Washington State coach Mike Leach, known for his eccentricities, isn't always in a quirky mood, and that's probably one reason his team is undefeated.
"Busy day today, gotta watch a ton of film," he said on Sunday evening, already flipping to the Cougars' next game against Oregon and sounding unusually like most of his peers. Leach said he slept about four hours Friday night after his team's thrilling upset of USC, a win that elevated Washington State (5-0) into the College Football Playoff discussion.
What does that newfound status feel like?
"It doesn't feel like anything," he deadpanned.
Nor will it, unless Washington State and several other CFP contenders can stay focused during a week in which it would be easy to fall into a trap after a big win (looking at you, Cougs) or get caught peeking ahead to the next big game (careful, Penn State). Welcome to Week 6, where we find out who will emerge as the most consistent contenders over the first half of the season.
For No. 3 Oklahoma, the challenge is not snoozing on Iowa State before taking on Texas in the Red River Rivalry. For No. 4 Penn State, it's not overlooking a road trip to Northwestern before getting into the defining stretch of its schedule against No. 7 Michigan and No. 10 Ohio State later this month. One-loss USC has no margin for error, so it certainly can't afford to overlook Oregon State a week before hosting No. 20 Utah. And while No. 21 Notre Dame has concerns about the health of quarterback Brandon Wimbush, now is not the time to disrespect North Carolina (1-4) and look ahead to USC in two weeks' time.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said his team's quest for consistency begins as soon as the season ends.
"Building that in January and February and March -- while everybody is worrying about March Madness, we're worrying about a process," he said. "It takes care of itself when you get into this time where people are talking about playoffs and things of that nature."
If anyone knows about consistency, it's No. 2 Clemson. The defending national champs are on the heels of a critical win at No. 16 Virginia Tech. Up next is a Wake Forest team that the Tigers have beaten in eight straight meetings -- the last five by double digits -- but the Demon Deacons (4-1) will be a tougher out than in past seasons.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said his team doesn't talk about the playoff, and said nowhere in the football building is it listed as a goal. Instead, he said he measures the program's success by the players' commitment to success every day.
"We have a true windshield mentality of 'OK, what's next?'" said Swinney. "Whether you had a big loss, big win, we just move on to the next one. We get 12 opportunities and we try to maximize them and have fun doing it. As long as you put your best foot forward, which is what we are constantly evaluating and holding them accountable to, you can live with whatever results you get."
Leach celebrated Friday's result, but he also turned to the game film, where he looked for the ways the Cougars need to improve before Saturday's game against Oregon (4-1), which will be without starting quarterback Justin Herbert, who is out with a fractured collarbone.
"I thought we could run better routes," Leach said. "We dropped too many balls. Gave up some explosives on D. The big thing is we've got to do all of the good stuff we're doing a little more often and a little more precise."
While Washington State is new to the playoff picture, Oklahoma and first-year coach Lincoln Riley are not. Riley was on staff as offensive coordinator in 2015, when the Sooners were a semifinalist. He said he has confidence his players are experienced enough to know the importance of every week, regardless of the opponent.
"They've been through long seasons; they've been through championship seasons and understand the consistency you have to have, the fact we're going to get everybody's best shot," Riley said. "You've got to rely on that leadership first, and they've got to understand that at the end, the ultimate goal is to have a chance to win every single game you're in and be in position to compete for championships at the end. And the only way you can do that is to respect every team. Everybody is good enough to beat you.
"The other part of it is ... the team having a sense of urgency and understanding that if we waste this week, then we're not going to become as good as we can get. And there's always a curiosity to find out, 'Hey, how good can we get, how far can we really take this?'"
It all depends on how far they're looking ahead.
Week 6 playoff picture
Why it matters: Both teams will impact Clemson's overall strength of schedule and neither team is out of the ACC Atlantic Division race yet. Louisville needs Clemson to lose twice, which is highly unlikely considering the Tigers' toughest games are behind them. But the more the Cardinals win, the better it looks for Clemson's CFP résumé. And don't forget about NC State. The Wolfpack already defeated FSU in Tallahassee. If they can knock off Louisville, it's time to take them seriously as a challenger to Clemson.
Number to know: 0. The Cardinals are 0-6 all time on the road in ranked matchups, and three of those losses came when they were the higher-ranked team.
Why it matters: We won't learn how seriously to take Miami as a national title contender if it wins in Tallahassee, but a loss would certainly raise doubts. Miami could lose this game and still go on to win the ACC -- and potentially earn a semifinal spot as a one-loss Power 5 champ with a victory over Clemson -- but would have to go unscathed through a November schedule that includes back-to-back games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
Number to know: 34. It's been 34 years since a ranked Miami team played an unranked Florida State team. The last time was 1983, the year the Hurricanes won their first national title.
Why it matters: Because TCU doesn't want to be a flavor of the week. In order to have CFP staying power, the Horned Frogs have to build upon their road win at Oklahoma State. TCU hasn't gotten much credit nationally for its 4-0 start, but this is another chance against a ranked opponent to prove that September success was the start of something bigger.
Number to know: 17-0. TCU has never lost at home while it's been ranked in the AP top 10 under coach Gary Patterson.