AP Top 25 Reality Check: Sun Belt gets slighted in rankings

The greatest weekend in the history of Sun Belt football was not enough to push any of the conference’s upstarts into The Associated Press poll.

Marshall and Appalachian State were left at the top of the others receiving votes list 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 in College Station.

The Fighting Irish fell all the way out of the rankings with their 0-2 start. The Aggies managed to stick at No. 24, a curious development with App State unranked.

Oregon moved back in at No. 25 after getting blasted out of the rankings in Week 1 by Georgia.

With Georgia moving up to No. 1, and Oregon having no issues against Eastern Washington on Saturday, some voters seemed to be showing deference to the Bulldogs by sticking with the Ducks.

Reality Check would have preferred letting go of those preseason expectations and rewarding the Sun Belt surprises. And maybe North Carolina, too. The Tar Heels have opened the season with two road victories against the Sun Belt, including that wild one in Week 1 at Appalachian State.

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

No. 1 Georgia (2-0)

Next: at South Carolina, Saturday.

Reality check: Do not resist. Embrace the Stetson Bennett Heisman Trophy campaign.

Ranked: Perfect.

No. 2 Alabama (2-0)

Next: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Jahmyr Gibbs leading the team in catches with 10 and not one player averaging more than 12 yards per catch is just not what the Tide has become accustomed to at receive. Need to get Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell and JoJo Earle back from injury.

Ranked: Fine.

No. 3 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.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 4 Michigan (2-0)

Next: vs. UConn, Saturday.

Reality check: The question voters face at this point in the Top 25 is stick with highly ranked preseason teams that have blown out pushovers or push teams that have faced tougher tests toward the top.

Ranked: It’s OK to take this approach.

No. 5 Clemson (2-0)

Next: vs. Louisiana Tech, Saturday.

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

Ranked: Still seems high.

No. 6 Oklahoma (2-0)

Next: at Nebraska, Saturday.

Reality check: The start of QB Dillon Gabriel’s Oklahoma career has been splendid: 70% completions, five TDs, no picks, 10.4 yards per pass.

Ranked: Same as above.

No. 7 Southern California (2-0)

Next: vs. Fresno State, Saturday.

Reality check: Trojans have 11 takeaways and nine sacks. The plan appears to be boom-or-bust on that side of the ball, but if 5 1/2 turnovers per game is what it takes for USC this is going to be a wild ride.

Ranked: Trojans are definitely top-10 most entertaining.

No. 8 Oklahoma State (2-0)

Next: vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Saturday.

Reality check: Fifth-year WR Braydon Johnson, back after missing last year with an injury, has quickly emerged as Oklahoma State’s latest deep threat with 10 catches for 214 yards.

Ranked: Maybe a touch high.

No. 9 Kentucky (2-0)

Next: vs. Youngstown State, Saturday.

Reality check: The SEC’s Big Ten team made a beautiful mess out of Florida to earn an early-season promotion.

Ranked: Sure, why not ninth?

No. 10 Arkansas (2-0)

Next: vs. Missouri State, Saturday.

Reality check: Two weeks in, no team more impressive relative to its competition simply because the Razorbacks have played real competition each week.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 11 Michigan State (2-0)

Next: at Washington, Saturday.

Reality check: Spartans have blown out two MAC opponents, which won’t win them any trophies but it’s better than not blowing out two MAC opponents.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 12 BYU (2-0)

Next: at No. 25 Oregon, Saturday.

Reality check: Be nice to get WRs Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney back from injuries for the trip to Oregon, but it’s still iffy.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 13 Miami (2-0)

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

Reality check: Against two overmatched opponents, one encouraging sign: 2.25 yards per rush allowed. Miami has been pretty soft against the run in recent years. Let’s see if the improvement holds.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 14 Utah (1-1)

Next: vs. San Diego State, Saturday.

Reality check: Utes took out a boatload of frustration on poor Southern Utah after the Florida loss.

Ranked: Too high. Can’t be in front of the Gators. At least not yet.

No. 15 Tennessee (2-0)

Next: vs. Akron, Saturday.

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

Ranked: Little low.

No. 16 North Carolina State (2-0)

Next: vs. Texas Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Demie Sumo-Karngbaye could be the lead back the Wolfpack needed to emerge after losing both of last season’s top rushers.

Ranked: About right.

No. 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 as they have not yet found replacements for last year’s three leading receivers.

Ranked: About right.

No. 18 Florida (1-1)

Next: vs. South Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: Tap the brakes on QB Anthony Richardson’s Heisman campaign. Whether it was by choice or as a reaction to Kentucky’s defense, he is too good of runner to only go six carries for 4 yards.

Ranked: Should be ahead of Utah.

No. 19 Wake Forest (2-0)

Next: vs. Liberty, Saturday.

Reality check: Welcome back, Sam Hartman. After being sidelined with a medical condition, the fifth-year quarterback passed for 300 yards and four TDs against Vandy.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 20 Mississippi (2-0)

Next: at Georgia Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: Without as much attention, coach Lane Kiffin also started different quarterbacks 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.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 21 Texas (1-1)

Next: vs. UTSA, Saturday.

Reality check: Can the Longhorns play with the same toughness 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 contend in the Big 12.

Ranked: About right.

No. 22 Penn State (2-0)

Next: at Auburn, Saturday.

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

Ranked: Touch low.

No. 23 Pittsburgh (1-1)

Next: at Western Michigan, Saturday.

Reality check: Pitt plays two hard-fought home games against Power Five opponents and then makes a road trip to the MAC. What could possibly go wrong?

Ranked: Just right.

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

Next: vs. No. 13 Miami, Saturday.

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

Ranked: Too high.

No. 25 Oregon (1-1)

Next: vs. No. 12 BYU, Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks dropped 70 on Eastern Washington, a very good FCS program. That’s probably a good sign, coming off the Georgia game. But probably not worth being ranked.

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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