AP Top 25 Heat Check: The downside of dominant victories

Oct 23, 2017 - 6:34 AM Penn State was too good. The Nittany Lions ruined their best victory of the season. One of the weird things about figuring out how to judge teams throughout a season is that being too dominant can sometimes work against a team. Penn State, for example. The second-ranked Nittany Lions went into the Michigan game without a victory against a ranked team. The then-19th-ranked Wolverines represented, theoretically, Penn State's toughest opponent of the season. Then the Nittany Lions blew up Michigan, 42-13, knocking the Wolverines from the rankings and — poof! — that victory is no longer as impressive. Huh? So it would have been better for Penn State if it played a closer game? Sort of a no-win situation. Time will tell just how tough an opponent is Michigan. No. 9 Notre Dame had a similar victory on Saturday, beating USC so badly that instead of it completely validating the Fighting Irish, it called into question the Trojans, who managed to hang on at No. 21 this week. It is a moving target, but heat check would rather focus on the positive and talk about how well Penn State and Notre Dame played. What did the voters think? No. 1 Alabama (8-0) Not treating Texas A&M (27-19 on the road) the way it has rest of the SEC (211-19) helps the Crimson Tide? So see how weird this is? Next: vs. No. 23 LSU, Saturday, Nov. 4 Heat check: Just right. No. 2 Penn State (7-0) After a few weeks of giving Georgia the nod at No. 2, heat check is on board with Penn State behind Alabama. We'll see if that's the kiss of death. Next: at No. 6 Ohio State. Heat check: Just right. No. 3 Georgia (7-0) The Bulldogs' victory at Notre Dame is probably the most impressive win of the season right now — give or take Oklahoma's victory at Ohio State. But the SEC East is dragging down Georgia's resume. Next: vs. Florida at Jacksonville, Florida. Heat check: Just right. No. 4 TCU (7-0) The big test against Iowa State is definitely not something we saw coming. How long can the Horned Frogs stay above the Big 12 fray? Next: at No. 25 Iowa State. Heat check: Just right. No. 5 Wisconsin (7-0) If Michigan doesn't right itself, the Badgers could get to the Big Ten championship game having played no ranked opponents. Next: at Illinois. Heat check: Too hot. No. 6 Ohio State (6-1) Welcome back to the season, Buckeyes. We have missed seeing you play interesting games. Next: vs. No. 2 Penn State. Heat check: Too hot. No. 7 Clemson (6-1) The best one-loss team will have a chance to prove it the next couple weeks. Next: vs. Georgia Tech. Heat check: Too cold. No. 8 Miami (6-0) Three straight weeks of one-possession games for the Hurricanes. Next: at North Carolina. Heat check: Just right. No. 9 Notre Dame (6-1) Heat check has been touting the Irish as underrated for a while — and they still are. Next: vs. No. 14 NC State. Heat check: Too cold. No. 10 Oklahoma (6-1) Baker Mayfield's Heisman Trophy campaign seems to be a little stuck. He has been so good for so long that he might be taken for granted. Next: vs. Texas Tech. Heat check: Too cold. No. 11 Oklahoma State (6-1) The Cowboys are doing their best to keep TCU, which handed Oklahoma State its only loss, looking good. Next: at No. 22 West Virginia. Heat check: Little too hot. No. 12 Washington (6-1) The Huskies' cupcakes aren't looking quite as soft with both Fresno State and Rutgers winning some games. Next: vs. UCLA. Heat check: Too hot. No. 13 Virginia Tech (6-1) From North Carolina last week to Duke next, the Hokies are finishing up the basketball-school part of the schedule before a tough finish that includes three of four on the road. Next: vs. Duke. Heat check: Too hot. No. 14 North Carolina State (6-1) Beating Florida State and Louisville is losing some of its luster, but the next two weeks (Notre Dame and Clemson) will provide a definitive test. Next: at No. 9 Notre Dame. Heat check: Too cold No. 15 Washington State (7-1) Coach Mike Leach called his team's performance less pathetic this week. So that's good. Next: at Arizona. Heat check: Just right. No. 16 Michigan State (6-1) If you find breaking rocks exciting, the Spartans should be your kind of team. No flash. Just grind. Next: at Northwestern. Heat check: Too cold. No. 17 South Florida (7-0) According to the Sagarin Ratings, USF has played the 123rd toughest schedule in the country so far. Put another way, Houston at 4-3 will be the strongest opponent the Bulls have faced so far. Next: vs. Houston. Heat check: Too hot. No. 18 UCF (6-0) Navy was the first opponent to stay within two touchdowns of the Knights. Next: vs. Austin Peay. Heat check: Just right. No. 19 Auburn (6-2) Tigers go into a bye gearing up for a stretch run that could push them into a major bowl or leave coach Gus Malzahn pondering his future. Next: at Texas A&M, Saturday, Nov. 4. Heat check: Too cold. No. 20 Stanford (5-2) A prime-time game could help that Bryce Love Heisman campaign — even one against Oregon State. Next: at Oregon State, Thursday. Heat check: Just right. No. 21 Southern California (6-2) The Trojans are still in position to win the Pac-12 South, but all of a sudden consecutive games against the Arizona schools makes for a tough couple weeks. Next: at Arizona State. Heat check: Too cold. At least ahead of Stanford, which USC beat. No. 22 West Virginia (5-2) The Mountaineers have been good at beating the teams behind them and not so great at beating the teams ahead of them. Next: vs. No. 11 Oklahoma State. Heat check: Just right. No. 23 LSU (6-2) The Tigers can get to eight wins this season without doing anything particularly special, but special isn't required for a spot in the bottom of the Top 25. Next: at No. 1 Alabama, Saturday, Nov. 4. Heat check: Too hot. No. 24 Memphis (6-1) The defense is bad, but Riley Ferguson, Anthony Miller and the offense certainly make Memphis one of the most fun teams in the country. Next: vs. Tulane, Friday. Heat check: Too hot. No. 25 Iowa State (5-2) Ranked for the first time since 2005, the Cyclones are a play away against Iowa from being 6-1. This is no fluke. Next: vs. No. 4 TCU. Heat check: Too cold. ___ Could argue for Mississippi State over LSU or Memphis, especially with the Bulldogs' victory against the Tigers. ___ Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP ___ More college football coverage: http://collegefootball.ap.org and www.Twitter.com/AP_Top25






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