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Ralph D. Russo | The Associated Press | November 21, 2016

Heat Check: Big Ten can back up boasts for now

  For the first time since 1960, the Big Ten has three schools in the top five.

A mere two seasons ago, suggesting the Big Ten was the best conference in college football would have been difficult to support — probably even laughable.

Now, you'll get a stink from SEC fans on the argument, but at least there is something to back up to the boast.

The Big Ten placed three teams in the top five of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1960 on Sunday. Alabama is No. 1, as has been the case all season, followed by No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan. The rivals will meet in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday.

Clemson is fourth, and then Wisconsin gives the Big Ten three of five at the top for the first time in 56 years. Throw in No. 8 Penn State, and the Big Ten has 40 percent of the top 10.

Of course, rankings are not necessarily the best way to judge the strength of a conference, and fans probably spend too much time debating which conference is best anyway.

Heat check reminds everyone it is about teams not conferences. Let's see how the voters did in ranking the teams.

No. 1 Alabama (11-0)

Nick Saban was mad Saturday, which is usually bad news for the Tide's next opponent.

Next: No. 16 Auburn.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 2 Ohio State (10-1)

Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett has his limitations, but few quarterbacks do a better job protecting the ball. Among Power Five quarterbacks with more than 300 pass attempts, Barrett's interception percentage of 1.3 (four in 314 attempts) is third best.

Next: No. 3 Michigan.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 3 Michigan (10-1)

College Football: Michigan battles snowy conditions in this weeks Social Rewind
What worked against Indiana for the Wolverines' offense with a backup quarterback probably won't work against the Buckeyes in Columbus.

Next: at No. 2 Ohio State.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 4 Clemson (10-1)

The running game has been conspicuously absent from Deshaun Watson's play this season. Could it be what's missing from a red-zone offense that has underperformed?

Next: South Carolina.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 5 Wisconsin (9-2)

The Badgers are getting a lot of credit for almost beating Ohio State and Michigan.

Next: Minnesota.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 6 Washington (10-1)

The Huskies bounced back big against Arizona State — no surprise. Their argument is dominance because they are still light on marquee victories.

Next: at No. 23 Washington State, Friday.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 7 Oklahoma (9-2)

The offense is so good. The defense is pretty bad.

Next: No. 10 Oklahoma, Saturday, Dec. 3.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 8 Penn State (9-2)

Rutgers was easy. The Spartans will pose a real challenge to Penn State's banged up offensive line.

Next: Michigan State

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 9 Colorado (9-2)

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The Buffs' six-game improvement over last year's Pac-12 win total (from one to seven) is the best in the history of the conference.

Next: No. 21 Utah.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-2)

Even if the Cowboys had only one loss, like they say they do, they're still not particularly impressive.

Next: at No. 8 Oklahoma, Saturday, Dec. 3.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 11 Louisville (9-2)

Last Thursday was bad for the Cardinals, but probably a bit of an overreaction by voters to demote Louisville this much.

Next: Kentucky.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 12 Southern California (8-3)

The Trojans can't be totally absolved for their 1-3 start, but this looks like a team that would do just fine with the back half of the top 10.

Next: Notre Dame.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 13 Florida (8-2)

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Kudos to the Gators for sticking it to LSU after being accused of trying to duck the Tigers, but Florida is pretty poor offensively.

Next: at No. 15 Florida State

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 14 Western Michigan (11-0)

The Broncos are pummeling bad teams the way they should, but the ranking is more a reward for being unbeaten than a measure of how good they are.

Next: Toledo, Friday.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 15 Florida State (8-3)

If nothing else, the Seminoles can seal the SEC East's reputation as the worst division in the Power Five if they can beat its champion.

Next: No. 13 Florida.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 16 Auburn (8-3)

Try telling the Tigers this is a meaningless game.

Next: at No. 1 Alabama.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 17 Nebraska (9-2)

Can a 10-win season be described as workmanlike?

Next: at Iowa, Friday.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 18 Houston (9-2)

Healthy and focused, the Cougars can play with just about anyone.

Next: at Memphis.

Heat check: Too cold

No. 19 West Virginia (8-2)

Justin Crawford against Oklahoma became the third FBS player this season to run for at least 300 yards. And the first whose team lost.

Next: at Iowa State.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 20 Boise State (10-1)

Jeremy McNichols has had the quietest All-America-caliber season of any running back in the country.

Next: at Air Force, Friday.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 21 Utah (8-3)

The Utes have lost three one-score games by a total of 12 points.

Next: at No. 12 Colorado.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 22 Texas A&M (8-3)

Hard to stop a late-season fade with a backup quarterback.

Next: LSU, Thursday.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 23 Washington State (8-3)

The Cougars' winning streak is over but their chance to win the Pac-12 North is very much alive.

Next: No. 6 Washington, Friday. Next: TBD.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 24 Tennessee (8-3) 

The Volunteers have allowed three 400-yard rushing games this season and are 2-1 in those games. Strange season for the Vols.

Next: at Vanderbilt.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 25 LSU (6-4)

There is no doubt the talent is top-25, but the Tigers are hard to watch.

Next: at No. 23 Texas A&M, Thursday.

Heat check: Too hot.

This article was written by Ralph D. Russo from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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