AP Top 25 Heat Check: If not Ohio State, who should be No. 1

If not Ohio State than what team should be No. 1 in the AP Top 25?

That was the question of the week after four top-10 teams lost and both Ohio State and Michigan State had narrow victories. There was no obvious answer.

Poll voters shook things up on Sunday, though not enough to satisfy many fans. Support for the Buckeyes has dwindled with almost every passing week. Ohio State has gone from being the first unanimous preseason No. 1, receiving 61 first-place votes, to getting 38 first-place votes from the media panel in the latest polls.

No. 2 TCU got five firsts. No. 3 Baylor had 10. No. 5 Utah had seven. One voter, Josh Kendall from The State in Columbia, South Carolina, put No. 9 Texas A&M at the top of his ballot.

So what to make of this clutter?

If a clearly better alternative was available, Ohio State wouldn’t be No. 1. The problem: What team has that resume?

Heat check goes searching for No. 1

No. 1 Ohio State

Turnovers and sloppiness have kept a couple of the Buckeyes’ games closer than they should have been. That’s not an excuse. Ohio State might still be the most talented team, but they have not played the best.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 2 TCU

The Horned Frogs beat Minnesota by one score on the road, which sounds a lot like beating Indiana by one score on the road, and needed a minor miracle to beat Texas Tech.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 3 Baylor

If you’re going to play sketchy competition, which the Bears have mostly done so far, be dominant. The Bears have mostly done that, too.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 4 Michigan State

The Spartans have started quickly and snarled in the second half of a several games, including this past Saturday at home against Purdue. Their victory against Oregon is not aging well.

Heat check. Too hot.

No. 5 Utah

The Utes are getting a lot of love for their win against No. 18 Michigan, which hasn’t lost since, and historic victory against the Ducks in Eugene, Oregon. Performances against Utah State (24-14) and at Fresno State (45-24) were more pedestrian. Why not the Utes at No. 1?

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 6 Clemson

Both of the Tigers’ victories against Power Five teams (Notre Dame and at Louisville) were one score games.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 7 LSU

Never mind the fact the Eastern Michigan hung around for a few quarters on Saturday. The Tigers were trying to work on their passing game. It didn’t go particularly well. Road wins over Mississippi State and Syracuse are solid.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 8 Alabama

It would be a lot easier to dismiss that loss to Ole Miss if the Rebels didn’t just get waxed by Florida. Great win against Georgia, though. Based on talent, the Tide is a top-three team. Based on resume, why is Alabama ahead of Florida?

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 9 Texas A&M

Aggies have wins against Arizona State, Arkansas and Mississippi State. Pretty good, though none have come on the road.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 10 Oklahoma

Yes, Tennessee is tanking, but all true road wins are positives and the Sooners dismantled West Virginia on Saturday.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 11 Florida

The Gators didn’t look like much getting to 4-0 with close wins against East Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Then they looked like national title contenders against Ole Miss.

Heat check: Too cold. At the least the Gators should be ahead of Alabama.

No. 12 Florida State

Beat Wake Forest and Boston College and were pretty meh doing it.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 13 Northwestern

The value of that Stanford win is soaring.

Heat check. Too cold.

No. 14 Mississippi

So which was the fluke? Beating Alabama or getting humiliated by Florida?

Heat check: Just right, though the Rebels should probably be ahead of Alabama, too.

No. 15 Notre Dame

The value of that Georgia Tech win is plummeting. Impressive in a loss to Clemson, but still a loss.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 16 Stanford

Since Week 2, the Cardinal have been an offensive juggernaut, beating foes by an average of 42-19. Wherever Northwestern, Stanford should be a spot or two behind.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 17 Southern California

Losing at home to Stanford not looking so bad. Winning at Arizona State looking better.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 18 Michigan

Well, if Utah is No. 1 and the Wolverines only loss was at Utah …

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 19 Georgia

Best win? South Carolina or Vanderbilt?

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 20 UCLA

The Bruins did what the Bruins tend to do when things are going well, losing as a favorite at home on Saturday to Arizona State. But voters were punitive in the punishment.

Heat check. Too cold.

No. 21 Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have won some crazy games and gotten some crazy breaks.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 22 Iowa

The Hawkeyes’ 5-0 start is highlighted by road wins at Wisconsin and Iowa State and last-second 57-yard field goal that beat Pitt. It’s not exciting, but it’s 5-0.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 23 California

Cal’s 5-0 start has been exciting, but that doesn’t make it any better than Iowa’s.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 24 Toledo

The Rockets have ridden a victory against Arkansas to their first Top 25 appearance since 2012.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 25 Boise State

That last-minute loss to BYU is going to sting all year.

Heat check: Too cold, flip-flop with Toledo.


This story corrects Utah’s win against Michigan to at home instead of on the road.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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