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Tuesday March 28th, 2023 4:58AM

AP Top 25 Reality Check: Pair of 2s sets up 1 vs. 2 matchup

By The Associated Press
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The chances of having a 1 vs. 2 matchup go up if there are two No. 2s in The Associated Press college football poll.

Tennessee and Ohio State were tied for No. 2 Sunday in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank.

Georgia remained No. 1, setting up a 1-2 showdown Saturday in Athens between the defending national champion Bulldogs and the upstart Volunteers, who started the season unranked and are now pushing to be No. 1.

The Bulldogs got 30 first-place votes and 1,528 points from the media panel. The Volunteers received 18 first-place and 1,500 points to tie the Buckeyes in total points. Ohio State received 15 first-place votes.

The 28-point margin between No. 1 and No. 2 when they play is tied for the seventh smallest among the now 53 games matching AP's 1 and 2. Georgia-Tennessee will be the 25th of those played in the regular season.

The slimmest margin between the top two teams in the country at the time they played came in the last 1-2 game. No. 1 LSU had seven more poll points than No. 2 Alabama before the Tigers beat the Tide 46-41 in 2019.

Reality Check has been calling for Tennessee to be No. 2 for a couple weeks and is glad the voters have caught up.

The rest of the ranking had little change in the top 10 and a fair amount after that, including three teams making their season debuts.

No. 1 Georgia (8-0)

Next: vs. No. 2 Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: The absence of WR Adonai Mitchell (ankle) for most of the season has limited the Bulldogs' passing game, but having two tight ends in Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington averaging more than 17 yards per catch is a nice way to mask any issues.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 2 (tie) Tennessee (8-0)

Next: at No. 1 Georgia, Saturday.

Reality check: DL Byron Young and the Vols' defense played their best game of the season against Kentucky, allowing 3.25 yards per play. Can they keep it up against Georgia?

Ranked: We could argue about whether Tennessee should be No. 1 or just wait a week.

No. 2 (tie) Ohio State

Next: at Northwestern, Saturday.

Reality check: Buckeyes have run for 164 yards on 56 carries (2.93 per attempt) the last two weeks against Iowa and Penn State, and the status of second-leading rusher Miyan Williams (arm) is unclear after he left Saturday's game. That type of production is not going to work against Michigan.

Ranked: Should be No. 3.

No. 4 Michigan (8-0)

Next: at Rutgers, Saturday.

Reality check: Wolverines have settled for seven field goals in 12 red-zone trips over the last two games against Penn State and Michigan State. That type of production is not going to work against Ohio State.

Ranked: Resume says five. Eye test says four.

No. 5 Clemson (8-0)

Next: at Notre Dame, Saturday.

Reality check: If you want to play the transitive property game, Notre Dame had an easier time at Syracuse than the Tigers had with the Orange in Death Valley. But that's kind of a silly game.

Ranked: Resume says four. Eye test says maybe six.

No. 6 Alabama (7-1)

Next: at No. 15 LSU, Saturday.

Reality check: How do you know when Alabama is in a fight? The Crimson Tide feeds RB Jahmyr Gibbs, who has 63 of his 98 carries in games against Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee. Figure he'll be busy the next few weeks.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 7 TCU (8-0)

Next: vs. Texas Tech, Saturday.

Reality check: Horned Frogs have trailed in the second quarter of each of their last four games. Coach Sonny Dykes' team has been living right.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 8 Oregon (7-1)

Next: at Colorado, Saturday.

Reality check: List of quarterbacks with at least 20 touchdown passes and 10 rushing touchdowns this season: Bo Nix.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 9 Southern California (7-1)

Next: vs. California, Saturday.

Reality check: The Trojans have committed one turnover, the fewest in the country and a completely unsustainable number going forward.

Ranked: Seems high, but consider the alternatives.

No. 10 UCLA (7-1)

Next: at Arizona State, Saturday.

Reality check: The first 10-win regular season for the Bruins since 1998 is very much in reach if they can avoid stumbling against the soft bottom of the Pac-12.

Ranked: About right.

No. 11 Mississippi (8-1)

Next: vs. No. 6 Alabama, Nov. 12.

Reality check: The defense seems to be in freefall, having allowed over 6.50 yards per play in each of the last three games — including against otherwise-sputtering Auburn and Texas A&M.

Ranked: Bit high.

No. 12 Utah (6-2)

Next: vs. Arizona, Saturday.

Reality check: The tight end-dependent Utes have already lost Brant Kuithe and now have to worry about Dalton Kincaid's condition after he left the Washington State game with an apparent shoulder injury.

Ranked: Touch high.

No. 13 Kansas State (6-2)

Next: vs. Texas, Saturday.

Reality check: Wildcats' pass defense has been about as good as it gets in the Big 12, leading the conference with 23 sacks and making things especially difficult for the less experienced quarterbacks — and Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 14 Illinois (7-1)

Next: vs. Michigan State, Saturday.

Reality check: The best defensive numbers in the country have come against some pretty anemic offenses and backup quarterbacks, but credit the Illini for being dominant. There are a couple of stiffer tests (Purdue and Michigan) still to come.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 15 LSU (6-2)

Next: Vs. No. 6 Alabama, Saturday.

Reality check: Been a quiet season for talented WR Kayshon Boutte with one 100-yard receiving game. The Tigers could use a late-season surge.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 16 Penn State (6-2)

Next: at Indiana, Saturday.

Reality check: Can the Nittany Lions go for an attainable 10-win season while also getting some game reps for promising freshman QB Drew Allar? Something to watch now that the Big Ten title hopes are gone.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 17 North Carolina (7-1)

Next: at Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: The defense has gotten a little better. Maybe. Fact is, it's not going to stop the Tar Heels from getting to the ACC title game thanks to QB Drake Maye, who also gives them a puncher's chance to win it.

Ranked: About right.

No. 18 Oklahoma State (6-2)

Next: at Kansas, Saturday.

Reality check: Cowboys were handed the most-lopsided loss in Mike Gundy's 18-year tenure as coach on Saturday. They have been really banged up lately, but it was a performance so bad that it's hard to comprehend.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 19 Tulane (7-1)

Next: at Tulsa, Saturday.

Reality check: An off week combined with a bunch of teams face-planting around them in the rankings has pushed the Green Wave into the top 20. Timing is everything in life.

Ranked: An argument could be made they belong ahead of the K-State team they beat.

No. 20 Wake Forest (6-2)

Next: at No. 21 North Carolina State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Demon Deacons had more turnovers in the third quarter against Louisville (six) than in their first seven games combined (five).

Ranked: About right.

No. 21 North Carolina State (6-2)

Next: vs. No. 20 Wake Forest, Saturday.

Reality check: Wolfpack might have something in QB MJ Morris. Can the freshman save a promising season?

Ranked: Too high.

No. 22 Syracuse (6-2)

Next: at Pittsburgh, Saturday.

Reality check: Even at 6-0, we warned you the Orange might have tough times ahead with a back-loaded schedule.

Ranked: At least in front of N.C. State for now.

No. 23 Liberty (7-1)

Next: at Arkansas, Saturday.

Reality check: Hugh Freeze has the Flames in position to be the best team in the state of Virginia. Not a high bar to clear this season, but still.

Ranked: Touch high.

No. 24 Oregon State (6-2)

Next: at Washington, Friday.

Reality check: Beavers return to the rankings after a nine-year absence, despite playing most of October without QB Chance Nolan (concussion). They have tried to compensate by throwing the fewest passes in the Pac-12, with the second-most rushing attempts.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 25 UCF (6-2)

Next: at Memphis, Saturday.

Reality check: A week after maybe their worst performance of the season against East Carolina, the Knights were at their best against Cincinnati and are back in the rankings for the first time in more than two years.

Ranked: About right.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://bit.ly/3pqZVaF

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