- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

One month into the college football season, determining how the nation’s best teams should be ranked largely hinges on what you think of Oregon.

The Ducks have had their worst opening in more than a decade, losing twice before October and registering nothing that could be called a quality victory.

Oregon plummeted out of the AP Top 25 on Sunday about 12 hours after absorbing one of the worst home losses in the history of the program. Utah rolled the Ducks 62-20 on Saturday night at Autzen Stadium. The Utes jumped to No. 10 in the rankings off the win.

Michigan State is still sitting at No. 2 behind top-ranked Ohio State, with a resume bolstered mostly by beating the Ducks at home.

But if Oregon isn’t ranked, what’s the big deal about beating the Ducks?

If you think Saturday night’s debacle in Eugene was an aberration, and Oregon, even with its porous defense, is still a contender to play for a Pac-12 title, then you can make the case for Utah and Michigan State.

If you see Oregon as a program about to embark on a terrible season, then it’s hard to get worked up about what the Utes and Spartans have done.

Teams that get beaten as badly as Oregon did can safely be scratched off the list of national title contenders, but define a team by its worst performance with caution.

After all, it was just over a year ago that UCLA beat Arizona State 62-27 in Tempe. The Sun Devils finished the season 10-3.

While college football Twitter is quick to discredit and downgrade many victories, Heat Check is not so cynical. Winning is hard. Let’s reward it.

No. 1 Ohio State

The Buckeyes head to Indiana, where the Hoosiers are unbeaten. Playing in a hostile environment against a feisty opponent might bring out the best in Ohio State, which has played three straight ho-hum home games.

Heat check: A little too hot.

No. 2 Michigan State

The Spartans have taken some injury hits and, yes, that victory against Oregon should be re-evaluated.

Heat check: Just like the Buckeyes, a little too hot.

No. 3 Mississippi

The Rebels could be No. 1 now on the strength of having the most impressive victory (at Alabama) and will be an obvious pick if they beat Florida in the Swamp on Saturday.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 4 TCU

The Horned Frogs have two close road victories against two pretty good Power Five teams. That’s a good thing. Also, TCU might have the best receiver in the country in Josh Doctson.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 5 Baylor

Welcome to the 2015 season, Bears! Still in prove-it mode, Baylor gets its first real test of the season against Texas Tech at AT&T; Stadium.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 6 Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have been impressive, but going to Clemson is their toughest task yet. And Will Fuller can also make a claim to the title of best receiver in the country.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 7 UCLA

A lot to like about the Bruins after they beat down Arizona in the desert. Stanford has been their kryptonite in recent years, so we’ll learn a lot more about the Bruins when they visit the Farm two Thursdays from now.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 8 Georgia

Nick Chubb keeps churning out 100-yard games (12 straight). The Bulldogs have taken care of business with no signature wins, but also no drama. Both of those could change this weekend with ‘Bama coming to Athens.

Heat check: Too hot, flip-flop Georgia and LSU.

No. 9 LSU

Heisman Trophy front-runner Leonard Fournette is the Tigers offense so far. That might be enough until a brutal November stretch run.

Heat check: Too cold, see above.

No. 10 Utah

The Ducks might be in for a rough year, but the Utes treated them like a bad Sun Belt team, and until that becomes a more routine event, Heat Check will consider it a notable achievement.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 11 Florida State

At some point, we’ll get a good read on the Seminoles. Probably not this week at Wake Forest.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 12 Clemson

This would be a good time for that Deshaun Watson Heisman run to start for the Tigers.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 14 Texas A&M;

Another example of the moving target that is judging resumes. Arizona State game, good win or no?

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 15 Oklahoma

West Virginia comes to Norman, giving the Sooners a chance to prove Heat Check right.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 16 Northwestern

At 4-0, the Wildcats are trying to bore their way to a Big Ten title.

Heat check: A tad too cold.

No. 17 Southern California

The Trojans can be so good, but that run defense is worrisome.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 18 Stanford

By the time the season is over what loss will be more puzzling? Northwestern over Stanford or Stanford over USC?

Heat check: Too cold. Flip-flop with USC.

No. 19 Wisconsin

No team in the rankings is more difficult to get excited about. It’s doubtful playing unbeaten Iowa will change that.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 20 Oklahoma State

There is no such thing as a bad road victory, but embracing what the Cowboys did at Texas is not easy.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 21 Mississippi State

Beating Auburn is not what it used to be.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 22 Michigan

The Wolverines have outscored their opponents 94-14 since leaving Salt Lake City.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 23 West Virginia

The Mountaineers enter the rankings and now face a brutal four-week schedule: at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, at Baylor, at TCU.

Heat check: Too cold, though we’ll know a lot more soon.

No. 24 California

Bears QB Jared Goff has a chance to become a very popular guy.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 25 Florida

Hard to buy in on this Gators offense, but here we are.

Heat check: Just right.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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