check: Ragin’ Cajuns became the first team to clinch a spot in a conference championship game. They’re the Sun Belt West champs for a third straight season. Now, can they keep coach Billy Napier away from South Carolina?
No. 25 Tulsa (4-1)
Next: vs. Tulsa, Thursday.
Reality check: If you don’t know Golden Hurricanes star Zaven Collins, you should. He might be the best linebacker in the country.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/
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