AP Top 25 Reality Check: LSU-Alabama a big game again

Oct 23, 2022, 2:59 PM | Updated: Oct 24, 2022, 4:44 am
Mississippi State offensive lineman Cole Smith (57) works against Alabama linebacker Will Anderson ...

Mississippi State offensive lineman Cole Smith (57) works against Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Alabama-LSU is a big game again after a two-year hiatus.

LSU moved back into the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank on Sunday at No. 18. The Tigers and No. 6 Crimson Tide are off next week, as is customary before the SEC West powers play each other.

This will be the 30th time Alabama and LSU will face off with both ranked, the most of any Southeastern Conference teams and the fourth-most among all rivalries, according to sports-reference.com.

Michigan and Ohio State have 47 ranked matchups. Texas and Oklahoma have 42. Notre Dame and Southern California have 33. Six other SEC rivalries are in the 20s, including Tennessee-Florida and LSU-Florida at 25 apiece.

For most of the 2000s, Alabama and LSU was arguably the dominant rivalry in college football. They went 14 straight meetings (2007-19) where they played with both ranked. That is the third longest streak in any rivalry, behind Florida-Tennessee’s 19 in a row (1985-2007) and Florida-Florida State’s 16 straight (1990-2003).

The run ended in 2020 for Alabama and LSU, the year after the Tigers and Tide played a 1 vs. 2 game in Tuscaloosa.

On Nov. 5, they can start another streak.

Reality Check signs off on LSU vaulting back into the rankings. With eight ranked teams off last week there was limited movement elsewhere in the rankings, but Reality Check still had a few complaints.

No. 1 Georgia (7-0)

Next: vs. Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, Saturday.

Reality check: There has been a fair amount of discussion about how these ‘Dawgs compare to last season’s championship edition. We’re about to find over next four weeks: Florida, No. 3 Tennessee, at Mississippi State, at No. 19 Kentucky.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 2 Ohio State (7-0)

Next: at No. 13 Penn State, Saturday

Reality check: Been the same story all season for the Buckeyes: Dominant, beating opponents by an average of 35 points, but they have not played a team currently ranked. A trip to Happy Valley will be their toughest test.

Ranked: Touch high.

No. 3 Tennessee (7-0)

Next: vs. No. 19 Kentucky, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Hendon Hooker and the passing game get the headlines, but coach Josh Heupel’s offense averages 202 yards rushing and has 23 touchdowns on the ground, sixth best in the country.

Ranked: Should be two.

No. 4 Michigan (7-0)

Next: vs. Michigan State, Saturday.

Reality check: Only Minnesota has thrown fewer passes among Big Ten teams, but this could be a week for QB J.J. McCarthy to let loose against the Spartans’ shaky pass defense.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 5 Clemson (8-0)

Next: at Notre Dame, Saturday.

Reality check: Tigers are second among Power Five teams in tackles for loss at 8.25 per games and DE Myles Murphy and Co. have been on a tear lately with 29 in the last three games.

Ranked: Touch low. Clemson hasn’t be overly impressive, but it has beaten three ranked teams.

No. 6 Alabama (7-1)

Next: at LSU, Nov. 5.

Reality check: OLB Will Anderson Jr. is probably not making a Heisman Trophy run, but with six sacks among 12 tackles for loss he is still the most disruptive defensive player in the country.

Ranked: This is fine.

No. 7 TCU (7-0)

Next: at West Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: Great season, but a notable quirk: The Horned Frogs have had three opponents lose their starting quarterbacks to injury in the first half.

Ranked: Just right. Respect the unbeaten record.

No. 8 Oregon (6-1)

Next: at California, Saturday.

Reality check: The offense is operating at an elite level (7.75 yards per play over the last four games), but it is worth pointing out the Ducks didn’t force a punt against UCLA and the Bruins scored on all but one drive.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 9 Oklahoma State (6-1)

Next: at No. 22 Kansas State, Saturday.

Reality check: Cowboys don’t run it particularly well — just one game against an FBS opponent over 4.0 yards per carry — but they stick to it with five games of at least 40 attempts.

Ranked: About right.

No. 10 (tied) Southern California (6-1)

Next: at Arizona, Saturday.

Reality check: If the Trojans want to be taken seriously as a CFP contender, they need to romp through this three-week stretch of Arizona, Cal and Colorado before the UCLA game.

Ranked: Still seems high.

No. 10 (tied) Wake Forest (6-1)

Next: at Louisville, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Sam Hartman continues to be one of the most overlooked players in the country, with numbers (21 TDs and 292.5 yards per game) that rival the so-called Heisman Trophy contenders.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 12 UCLA (6-1)

Next: vs. Stanford, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Zach Charbonnet is averaging 7.16 yards per carry, the best of any back in the country with more than 100 attempts.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 13 Penn State (6-1)

Next: vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday.

Reality check: Nittany Lions have an odd running game. They break off chunks with freshmen Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton (nine runs of 30 or more yards), but they don’t consistently churn out positive gains.

Ranked: Touch low.

No. 14 Utah (5-2)

Next: at Washington State, Thursday.

Reality check: Utes are allowing 4.60 yards per rush. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2012, they haven’t allowed more than 4.0 per carry in any season.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 15 Mississippi (7-1)

Next: at Texas A&M, Saturday.

Reality check: Rebels’ so-so defense and unreliable passing game got exposed by LSU. Makes a tough last month look dicey.

Ranked: Bit high.

No. 16 Syracuse (6-1)

Next: vs. Notre Dame, Saturday.

Reality check: The loss to Clemson was one that got away, with a lingering question: Why only five carries (for 54 yards) for star running back Sean Tucker?

Ranked: Too high.

No. 17 Illinois (6-1)

Next: at Nebraska, Saturday.

Reality check: The best freshman defensive player in the country? OLB Gabe Jacas (four sacks) has a case.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 18 LSU (6-2)

Next: vs. No. 6 Alabama, Nov. 5.

Reality check: The development of QB Jayden Daniels, who is at a career high 70% completions, encapsulates the Tigers’ progress in general in Year 1 under Brian Kelly.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 19 Kentucky (5-2)

Next: at No. 3 Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: Would be hard to find two better freshman receivers on one team than Barion Brown (24 catches, 350 yards, two TDs) and Dane Key (20, 332, three).

Ranked: About right.

No. 20 Cincinnati (6-1)

Next: at UCF, Saturday.

Reality check: RB Charles McClelland has become the focal point of the offense with 308 yards rushing on 8.3 per carry the last two games.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 21 North Carolina (6-1)

Next: vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday.

Reality check: Tar Heels have four games allowing at least 235 yards rushing and three games permitting less than 100. Seems the latter are the outliers.

Ranked: Little high

No. 22 Kansas State (5-2)

Next: vs. No. Oklahoma State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Wildcats were down to QB3 against TCU and it didn’t end well, but if they can get healthy a run to the Big 12 title game is still there for the taking.

Ranked: Should be behind Tulane, which beat the Wildcats.

No. 23 Tulane (7-1)

Next: at Tulsa, Nov. 5.

Reality check: QB Michael Pratt is the highest-rated passer in the American (159.2) and can chip in with his legs (five rushing TDs).

Ranked: See above.

No. 24 North Carolina State (5-2)

Next: vs. Virginia Tech, Thursday.

Reality check: A solid defense will have to carry a heavy load the rest of the way without QB Devin Leary.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 25 South Carolina (5-2)

Next: vs. Missouri, Saturday.

Reality check: Offense is OK. Defense is OK. The Gamecocks are also minus-6 in turnover margin. So how are they winning games? Well, the special teams might be the best in the SEC.

Ranked: Too high. Beating Texas A&M shouldn’t be worth a ranking.


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


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AP Top 25 Reality Check: LSU-Alabama a big game again