AP Top 25 Heat Check: Clemson vs. expectations


By Ralph D. Russo - AP College Football Writer



Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, scrambles out of the pocket while pursued by North Carolina State's Darian Roseboro during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson won 24-17 in overtime. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)


Alabama coach Nick Saban, right front, watches during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


Clemson is having a difficult time playing up to its own lofty expectations this season.

AP Top 25 voters have taken notice and docked the Tigers a couple of spots since they started the season No. 2 even though Clemson is undefeated. We’ve seen this before. Ohio State last season never looked quite right as it tried to defend its national championship with a loaded team.

The year before it was Florida State that couldn’t match the hype, but was still really good.

That’s where Clemson is halfway through the season. The Tigers have looked a little off and they were downright lucky to beat North Carolina State. But just because Clemson has not been as good as we thought they would be doesn’t mean the Tigers aren’t among the best teams in the country.

Michigan took advantage of Clemson’s close call in Death Valley on Saturday and jumped past the Tigers into third in the rankings behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State.

Time to heat check the poll and assess how the voters handled Clemson’s good fortune, Wisconsin’s second quality loss and Mississippi’s “impressive” 3-3 record.

No. 1 Alabama (7-0)

Meeting preseason expectations has not been a problem for the defending national champions. In fact, the Crimson Tide has probably exceeded them.

Next: No. 6 Texas A&M.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 2 Ohio State (6-0)

J.T. Barrett was precise down the stretch against Wisconsin, but if there is one nit to pick about the Buckeyes, it is that they are a little limited in the passing game.

Next: at Penn State

Heat check: Just right.

No. 3 Michigan (6-0)

Jim Harbaugh spent Michigan’s weekend off working the chains at a high school football game in California. Of course he did.

Next: Illinois

Heat check: Just right.

No. 4 Clemson (7-0)

Heat check has had more patience with the Tigers than the AP voters, but that only goes so far.

Next: at Florida State, Oct. 29.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 5 Washington (6-0)

When the season started it looked as if we would not have to wait long to learn whether the Huskies were worthy of their preseason hype. But now those victories against Stanford and Oregon don’t look so great and it’s fair to still be a little skeptical of Washington.

Next: Oregon State.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 6 Texas A&M (6-0)

The Aggies opened up as a 17-point underdog to the Crimson Tide, which heat check thinks says a lot more about Alabama than A&M.

Next: at No. 1 Alabama

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 7 Louisville (5-1)

The Cardinals were not at their best after a week off, but they were due for a bit of a clunker.

Next: North Carolina State

Heat check: Just right.

No. 8 Nebraska (6-0) and No. 9 Baylor (6-0)

Really, neither of these teams has done enough to earn a top-10 ranking, and that won’t change this week. The reckoning starts the weekend before Halloween.

Next: Purdue for Nebraska; at Texas, Oct. 29, for Baylor.

Heat check: Both too hot.

No. 10 Wisconsin (4-2)

The Badgers drop two spots in the Top 25 after the OT loss to Ohio State. They should not have fallen at all.

Next: at Iowa.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 11 Houston (6-1)

Tom Herman insisted the American Athletic Conference would not easy for the Cougars and he was right.

Next: at SMU

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 12 West Virginia (5-0)

If there is one team that can claim its being held back in the ranking by preseason expectations (or lack thereof) it’s West Virginia.

Next: TCU

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 13 Florida State (5-2)

The Seminoles have had lulls on one side of the ball or another all season. Maybe they’re saving their first complete game for Clemson.

Next: No. 4 Clemson, Oct. 29

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 14 Boise State (6-0)

Jeremy McNichols, third in the nation in yards from scrimmage (173 per game) and second in touchdowns (14), makes Boise State go.

Next: BYU

Heat check: Just right.

No. 15 Florida (5-1)

In an SEC East filled with teams that can’t play offense, the Gators’ D is dominating.

Next: vs. Georgia, Oct. 29

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 16 Oklahoma (4-2)

Baker Mayfield is quietly up to No. 3 in the country in passer rating at 180.36.

Next: at Texas Tech

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 17 Arkansas (5-2)

The Razorbacks have the worst defense in the SEC at 6.45 yards allowed per play.

Next: at No. 21 Auburn

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 18 Tennessee (5-2)

The Vols have lost their best linebacker (Jalen Reeves-Maybin) and cornerback (Cam Sutton) among a litany of injuries. But the worst of the schedule is over and now it’s just a matter of getting someone to beat Florida so the Vols can win the SEC East.

Next: at South Carolina, Oct. 29.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 19 Utah (6-1)

The Utes have played four one-score games (3-1).

Next: at UCLA

Heat check: Just right.

No. 20 Western Michigan (7-0)

The Broncos need to dominate against a MAC that doesn’t look very strong if they want to make a case for a New Year’s Six bowl bid.

Next: Eastern Michigan.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 21 Auburn (4-2)

Sophomores Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway have become the SEC’s most productive running back tandem.

Next: No. 17 Arkansas.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 22 North Carolina (5-2)

With road victories against Miami and Florida State, consecutive division titles for the Tar Heels are a very real possibility.

Next: at Virginia.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 23 Mississippi (3-3)

There’s no doubt Ole Miss looks like one of the Top 25 teams in the country, but you’ve got to win some games and right now the Rebels’ best victory is against a Georgia team that just lost to Vanderbilt.

Next: at No. 25 LSU

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 24 Navy (4-1)

No. 25 seemed perfect for the Midshipmen.

Next: Memphis.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 25 LSU (4-2)

Don’t forget how loaded this roster is. The Tigers can still be heard from in the SEC West.

Next: No. 23 Mississippi.

Heat check: But we’d like to see the Tigers win some big games first. Too hot.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, scrambles out of the pocket while pursued by North Carolina State’s Darian Roseboro during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson won 24-17 in overtime. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_113036212-cedcec84a0764bed988c19c9652833d4.jpgClemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, scrambles out of the pocket while pursued by North Carolina State’s Darian Roseboro during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson won 24-17 in overtime. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Alabama coach Nick Saban, right front, watches during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_113036212-24c7547a633b44559d8da9d5806c95c4.jpgAlabama coach Nick Saban, right front, watches during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_113036212-e9dc5dae91914d10a7d514525db63395.jpgAlabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

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