With Tennessee's miracle in Athens, Washington's big win over Stanford and Clemson's epic victory over Louisville, the playoff picture is just starting to come into focus. And as the intensity heats up on the field, so does the competition off of it.
The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior editor Rob Doster:
Auburn at Mississippi State
At a glance, Auburn may look like a bit of a disappointment this season, but if you dig a little deeper, you'll find that there's a lot to like on the Plains. The Tigers' two losses were competitive games against teams currently ranked in the AP top 8 (Clemson and Texas A&M), and they own a win over LSU. Two sophomore quarterbacks — Auburn's Sean White and Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald — will duel in this one; White seems to be a little further along in his development.
Doster's pick: Auburn 28–21
Notre Dame at NC State
It's tough to know what to make of the Irish this season. The DeShone Kizer-led offense continues to pile up points, but a change in defensive coordinators didn't help much against Syracuse as the Irish allowed 33 points and almost 500 yards. NC State comes in with impressive offensive numbers, but they've come against suspect competition. If Notre Dame is to salvage anything from this season, a win in Raleigh is an absolute must.
Doster’s pick: Notre Dame 34–31
LSU at Florida
The Gators may have been smarting from the second-half beatdown they took from Tennessee as they struggled at Vanderbilt, but Jim McElwain & Co. have to sense an opening against their rivals from the Bayou. Deposed LSU coach Les Miles enjoyed success against Florida with wins in five of the last six matchups, but his sudden firing has LSU entering this game as a bit of a question mark. Under interim coach Ed Orgeron, the Tigers found a running game against Missouri. But star back Leonard Fournette is battling an ankle injury, and there is still inconsistency at quarterback.
Doster’s pick: Florida 20-17
Oklahoma vs. Texas
Charlie Strong's seat in Austin has never been hotter. The defensive specialist has seen his team shredded for 99 points in the last two games, and even extra points were an adventure in the loss to Oklahoma State. The Sooners could still prove to be the class of the Big 12, although they nearly let a big lead get away against TCU. Should they get a lead against Texas, look for Bob Stoops to keep his foot on the gas.
Doster’s pick: Oklahoma 38–24
Houston at Navy
Houston coach Tom Herman must be finding it difficult to focus on the task at hand given that his name is coming up in association with every potential big-time opening in college football. If he can limit the distractions, his Cougars should handle a Navy team coming off a disappointing loss to service academy rival Air Force.
Doster's pick: Houston 48–24
Virginia Tech at North Carolina
The Hokies have rebounded nicely from their loss to Tennessee. Justin Fuente’s club arrives in Chapel Hill coming off two consecutive routs and a bye week, meaning that they’ll be confident, rested and relatively healthy. The Hokies defense, still under the able direction of longtime coordinator Bud Foster, will be severely tested by Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who is piling up massive numbers while also doing a good job of protecting the football. Edge to the home team in this even matchup.
Doster’s pick: North Carolina 28–24
Indiana at Ohio State
The Buckeyes have barely broken a sweat in their 4–0 start, and they don't figure to sweat much this week, although the Hoosiers come in off the high of an unlikely overtime win over Michigan State. Urban Meyer's offense is humming at a historic level: 57 points and 576 yards per game. The Buckeyes could approach those numbers again this week.
Doster's pick: Ohio State 52–27
Iowa State at Oklahoma State
These two teams are at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. The Cyclones coughed up a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Baylor, while the Cowboys toyed with Texas in a 49–31 win. Iowa State is allowing 452 yards per game and figures to offer little resistance to a typically high-powered Oklahoma State offense.
Doster's pick: Oklahoma State 45–21
BYU at Michigan State
The hard-luck Cougars had lost three straight nailbiters before pulling out a 55–53 win over Toledo. Running back Jamaal Williams has quietly put together back-to-back monster weeks, including 286 yards rushing and five touchdowns against the Rockets. Michigan State has been exposed a bit in back-to-back losses, although a still-stout Spartans run defense will make things a little tougher for Williams.
Doster's pick: Michigan State 24–17
Tennessee at Texas A&M
Two coaches who entered the season feeling the pressure of expectations from impatient fan bases have bought themselves some good will. Butch Jones' Vols are living on the edge and can't rely forever on stunning comebacks and miracle finishes. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has his Aggies positioned as Alabama’s primary challengers in the SEC West thanks largely to the play of quarterback Trevor Knight, who leads a balanced, potent offense that will test a vulnerable Tennessee defense that is dealing with some injuries.
Doster's pick: Texas A&M 34–31
Colorado at USC
This could be the most important game of the Mike MacIntyre era at Colorado thus far. The resurgent Buffs have barged into the national rankings on the strength of a 47–6 demolition of Oregon State and a 2–0 start in the Pac-12. The Buffs have yet to beat USC in 10 tries, but this could be the year to do it given the Trojans' lack of consistency. Look for Colorado to stake its claim to Pac-12 legitimacy with a win in Los Angeles.
Doster's pick: Colorado 27–24
Vanderbilt at Kentucky
Two coaches in must-win mode meet in Lexington. Derek Mason's Commodores played sound defense and actually ran the ball well in a 13–6 loss to Florida, but Vandy must start making plays in the passing game. Mark Stoops is under even more pressure, although unlike Mason, he does have an SEC win under his belt already this season.
Doster's pick: Kentucky 17–14
Michigan at Rutgers
Nothing to see here; Rutgers has been dominated in its two games against teams that are currently ranked, while Michigan has cruised against lesser teams and passed its only true test in a 14–7 win over Wisconsin.
Doster’s pick: Michigan 51–14
Alabama at Arkansas
Alabama begins a three-game SEC gauntlet — Arkansas, Texas A&M, Tennessee — that will tell us all we need to know about this year's edition of the Tide. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has been better than expected this season, completing 62 percent of his passes with only once interception, and if a dominant Alabama defense plays its typical game, Hurts should provide enough points.
Doster's pick: Alabama 31–17
Georgia at South Carolina
The Dawgs suffered one of the most brutal, devastating defeats in college football history, going from euphoria to heartbreak in 10 seconds of game time. A trip to Columbia could provide some healing, although the Gamecocks have yet to be blown out.
Doster's pick: Georgia 24–17
Washington at Oregon
The tables have turned in the Great Northwest. Washington looks like a playoff contender in Chris Petersen's third season in Seattle, while Oregon is already thinking about the future and can do little more than play Pac-12 spoiler — a role they're unlikely to fill this week against a Huskies team that is brimming with confidence.
Doster’s pick: Washington 37–28
Florida State at Miami
Florida State’s winning streak in the series has reached six, the Noles’ longest streak vs. Miami since the early 1970s. But there’s a new sheriff in town for the Canes, and Mark Richt has already re-energized his alma mater, with the help of some talented players at the skill positions, namely quarterback Brad Kaaya and running backs Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby. If the Miami playmakers come through, and the Canes can pressure Noles freshman quarterback Deondre Francois into a few mistakes, the tide could turn in the series, given the Noles' recent struggles on defense.
Doster’s pick: Miami 31–28
Arizona at Utah
The Utes are coming off their first loss of the season, a game in which they failed to score on six tries inside the 10-yard line late in a 28–23 loss to Cal. Arizona's defensive struggles — the Wildcats are allowing 459 yards per game — present Utah with an opportunity to get back on track at home.
Doster's pick: Utah 31–24
UCLA at Arizona State
It's still hard to know what to make of these two teams. The Sun Devils were cruising along at 4–0 before running into an unexpected USC buzzsaw in a 41–20 loss. Consistency has been an elusive commodity for the Bruins, who did manage to play a complete game in a 45–24 win over Arizona. Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen should be able to exploit a Devils defense that is allowing almost 400 passing yards per game.
Doster's pick: UCLA 35–28
Washington State at Stanford
This is another matchup between teams coming off drastically different outings. Every Cardinal weakness was exposed in a shockingly one-sided 44–6 loss to Washington, while the Cougars showed surprising offensive balance in a 51–33 win over Oregon. Were those outcomes one-week anomalies? This game will tell us more about both teams. The Cardinal will be forced to open things up to keep pace with a Wazzu offense that is producing 44 points per game.
Doster's pick: Stanford 27–24
Last Week: 15-5