The Associated Press college football poll is a subjective and mostly backward-looking assessment, especially late in the season.

Voters sprinkle in some speculative forecasting when trying to order the plethora of teams that have never played. Would Team A beat Team B? But mostly, a ranking is a reward for accomplishments.

On Sunday, voters in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank faced an unusual task: Where to rank an Alabama team with two losses at the end of the regular season? The Crimson Tide had not been outside the top-five in the AP poll since early November 2015, a record string of 68 straight poll appearances. The Crimson Tide had not lost more than one regular-season game since 2010.

The Tide landed at No. 9 in the latest rankings, which looked weird. According to RJ Bell of, Alabama would be favored on a neutral field against No. 5 Utah (by three points), No. 6 Oklahoma (by 2), No. 7 Florida (by 6½), and No. 8 Baylor (by 11½). No. 4 Georgia and Alabama would be a pick’em. Forward-looking advanced analytics such as ESPN’s FPI and SP+ are bullish on the Tide. Same goes for the more old-school computer Sagarin ratings.

But with only championship weekend remaining for everybody but Army and Navy, the Tide counts not one victory against another ranked team on its list of accomplishments this season.

Reality check is OK with the way the AP voters treated the Tide, though resume should not always carry the day.

No. 1 LSU (12-0)

Next: vs. No. 4 Georgia, SEC championship.

Reality check: The Tigers had a season-high six sacks against A&M. That questionable defense now ranks 28th in the country in yards per play (5.11). Not too bad.

Ranked: Too high. Yep.

No. 2 Ohio State (12-0)

Next: vs. No. 10 Wisconsin, Big Ten championship.

Reality check: Facing an offense with weapons and a pretty good plan, the Buckeyes’ D showed some vulnerability for the first time against Michigan. But offense wins championships these days and Ohio State’s got all the firepower you could want.

Ranked: Put ‘em No. 1.

No. 3 Clemson (12-0)

Next: vs. No. 22 Virginia, ACC championship.

Reality check: No one has ever been more slighted by having his team called the third-best in the country as Dabo Swinney has this season.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 4 Georgia (11-1)

Next: vs. No. 1 LSU, SEC championship.

Reality check: Even in an easy victory against Georgia Tech, QB Jake Fromm completed fewer than 50% of his passes for the fourth straight game.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 9 Alabama (10-2)

Next: TBD.

Reality check: WR Jaylen Waddle is so fast he makes fast guys look slow.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 10 Wisconsin (10-2)

Next: vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Big Ten championship.

Reality check: One bad quarter against Illinois is keeping the Badgers out of the playoff picture.

Ranked: Just right.

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