Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley argues a call during...

Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley argues a call during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Washington Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

With about a month left before bowl season, the AP Top 25 looks an awful lot like it did in the preseason.

Not just at the top, where No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Michigan have not budged.

After Southern California and Kansas State dropped out of the rankings Sunday, 18 of the teams ranked in the latest Associated Press college football poll were also ranked in the preseason.

If chalk continues to prevail, Top 25 turnover would be unusually low this season. Typically, about 10 or 11 teams that start the season ranked fail to end it that way.

The last two seasons were also outliers, but for the opposite reason.

Fourteen teams that started the 2021 season ranked ended it unranked. That tied a record. Then last year, the record was broken when 15 preseason ranked teams finished unranked.

Among the seven preseason ranked teams currently out of the Top 25, it's safe to say TCU (4-5 after being preseason No. 17) is not getting back in. Wisconsin (5-4, preseason 19) and Texas A&M (5-4, preseason 23) would be in the highly-unlikely-to-finish-ranked category.

Kansas State quarterback Will Howard (18) is tripped up by...

Kansas State quarterback Will Howard (18) is tripped up by Texas defensive end Barryn Sorrell (88) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. Credit: AP/Eric Gay

Preseason No. 9 Clemson (5-4), which beat Notre Dame on Saturday, seems to have the best shot among four-loss teams to have a late-season surge and be in the final rankings.

Iowa (7-2, preseason 25) and Kansas State (6-3, preseason 16) are best positioned to end up in the final Top 25.

USC (7-3, preseason No. 6) appears to be spiraling after a 6-0 start.

Does this mean AP voters did a bad job the past two years ranking in the preseason and better this season? Probably not. Reality Check is here to remind fans that college football can be unpredictable in a variety of ways.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney looks on during the second...

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. Credit: AP/Jacob Kupferman

No. 1 Georgia (9-0)

Next: vs. No. 10 Mississippi, Saturday.

Reality check: These Bulldogs might not be as good as either of the last two national championship teams, but they probably don't have to be to win another title.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 2 Michigan (9-0)

Next: at No. 9 Penn State, Saturday.

Reality check: Wolverines didn't look like a team distracted by scandal swirling around it against Purdue.

Ranked: Same as all season, you could hold the schedule against Michigan if you want. We don't at this point.

No. 3 Ohio State (9-0)

Next: vs. Michigan State, Saturday.

Reality check: Buckeyes have finished no worse than 11th in the country in yards per play in every season since 2017. Currently, Ohio State ranks 28th.

Ranked: CFP has the Buckeyes No. 1, but Reality Check remains more bearish.

No. 4 Florida State (9-0)

Next: vs. Miami, Saturday.

Reality check: Seminoles played without top receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson against Pitt, which helps explain why that game stayed close longer than expected.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 5 Washington (9-0)

Next: vs. No. 13 Utah, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Dillon Johnson's 256-yard rushing game against USC included more than 199 yards before contact. The Trojans fired their defensive coordinator Sunday.

Ranked: This is fine.

No. 6 Oregon (8-1)

Next: vs. Southern California, Saturday.

Reality check: Ducks lead the nation in yards per carry (6.33) and are second in rushing touchdowns (28). And who do they play next week? Oh, boy.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 7 Texas (8-1)

Next: vs. TCU, Saturday.

Reality check: Tempting to look at the near-collapse against Kansas State and think, ‘same ol’ Texas.' Don't overthink it. The Longhorns just need QB Quinn Ewers healthy.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 8 Alabama (8-1)

Next: at Kentucky, Saturday.

Reality check: Well, here we are. November and Alabama is a national title contender again. Nick Saban and Crimson Tide are inevitable.

Ranked: Perfect.

No. 9 Penn State (8-1)

Next: vs. No. 2 Michigan, Saturday.

Reality check: Nittany Lions finally got a breakout game from WR Dante Cephas with six catches and two TDs against Maryland. They need it to carryover to Michigan.

Ranked: Could flip Penn State with Ole Miss.

No. 10 Mississippi (8-1)

Next: at No. 1 Georgia, Saturday.

Reality check: Rebels have the best trio of receivers in the SEC with Tre Harris, Jordan Watkins and Dayton Wade combining for 122 catches, 1,978 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Ranked: About right.

No. 11 Louisville (8-1)

Next: vs. Virginia, Thursday.

Reality check: RB Jawhar Jordan carried the ball only two times because of injury in the Cardinals' only loss. Not a coincidence.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 12 Oregon State (7-2)

Next: vs Stanford, Saturday.

Reality check: Beavers have failed to get points only once in 32 red-zone trips and are eighth in the country in converting them into touchdowns at 78.1 %.

Ranked: About right.

No. 13 Utah (7-2)

Next: at No. 5 Washington, Saturday.

Reality check: Utes are one-trick team at this points. They are going to try to maul the opposition. It is a solid Plan A, but there is no Plan B.

Ranked: Seems high.

No. 14 Tennessee (7-2)

Next: at No. 16 Missouri, Saturday.

Reality check: The next two weeks against Mizzou and Georgia will define Tennessee's season.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 15 Oklahoma State (7-2)

Next: at UCF, Saturday.

Reality check: An in-season turnaround built around star RB Ollie Gordon has the Cowboys going from unranked to in control of their road to the Big 12 title game. OSU's three remaining opponents are a combined 5-13 in conference play.

Ranked: About right.

No. 16 Missouri (7-2)

Next: vs. No. 14 Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: Tigers earned a lot of respect in the loss to Georgia, especially RB Cody Schrader (112 yards on 22 carries). He is the first player to rush for 100 yards against the Bulldogs since 2020.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 17 Oklahoma (7-2)

Next: vs. West Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: Sooners are a good reminder that if the best thing about a team's playoff chances is an accommodating schedule, that team is probably not making the playoff.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 18 LSU (6-3)

Next: vs. Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: Three losses will work against QB Jayden Daniels' Heisman case, but maybe it shouldn't. He has been spectacular.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 19 Kansas (7-2)

Next: vs. Texas Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: The first 10-win season since 2007 is very much on the table for coach Lance Leipold's team. Jayhawks have two home games (Texas Tech and Kansas State) and a road trip to Cincinnati left.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 20 Tulane (8-1)

Next: vs. Tulsa, Saturday.

Reality check: Every week seems to be a grind for the Green Wave, who have won four straight games by 10 points or fewer.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 21 James Madison (9-0)

Next: vs. UConn, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Jordan McCloud, a South Florida transfer, had maybe his best game of the season Saturday against Georgia State, throwing for 307 yards and four touchdowns and running for two scores.

Ranked: JMU ahead of Notre Dame? Sure.

No. 22 Notre Dame (7-3)

Next: vs. Wake Forest, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Sam Hartman threw a combined 77 touchdown passes in his previous two seasons at Wake Forest. He has thrown 18 for Notre Dame. Is it the play calling or supporting cast? That's the debate around South Bend, Indiana.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 23 Arizona (6-3)

Next: at Colorado, Saturday.

Reality check: Along with Oklahoma State, coach Jedd Fisch's team is a contender for most improved in season. There is a chance the Wildcats end up the third- or fourth-best team in a loaded Pac-12.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 24 North Carolina (7-2)

Next: vs, Duke, Saturday.

Reality check: The defense fell off a cliff during a two-game losing streak, but there is still a path to the ACC title game.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 25 Liberty (9-0)

Next: vs. Old Dominion, Saturday.

Reality check: Going undefeated is hard and should be rewarded at this point in the season — no matter the schedule.

Ranked: Sure.


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