The more the top eight to 11 teams nationally cement their claims to dominance, the more everyone else sinks into an indistinguishable pile of mediocrity.
Separation was on display again as 11 of the 25 teams tabbed for the ESPN Power Rankings a week ago went down in Week 10. At the top, though, all is calm. Or relatively so -- as calm as can be amid a display of superiority that makes even the Alabama and Clemson teams of the recent past raise an eyebrow.
With apologies to Michigan, which flexed its muscles in the Big House on Saturday against Penn State, Alabama and Clemson look like they're in a league of their own.
Alas, the College Football Playoff involves four teams, so plenty of drama remains. It remains even for the front-running duo, which clinched spots in their respective league title games on Saturday, along with Georgia, which surely controls its CFP fate along with the top four.
Creeping up the rankings, there's West Virginia, which gets extra credit this week for coach Dana Holgorsen's giant gamble to bypass overtime and beat Texas in Austin. Other big jumpers include Michigan State and Syracuse, thanks to nearby chaos.
1. Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC)
Week 10 result: defeated LSU 29-0
What's next: vs. Mississippi State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
What else do you want to know about the Crimson Tide? Alabama is the best team in the country, even when Tua Tagovailoa throws an interception, as he did Saturday night in the second quarter -- his first pick of the season, on his 179th pass attempt. The sophomore QB also threw two touchdowns in the first half for the ninth straight game and played in the fourth quarter for the first time this season. Not that he needed to, though, as Bama clinched its 12th appearance in the SEC title game.
2. Clemson (9-0, 6-0 ACC)
Week 10 result: defeated Louisville 77-16
What's next: at Boston College (Saturday, TBA)
The Tigers are toying with their opponents. They held the ball against Louisville for less than 23 minutes yet rushed for 492 yards, as three backs topped 100 and a defensive lineman got into the end zone on an offensive play for the second consecutive week. QB Trevor Lawrence needed to throw for just 59 yards, and Dabo Swinney's son, Will, a walk-on receiver, scored his first career TD.
3. Notre Dame (9-0)
Week 10 result: defeated Northwestern 31-21
What's next: vs. Florida State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
It's quite a statement about the sport this year when Notre Dame likely cleared its biggest remaining hurdle to the CFP on Saturday night in Evanston, even with Florida State and USC still on the schedule. The Fighting Irish are unbeaten through nine games for the first time since 2012, when they played Alabama for the national title. QB Ian Book accounted for 399 yards and three touchdowns, including a 23-yard rush with less than three minutes to play after the Wildcats had cut a 17-point deficit to three.
4. Michigan (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten)
Week 10 result: defeated Penn State 42-7
What's next: at Rutgers (Saturday, TBA)
The Wolverines are clicking on all cylinders as they head down the stretch toward a Nov. 24 trip to Ohio State that's set to determine the Big Ten East champion. Penn State on Saturday offered just another mismatch in Michigan's eighth consecutive win. Karan Higdon ran roughshod over the Nittany Lions, and Don Brown's defense, bolstered by the return of defensive tackle Rashan Gary, held PSU to 186 yards. The first Big Ten title since 2004 appears within reach.
5. Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC)
Week 10 result: defeated Kentucky 34-17
What's next: vs. Auburn (Saturday, TBA)
Long gone are the concerns of just three weeks ago. The Bulldogs are headed back to Atlanta next month after securing the SEC East title in style, marking their seventh trip to play for a conference crown. D'Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield combined to rush for 271 yards as Georgia gained 255 yards before contact on designed run plays, tied for its second-highest total over the past five years -- trailing only its total last season against these Wildcats.
6. Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1 Big 12)
Week 10 result: defeated Texas Tech 51-46
What's next: vs. Oklahoma State (Saturday, TBA)
What else to expect from OU-Tech but 1,153 yards, 97 points and an onside kick in the final seconds? The Sooners survived again, winning a fourth straight game while scoring more than 50 points. They're the second team in the AP poll era, in fact, to score 45 or more in five straight games. And QB Kyler Murray, despite tossing two interceptions, threw for 360 yards and rushed for 100. Also, Trey Sermon rushed for 206 and scored three touchdowns. Bedlam awaits.
7. LSU (7-2, 4-2 SEC)
Week 10 result: lost to Alabama 29-0
What's next: at Arkansas (Saturday, TBA)
The Tigers forced a punt on Alabama's opening possession, but little else went their way as they were held scoreless at home for just the fourth time in 25 years -- each time against the Crimson Tide. LSU was outgained by 380 yards and held to 12 yards rushing Saturday. Joe Burrow threw for 184 yards against Alabama's angry defense, but this performance was far short of the standard needed to topple the king of the SEC West. Still, a 10-win regular season is within LSU's grasp.
8. West Virginia (7-1, 5-1 Big 12)
Week 10 result: defeated Texas 42-41
What's next: vs. TCU (Saturday, TBA)
Oh, what a finish for the Mountaineers and QB Will Grier, who found Gary Jennings Jr. for a 33-yard touchdown with 16 seconds to play, then scrambled for a two-point conversion to put WVU on top in Austin for the first time since midway through the third quarter. David Sills V caught a pair of touchdowns in a battle that featured eight lead changes as the Mountaineers took a step toward the Big 12 title game, with TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma ahead on a daunting November schedule.
9. Ohio State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten)
Week 10 result: defeated Nebraska 36-31
What's next: at Michigan State (Saturday, TBA)
The Buckeyes survived a scare by dominating the Cornhuskers in the third quarter of a game that was otherwise even, at best, for Ohio State in the wake of its Week 8 loss to Purdue. J.K. Dobbins ran for 163 yards and three scores as Ohio State enjoyed its best rushing day since the season opener. Still, the five-point win raised more questions about the Buckeyes on defense and leaves this team looking more vulnerable in November than any other coached here by Urban Meyer.
10. UCF (8-0, 5-0 American)
Week 10 result: defeated Temple 52-40
What's next: vs. Navy (Saturday, TBA)
The Knights began the week without a victory over a winning team. They've got two now after their Thursday night takedown of Temple and Pitt's win over Virginia on Friday. Critics of the UCF schedule will note Temple's 670 yards of offense, the most it has gained in nearly five decades as a Division I program. But there's no denying that UCF, with an FBS-best 21 straight wins, is a machine on offense, led by QB McKenzie Milton, who accounted for four more touchdowns.
11. Washington State (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12)
Week 10 result: defeated Cal 19-13
What's next: at Colorado (Saturday, TBA)
The Cougars denied Cal's attempt to upset both Apple Cup competitors in an eight-day span, winning it on Gardner Minshew's 10-yard pass to Easop Winston with 32 seconds to play. WSU and its star QB looked a few steps off all night. Maybe that's a credit to the Bears -- or maybe it's just the nature of Pac-12 football this year. Either way, it's still a long road to the CFP for Wazzu.
12. Kentucky (7-2, 5-2 SEC)
Week 10 result: lost to Georgia 34-17
What's next: at Tennessee (Saturday, TBA)
The Wildcats got their coveted shot to make a statement and fell short against the undisputed top team in the SEC East. Georgia gouged the Wildcats for 331 rushing yards in Lexington and held UK to just three points on three consecutive possessions that crossed midfield in the first half. Kentucky, the only FBS team that hadn't allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, allowed 20 in the second half alone.
13. Mississippi State (6-3, 3-3 SEC)
Week 10 result: defeated Louisiana Tech 45-3
What's next: at Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Go ahead and look for a better team than the Bulldogs that has won just half of its league games. You won't. MSU won big in a trap-game environment against a bowl-eligible Group of 5 foe, as QB Nick Fitzgerald threw for four touchdowns and rushed for 107 yards to lead an attack that gained 532 yards. It'll be a lot more difficult next week, but MSU gave Alabama a big scare last year.
14. Michigan State (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten)
Week 10 result: defeated Maryland 24-3
What's next: vs. Ohio State (Saturday, TBA)
Quarterback Brian Lewerke returned for the Spartans and Connor Heyward rushed for 157 yards and two scores, becoming the first MSU back to reach 100 yards this season. But the story in College Park was the Spartans' defense. It held Maryland to 100 yards a week after the Terps put up 712 on Illinois. It was the third-lowest total allowed in 12 years under coach Mark Dantonio -- quite a performance as MSU readies to host Ohio State.
15. Texas (6-3, 4-2 Big 12)
Week 10 result: lost to West Virginia 42-41
What's next: at Texas Tech (Saturday, TBA)
It was a massive blow for the Longhorns, who lost for the second straight week in classic Big 12 fashion. QB Sam Ehlinger again accounted for four touchdowns, the first such achievement by a Texas QB since Colt McCoy in 2009. The Horns were severely short-handed on defense, as Brandon Jones, Davante Davis and Breckyn Hager left with injuries. Texas is not finished, with big games ahead against Texas Tech and Iowa State, but it'll need a lot of help.
16. Syracuse (7-2, 4-2 ACC)
Week 10 result: defeated Wake Forest 41-24
What's next: vs. Louisville (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Jarveon Howard ran for two touchdowns during a 28-point burst for the Orange, who overcame a 10-0 deficit behind the versatile play of QB Eric Dungey and an opportunistic defense. Syracuse forced three turnovers and recorded six sacks in winning its third straight, following back-to-back losses by a combined 11 points to Clemson and Pitt that remain the only blemishes on its record.
17. Florida (6-3, 4-3 SEC)
Week 10 result: lost to Missouri 38-17
What's next: vs. South Carolina (Saturday, TBA)
It was another flop for Florida against Missouri and QB Drew Lock, who completed 24 of 32 throws for 250 yards. The Gators looked flat a week after their bid to win the SEC East was thwarted by Georgia. Still, this came as a surprise, as Missouri entered without a league win this season. QB Feleipe Franks was benched late in the third quarter for Kyle Trask, who directed a touchdown drive. But Franks appears set to stay in command of the offense.
18. Iowa State (5-3, 4-2 Big 12)
Week 10 result: defeated Kansas 27-3
What's next: vs. Baylor (Saturday, TBA)
One of the nation's most improved teams since September, the Cyclones won their fourth straight after a 1-3 start. They're unbeaten since true freshman Brock Purdy took over last month at QB. He threw three touchdowns at Kansas, including strikes of 83 and 51 yards to 6-foot-6 wideout Hakeem Butler in the first quarter. Iowa State, which plays at Texas in two weeks, controls its fate in its quest to reach the Big 12 title game.
19. Penn State (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
Week 10 result: lost to Michigan 42-7
What's next: vs. Wisconsin (Saturday, TBA)
That's three losses in six weeks for the Nittany Lions, who dropped out of contention for the Big Ten title after losing their sixth straight game against a ranked team on the road under James Franklin. Those six defeats have come by an average of 24.2 points. Trace McSorley, fighting through injury, completed 5 of 13 passes at Michigan for 83 yards. Although Penn State avoided its first shutout since 2001, there was no silver lining in Ann Arbor.
20. Northwestern (5-4, 5-1 Big Ten)
Week 10 result: lost to Notre Dame 31-21
What's next: at Iowa (Saturday, TBA)
Nothing gained and really nothing lost for the Wildcats amid a strange season in which they dropped to 0-3 in nonconference play but firmly control their path to the Big Ten championship game. Northwestern still hasn't beaten an AP top-five team since 1959, losing its 38th straight attempt, but a trip to face wounded Iowa on the road matters most.
21. Purdue (5-4, 4-2 Big Ten)
Week 10 result: defeated Iowa 38-36
What's next: at Minnesota (Saturday, TBA)
The Boilermakers won their third straight at home after three consecutive losses to open the season. David Blough led Purdue back in the final four minutes, handing off to Spencer Evans for the game-winning, 25-yard field goal that keeps Purdue alive -- but in need of help from Northwestern -- in the Big Ten West race. Terry Wright caught three touchdown passes as the Boilers became the first unranked conference team since Illinois to beat three ranked teams.
22. Washington (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12)
Week 10 result: defeated Stanford 27-23
What's next: open week
Benched for a loss at Cal a week ago, QB Jake Browning led the Huskies to just their second win in six years over Stanford. Browning threw for 194 yards and a TD, and Myles Gaskin rushed for 148. UW held Stanford to 77 yards on the ground and intercepted K.J. Costello three times, including the game clincher in the end zone by safety Taylor Rapp as time expired. Maybe Washington is back on track. It can still win the league, after all.
23. NC State (6-2, 3-2 ACC)
Week 10 result: defeated Florida State 47-28
What's next: vs. Wake Forest (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Something about consecutive losses to Clemson and Syracuse made us want to forget the Wolfpack. Don't do it. QB Ryan Finley, receiver Jakobi Meyers and the running back duo of Reggie Gallaspy II and Ricky Person Jr. powered NC State to an impressive win. In the process, it pushed Florida State back below .500 and closer to missing a bowl for the first time since 1981.
24. UAB (8-1, 6-0 C-USA)
Week 10 result: defeated UTSA 52-3
What's next: vs. Southern Miss (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
The Blazers march on, winning a program-record seventh straight game to remain unbeaten in league play. Freshman QB Tyler Johnston III threw three first-half touchdowns in his first collegiate start. UAB was not ranked in the first CFP poll, and it might have to win at Texas A&M in two weeks to get noticed by the committee.
25. Fresno State (8-1, 5-0 MWC)
Week 10 result: defeated UNLV 48-3
What's next: at Boise State (Friday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Wondering whether the Bulldogs noticed that Illinois scored 55 on Minnesota on Saturday, hours before they put a hurting on UNLV for their seventh straight win. Fresno State's Week 2 loss to the Gophers separates the Mountain West front-runner from a perfect record and a decent shot at the Group of 5 spot in a New Year's Six bowl. It could still happen, but the margin for error is slim, as Boise State and the blue turf beckon.