'Top Ten Throwdown:' How rare are three top-10 games in one week?

Christian McCaffrey had 300 all-purpose yards last season against Washington. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Week 5 of the college football schedule features a “Top Ten Throwdown,” with three matchups between teams in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll:

•No. 3 Louisville at No. 5 Clemson, 8 p.m. ET (ABC/WatchESPN)

•No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 8 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/WatchESPN)

•No. 7 Stanford at No. 10 Washington, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN/WatchESPN)

This is the earliest in a season we have had three such matchups in one week, and this is the first time we’ve had such a week at any point in a season since 2002. It’s also the first time since November 1978 that there have been three top-10 matchups with all of them being conference games.

Week 8, 2002: Higher seeds pull rank

On Oct. 12, 2002, each of the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the AP poll faced top-10 challenges. No. 1 Miami, then in the Big East, was host to No. 9 Florida State, and No. 2 Oklahoma met No. 3 Texas in Dallas. The third top-10 game was No. 6 Georgia playing host to No. 10 Tennessee.

Miami, the reigning national champion, survived with a 28-27 win in the “Wide Left” game (after three “Wide Right” games and before the fourth “Wide Right,” in the 2004 Orange Bowl). The Hurricanes repeated as national champions in the 2002 season, capping their run with a win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

The higher-ranked team also won in the other two top-10 games in Week 8 of 2002: Oklahoma beat Texas 35-24, and Georgia defeated Tennessee 18-13.

Week 11, 1978: Top 10 games in conference play

Two of the conferences involved in the Nov. 11, 1978, version of the “Top Ten Throwdown” no longer exist. No. 8 Houston went on the road to beat No. 6 Texas 10-7 in the Southwest Conference, and No. 4 Nebraska took down No. 1 Oklahoma 17-14 in a Big 8 clash in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In the only one of the three games in which the higher-ranked team won, No. 3 Alabama was a 31-10 winner over No. 10 LSU in Birmingham, Alabama.

In the bowl season, Oklahoma avenged its loss to Nebraska, beating the Cornhuskers 31-24 in the Orange Bowl. Then-No. 2 Alabama made a fourth-quarter goal-line stand against No. 1 Penn State and won the Sugar Bowl 14-7.

The Crimson Tide were voted the AP national champions. Southern California, which in Week 4 handed the Tide their only loss of the season, was No. 1 in the final coaches poll.

Historical context for this week's teams

No. 10 Washington hasn’t been in a top-10 matchup since Week 7 of 2001, when the No. 10 Huskies lost to No. 7 UCLA. Washington hasn’t been the home team in a top-10 meeting since 1997 and hasn’t won a top-10 matchup since the 1991 season, when the No. 2 Huskies beat No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl and shared the national championship with Miami.

Stanford has never lost a Friday game as a ranked team. The Cardinal are 8-0 in such games, winning by an average of 14 points. Six of those eight wins have come under David Shaw, in his sixth season as the Cardinal's coach.

No. 3 Louisville plays at No. 5 Clemson in this season’s first top-five matchup. Louisville is seeking its second top-five win of the season, having beaten then-No. 2 Florida State on Sept. 17. Four schools in ACC history have won multiple top-five games in one season, and all four won the national championship that season (1981 Clemson, 1993 Florida State, 1999 Florida State and 2013 Florida State).

The last ACC top-five matchup without Florida State involved was in 2005, when No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Virginia Tech.

When No. 8 Wisconsin plays No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it will be the second time in 65 meetings that these two teams play while each was in the AP top 10. The first came in 1947, when No. 2 Michigan defeated No. 9 Wisconsin 40-6.

Wisconsin is seeking its third AP top-10 win of the season, which would be its most in one season in school history. This season marks the first time since 1962 the Badgers have defeated multiple top-10 teams (LSU and Michigan State).

Michigan hasn’t beaten an AP top-10 team since 2008, when it beat No. 9 Wisconsin 27-25 (Rich Rodriguez’s fourth game as Michigan coach). The Wolverines have lost 12 straight against top-10 opponents, with two of those losses coming under Jim Harbaugh.