AP Top 25 Heat Check: Why is Michigan State behind Michigan?

Posted at 9:26 AM, Oct 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-09 09:26:33-04

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

Time to start talking about head-to-head results.

Michigan State entered the AP Top 25 at No. 21 on Sunday after beating a Michigan team that has been ranked no worse than 11th all season. So it was surprising and confusing to many, including Heat Check, to see the Wolverines still ranked ahead of the Spartans at No. 17.

What gives?

“I do take head-to-head into account. In this case, I like Michigan’s body of work better,” said Bob Asmussen, from the Champaign News-Gazette, who had Michigan No. 14 and Michigan State No. 22. “The win against Florida, though not great, helps. So does the win at Purdue, which I think is pretty good. Michigan State’s loss to Notre Dame was by a lopsided score. As the year moves along, I can easily see flopping them in my rankings depending on how they play.”

A brief review: Michigan State beat Michigan 14-10 on a rainy Saturday night at the Big House and the Wolverines did just about everything they could to help the Spartans’ cause. Michigan State had two first downs and no points in the second half. Michigan finished with five turnovers.

As for that body of work, the Spartans other victories are against Western Michigan, Bowling Green and Iowa. Though it should be noted the Sagarin computer ratings have Michigan State’s scheduled rated ninth best in the country to this point while Michigan’s is 32nd.

The head-to-head or body-of-work debate will rage all season, and only get more difficult for voters to weigh. Especially, when three teams each get a victory in a round-robin (think Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan last season).

At this juncture in the season, though, Heat Check prefers to let the results on the field be the guide.

No. 1 Alabama (6-0)
Since Nick Saban thinks positive press can be like “rat poison” for his team, we’ll point out the Crimson Tide played its worst game in weeks against Texas A&M.
Next: vs. Arkansas.
Heat check: Just right.

No. 2 Clemson (6-0)
Short week. Road game. Maybe playing with back-up quarterbacks, though the news on Kelly Bryant sounds encouraging . The Tigers face some adversity this week.
Next: at Syracuse, Friday.
Heat check: Too cold. Could still flip a coin between Tigers and Tide.

No. 3 Penn State (6-0)
Lots of complaints about Washington’s nonconference schedule. That’s fair, but Penn State’s wasn’t much better.
Next: vs. No. 17 Michigan, Oct. 21.
Heat check: Touch too hot.

No. 4 Georgia (6-0)
Prediction: There is going to be some very serious discussion in the coming weeks about the possibility of both Alabama and Georgia making the College Football Playoff. Sure, it’s too soon. But it is going to happen.
Next: vs. Missouri.
Heat check: Too cold. Should be No. 3.

No. 5 Washington (6-0)
Heat check stays up late. The Huskies are excellent, but the lack of signature victories has to be held against them right now.
Next: at Arizona State.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 6 TCU (5-0)
The Horned Frogs have been deemed the Big 12’s best hope for the playoff. True, but overplayed. A one-loss Oklahoma would still be very viable, especially if Ohio State keeps winning.
Next: at Kansas State.
Heat check: Too cold.

No. 7 Wisconsin (5-0)
No team in a Power Five conference is more superior to its division rivals than the Badgers are to the rest of the Big Ten West. They might win the division by three games.
Next: vs. Purdue.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 8 Washington State (6-0)
Now the Cougars get the second of back-to-back road games on a short week the way USC had it when the Trojans visited Pullman — and lost. Playing Cal should be easier.
Next: at California, Friday.
Heat check: Too cold.

No. 9 Ohio State (5-1)
No, Iowa State is not better than Ohio State, but that loss by Oklahoma did the Buckeyes no favors.
Next: at Nebraska.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 10 Auburn (5-1)
The Tigers have gotten their offense in order against some SEC softies. Really, they are a lot like Ohio State.
Next: at LSU.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 11 Miami (4-0)
Some will be tempted to downplay the Hurricanes’ victory at Florida State, but it’s a better win than most top-10 teams have.
Next: vs. Georgia Tech.
Heat check: Too cold, flip-flop Miami and Ohio State.

No. 12 Oklahoma (4-1)
Win at Ohio State. Lose at home to Iowa State. Have to admit: Little confused about what to do with the Sooners. At the least they should probably be behind USC.
Next: vs. Texas at Dallas.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 13 Southern California (5-1)
Using the Sagarin ratings, USC has played the 13th toughest schedule in the country. Among the teams ranked ahead of the Trojans, only Clemson’s SOS is better and very few are even remotely close.
Next: vs. Utah.
Heat check: Too cold.

No. 14 Oklahoma State (4-1)
Biggest accomplishment: Winning at Texas Tech.
Next: vs. Baylor.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 15 Virginia Tech (5-1)
Hokies season probably comes down to consecutive road games in November against Miami and Georgia Tech.
Next: vs. North Carolina, Oct. 21.

No. 16 Notre Dame (5-1)
The 4-8 mark from last season has been tough to wash off for the Irish, who are being underappreciated.
Next: vs. No. 13 Southern California, Oct. 21.
Heat check: Too cold.

No. 17 Michigan (4-1)
The Wolverines look like a team headed for a few more losses.
Next: at Indiana.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 18 South Florida (5-0)
The Bulls are the best-ranked of three American Athletic Conference teams in the Top 25. That’s the same number of teams as the SEC has ranked, though those SEC teams are all top 10.
Next: vs. Cincinnati.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 19 San Diego State (6-0)
Coaches like to say the toughest game left on the schedule is the next one. For San Diego State, that’s true.
Next: vs. Boise State.
Heat check: Too cold.

No. 20 North Carolina State (5-1)
Feels a little like 2015 North Carolina, which let an opener against South Carolina get away and then rolled to an 11-win season.
Next: at Pittsburgh.
Heat check: Too cold.

No. 21 Michigan State (4-1)
With one of the least experienced teams in the country, coach Mark Dantonio is leading an impressive turnaround.
Next: at Minnesota.
Heat check: Where ever you want to put the Spartans, ahead of Michigan is a good start.

No. 22 UCF (4-0)
The Knights have been so dominant they are now mercying their opponents. Not really, but a weather delay turned into a shortened game against Cincinnati because it was such a mismatch.
Next: vs. East Carolina.
Heat check: Just right.

No. 23 Stanford (4-2)
Cardinal are back in the rankings thanks in large part to RB Bryce Love, the nation’s leading rusher.
Next: vs. Oregon.
Heat check: Just right.

No. 24 Texas Tech (4-1)
The Red Raiders are no doubt improved. Should they be ranked?
Next: at West Virginia.
Heat check: Too hot.

No. 25 Navy (5-0)
Midshipmen have now made an appearance in the Top 25 three straight seasons, which hasn’t happened since the 1950s.
Next: at Memphis.
Heat check: Just right.

INSTEAD OF … Texas Tech how about Texas or maybe Georgia Tech.
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