October brings separation to college football as the playoff contenders start to emerge — especially this week.
This weekend for the first time in 14 years, there are three games matching teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press college football poll. It will be the ninth time in the history of the AP poll that at least three top-10 games will be played in the same regular-season week.
No. 3 Louisville can take a commanding lead in the ACC Atlantic race at No. 5 Clemson. Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals already have beaten Florida State and the conference schedule after this looks very manageable.
No. 4 Michigan faces the last and toughest of its five straight games in the Big House to start the season against No. 8 Wisconsin.
A clear Pac-12 North front-runner will emerge on Friday night when No. 7 Stanford faces No. 10 Washington.
For those looking to reminisce, the last time there were three top-10 games in one weekend was Oct. 6, 2002, and the higher ranked team won each game. No. 1 Miami beat No. 9 Florida State; No. 2 Oklahoma defeated No. 3 Texas and No. 6 Georgia beat No. 10 Tennessee. The average margin of victory was six points.
UConn (plus 28) at No. 6 Houston
The only game the Cougars have lost under Tom Herman was at UConn last season with QB Greg Ward Jr. hurt … HOUSTON 42-10.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
No. 7 Stanford (plus 3) at No. 10 Washington
Both starting cornerbacks are out injured for the Cardinal against QB Jake Browning, who leads the Pac-12 in efficiency rating (194.88) … WASHINGTON 28-23.
No. 3 Louisville (minus 2) at No. 5 Clemson
A chance for Deshaun Watson to slow down Jackson’s sprint toward the Heisman Trophy … CLEMSON 38-35.
No. 8 Wisconsin (plus 10½) at No. 4 Michigan
The Wolverines have not beaten a team ranked in the top 10 since 2008, a string of 11 consecutive losses … MICHIGAN 28-14.
No. 11 Tennessee (minus 3½) at No. 25 Georgia
The Vols snapped a five-game losing streak to the Bulldogs last year and have not won in Athens since 2006 … TENNESSEE 28-21.
SAME CONFERENCE, DIFFERENT WORLDS
Kentucky (plus 35) at No. 1 Alabama
The Crimson Tide is 36-2-1 against the Wildcats; last loss 1997 … ALABAMA 50-10.
Rutgers (plus 38) at No. 2 Ohio State
The first meetings came the last two seasons. Total score: Ohio State 105, Rutgers 24 … OHIO STATE 45-3.
No. 9 Texas A&M (minus 18) at South Carolina
Aggies QB Trevor Knight ranks second in the SEC in total offense at 340.8 yards per game … TEXAS A&M 35-13
North Carolina (plus 11) at No. 12 Florida State
The Seminoles are second in the ACC in plays of at least 10 yards (76); Tar Heels are third (72) … FLORIDA STATE 45-31.
No. 13 Baylor (minus 17) at Iowa State
The Bears have averaged 55 points in winning three straight against the Cyclones … BAYLOR 55-24.
No. 14 Miami (minus 7) at Georgia Tech
Hurricanes coach Mark Richt is 8-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, but the Yellow Jackets are looking to avoid consecutive home ACC losses … GEORGIA TECH 24-21, UPSET SPECIAL.
Illinois (plus 21) at No. 15 Nebraska
The Cornhuskers’ turnover margin is plus-6; last year it was minus-12 … NEBRASKA 48-17, BEST BET.
Memphis (plus 14½) at No. 16 Mississippi
The Tigers upset the Rebels last season … OLE MISS 42-21.
No. 17 Michigan State (minus 7) at Indiana
The Spartans last lost consecutive games in 2012 and last lost to the Hoosiers in 2006 … MICHIGAN STATE 31-27.
No. 18 Utah (plus 2½) at California
QB Troy Williams gives the Utes a better chance to keep up in high-scoring games … UTAH 35-30.
Oklahoma (pick’em) at No. 21 TCU
The Sooners are trying to avoid their worst start (1-3) since going 0-4 to begin 1996 season … TCU 32-28.
No. 22 Texas (plus 3) at Oklahoma State
Seven straight wins for the road team in this series … TEXAS 35-30.
No. 23 Florida (minus 10) at Vanderbilt
Another week of Austin Appleby at quarterback for the Gators … FLORIDA 24-17.
Utah State (plus 19½) at No. 24 Boise State
The Aggies snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Broncos last season … BOISE STATE 42-17.
No. 19 San Diego State (minus 19) at South Alabama
The Aztecs have won 13 straight games … SAN DIEGO STATE 34-17.
Kansas State (plus 3½) at West Virginia — @rdcramer
Thanks to some weak competition and playing half a game against Missouri State because of severe weather, the Wildcats have the No. 1 defense in the nation at 179 yards allowed per game … WEST VIRGINIA 31-23.
Notre Dame (minus 10) vs. Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey— @nickfeely
The Irish, with a new defensive coordinator, try to avoid 1-4 start, which would be their worst since going 0-5 in 2007 … NOTRE DAME 42-28.
Navy (plus 7½) at Air Force — @mikecarey25
The teams have split the last six meetings, but with Army playing well the winner is no guarantee to take the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy … AIR FORCE 29-25.
Missouri (plus 13) at LSU — @TexasTider1
New era for the Tigers, but how much can things really change in a week? … LSU 28-13.
Arizona State (plus 10) at USC — @pac12board
First Pac-12 home game for the Trojans, who are desperate for a victory … USC 38-31.
Record: Last week 14-7 straight; 10-10 vs. points.
Season: 56-19; 36-36-1.
Upset specials: 1-3.
Best bets: 0-4.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
More college football coverage at www.collegefootball.ap.org