CFB Heat Check: Who should be No. 1? It’s about what you know


By Ralph D Russo - AP College Football Writer



Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze celebrates with fans after they defeated Alabama 43-37 after an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer shouts instructions to his team in the fourth quarter against Northern Illinois during the an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 20-13. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)


Alabama wide receiver Ricahrd Mullaney (16) celebrates during first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


At certain points in the college football season, we need to forget about what we thought we knew and just deal with what we know.

Three weeks in there are still are plenty of unanswered questions. Ranking teams solely on what they have done is difficult, because nobody has done much.

Still, a few things are clear:

— A lot of folks were wrong about Auburn, including the Heat Check.

— Ohio State’s quarterback situation is not so enviable.

— And … that’s about it.

A fun Saturday with some strange games and occurrences rattled the AP Top 25 this week. Heat Check weighs in on how the voters responded, tries to make sense of small sample sizes and maybe identify what we don’t know but should.

No. 1 OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes’ offensive problems will be analyzed to death over the next few days, but let’s oversimplify. Against Virginia Tech, Ohio State had 187 yards and three touchdowns on three plays. The last two weeks the Buckeyes’ longest play is 25 yards. By the way, that nice victory in Blacksburg, Virginia, still counts.

Heat Check: Too hot. Northern Illinois is pretty good, but the Buckeyes don’t look like No. 1 right now.

No. 2 MICHIGAN STATE

Taking Air Force out of the game early after a big win against Oregon spoke volumes about the Spartans coaching, preparation and focus.

Heat Check: Just right.

No. 3 (tie) MISSISSIPPI

Road games are hard. Road games at Alabama are especially hard. The Rebels caught a few breaks, but were every bit deserving winners. At a point in the season where few teams have played more than one good opponent, no reason why Ole Miss can’t be No. 1.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 3 (tie) TCU

The Horned Frogs have been tested by Minnesota (on the road) and SMU (much improved). A trip to Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday to face Texas Tech is a chance to move the meter.

Heat Check: A touch too hot.

No. 5 BAYLOR

Baylor played nobody on Saturday. Seriously, the Bears were off. Heat Check is a Baylor believer, but with no good wins yet the Bears should fall behind at least some of the teams that have proved it on the field.

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 6 NOTRE DAME

The Fighting Irish schedule hasn’t exactly been murderers’ row — Texas, at Virginia and Georgia Tech — but no FCS teams and no low-level Group of Five teams. Credit should be given for playing three real games, including one in an opponent’s stadium.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 7 GEORGIA

Greyson Lambert, record-setter. That probably says more about the state of South Carolina’s defense than how comfortable the Bulldogs should be with their new quarterback. That said Georgia fans should feel much more comfortable with their new quarterback.

Heat Check: Just right.

No. 8 LSU

The power of Leonard Fournette: Brandon Harris has thrown for 145 yards in two conference games and the Tigers have won both. The long-range forecast is still murky and LSU is getting a little bit of that SEC West bump that drives fans crazy.

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 9 UCLA

QB Josh Rosen has been far more freshman than fabulous lately, but the Bruins showed they can win when he is wonky.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 10 FLORIDA STATE and No. 11 CLEMSON

Road victories on a short week should never be taken for granted.

Heat Check: Both ACC contenders are too hot.

No. 12 ALABAMA

On one hand, the Tide’s loss to Ole Miss was a case of self-inflicted wounds and buzzard’s luck. On the other hand, that can be said about a lot of losing teams. The Tide still gets credit for that good win against Wisconsin.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 13 OREGON

So here’s the thing about the Ducks: They can’t defend the pass. That’s a 1990s problem. In the Age of Offense, it remains to be seen how many teams will be able to outscore Oregon. But the best part of the Ducks’ current resume is a loss.

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 14 TEXAS A&M

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former A&M assistant, is picking the Aggies over Arkansas this week. Heat Check agrees.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 15 OKLAHOMA

The Sooners couldn’t stop Tulsa, which now runs Baylor’s offense. That’s not a great sign for when OU faces Baylor running Baylor’s offense, but Baker Mayfield gives Oklahoma a quarterback capable of winning one of those Big 12 last-team-with-the-ball-wins games.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 16 ARZONA

By simply not screwing up against three relatively easy opponents, the Wildcats have risen six spots in the polls and earned a place in the marquee game of the week with UCLA and ESPN “College GameDay” coming to town. Here’s to not screwing up!

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 17 NORTHWESTREN

Perfect example of how things can change in a couple weeks. The Wildcats have gone from, ‘Oh, you beat Stanford’ to ‘Ooooooooooh YOU beat Stanford!’

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 18 UTAH

Three solid victories against so-so competition.

Heat Check: No team seems more just right.

No. 19 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Confidence in coach Steve Sarkisian was already low among many Trojans fans. Maybe even most. If USC can’t own the rivalry with Stanford, how can it contend for national championships? That’s a big picture issue. As for this moment, USC should at least be ranked behind the team to which it just lost.

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 20 GOERGIA TECH

Heat check has been cautious about the Yellow Jackets since the preseason and seeing them lose their first game against a quality opponent only reinforces the theory that if Georgia Tech wins the ACC, that’s not necessarily good news for the ACC.

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 21 STANFORD

The perfect example of how games can often bring more confusion than clarity at this point of the season. There is the Stanford team that lost to Northwestern and the Stanford team that beat USC. The truth about Stanford probably lies somewhere in between. Or maybe one is a total outlier.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 22 BYU

The Cougars have played three games against good competition and were fortunate to win two. But they also were a couple of plays away from sweeping. For playing the toughest schedule in the country so far they deserve a better ranking.

Heat Check: Too cold.

No. 23 WISCONSIN

The Badgers will probably be pretty good this year against teams not named Alabama.

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 24 OKLAHOMA STATE

Another team that has been rewarded for not screwing up its easy September schedule.

Heat Check: Too hot.

No. 25 MISSOURI

Listen, maybe UConn is pretty good, but for now that 9-6 home victory against the Huskies is not helping the Tigers.

Heat check: Too hot.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAp. AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze celebrates with fans after they defeated Alabama 43-37 after an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/09/web1_105957356-8f6dac6914b545a288ea0dffe5b37c85.jpgMississippi head coach Hugh Freeze celebrates with fans after they defeated Alabama 43-37 after an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer shouts instructions to his team in the fourth quarter against Northern Illinois during the an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 20-13. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/09/web1_105957356-0f6b40e148a44b4a9af49666d42f34f4.jpgOhio State head coach Urban Meyer shouts instructions to his team in the fourth quarter against Northern Illinois during the an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 20-13. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Alabama wide receiver Ricahrd Mullaney (16) celebrates during first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/09/web1_105957356-0870295e103d4ed59c959c8fef52544f.jpgAlabama wide receiver Ricahrd Mullaney (16) celebrates during first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

By Ralph D Russo

AP College Football Writer