Jim Harbaugh

Last week, four teams ranked in the AP top 10 lost and while the top two teams did win, their performances were rather unconvincing. Michigan State dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 after sweating it out against Purdue. Ohio State hung on to No. 1 despite barely beating Indiana, which played most of the game with a backup quarterback and running back.

But as we noted, polls don't matter anymore. The committee in charge of playoff pairings is not concerned with the week-to-week minutiae, but rather the totality of the season. What that means is, if you're a Power 5 team, as long as you're still on track to win your conference, you're in the race.

The process of elimination has begun. And even in early October, some preseason favorites are already out and some are on life support. Here’s the full list of this week’s national TV games, and these are what you – and the committee – must see:

Game of the Week

Northwestern at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN

Surprise, surprise, these might be the two best teams in the Big Ten, defying the expectations of pretty much everyone. At the very least, Northwestern and Michigan feature two of the country's top defenses, with the Wildcats allowing just 35 points through five games while the Wolverines are coming off back-to-back shutouts.

Neither team is an offensive juggernaut, so this should boil down to a defensive struggle with the team that makes the fewest mistakes on offense coming out on top. The loser of this game is actually not at all out of the conference title race -- as the two teams are in different divisions -- and there's a chance that they might meet again in the Big Ten championship game.

Other games the committee will be watching

Washington at USC, 9 p.m. ET (Thursday), ESPN

Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Florida at Missouri, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

TCU at Kansas State, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX

California at Utah, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN

Conference races have begun in earnest, and it's particularly crucial in the Big 12, which plays a true round-robin and there is no conference title game. Both Kansas State and West Virginia, coming off their respective first losses of the season, will have a chance to play spoiler this week by pinning a first loss on one of the conference's front-runners.

The surprise team of the SEC has been Florida, which is the only unbeaten team in the East Division and already 3-0 in conference play. A victory over two-time defending division champ Missouri will put the Gators in prime position to advance to their first SEC title game since the Urban Meyer-Tim Tebow era.

In the Pac-12, we find this week's only game featuring two unbeaten teams. Utah has rocketed up the polls after a sensational rout of Oregon two weeks ago while Cal has quietly improved to 5-0 behind the play of Heisman candidate QB Jared Goff. The winner of this game will become Pac-12's lone undefeated team, but with the divisional races still a long way to go, it guarantees nothing.

Also keep an eye on …

Navy at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Notre Dame's playoff hopes have considerably dimmed after a last-ditch comeback against Clemson fell short last week. But a loss to undefeated Navy will extinguish those flickering hopes for sure. Moreover, the Irish can ill-afford to look ahead to their showdown against USC in two weeks as Navy always gives them fits with its triple-option attack.

The Midshipmen themselves have a ton to play for, actually. They're now in a conference and are in line to claim a New Year's Six bowl slot. A victory over Notre Dame in tandem with winning the American Athletic crown will almost certainly put them at the top of Group of Five contenders.

Despicable Meet

Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas, noon ET, ABC

Charlie Strong

The Longhorns are in deep trouble. Last week, TCU jumped out to a 30-0 lead in the first quarter before only slightly easing up to a 50-7 victory. Don't expect Oklahoma to take pity on a Texas outfit that's shown more fight with each other via Twitter than on the field.

While Charlie Strong purportedly still has the backing of the administration, the natives are restless. Texas is 1-4, with its lone victory over Rice. More troubling is that the team has not improved -- and has in fact regressed -- during the season and there's considerable dysfunction in the locker room. Getting humiliated by its rival at the Cotton Bowl will only erode whatever support Strong is getting.

There are other mismatches around the country. But as dumpster fires go, it's hard to take your eyes off Texas right now.

Last week’s Despicable Meet: LSU 44, Eastern Michigan 22.

Related: Understanding How Playoff System Really Works

-- Samuel Chi is the managing editor of RealClearSports.com and proprietor of College Football Exchange. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePlayoffGuru.

College Football Coaches Working At Alma Mater

 

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

As a junior in 1985, Harbaugh led the Wolverines to a final national ranking of No. 2 after a 10–1–1 season that culminated with a win against Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. Harbaugh finished third in the Heisman voting as a senior while leading Michigan to the Big Ten championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines lost to Arizona State 22-15. Harbaugh was the Bears' first-round pick in 1987 and played 14 NFL seasons.

 

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Harbaugh is headed back to Ann Arbor after four seasons with the 49ers that included three consecutive NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance. In his fourth and final season at Stanford, Harbaugh led the Cardinal to a 12-1 record, a win against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl and a final national ranking of No. 4.

 

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Beamer was a three-year starter at cornerback for the Hokies in the 60s, when Virginia Tech twice went to the Liberty Bowl after nearly two decades of not going to a bowl at all. After working his way up the coaching ranks, Beamer became Virginia Tech coach in 1987.

 

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Under Beamer, Virginia Tech has had 22 consecutive winning seasons and bowl appearances, including six BCS games. The Hokies just capped their 2014 season by defeating Cincinnati 33-17 in the Military Bowl in Annapolis as Beamer worked the game from the press box while recovering from throat surgery. He has turned down opportunities to leave Virginia Tech.

 

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Gundy was the Cowboys quarterback in the late 80s when he shared a backfield with Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, and helped the team win two bowl games. Gundy's streak of throwing 138 passes without an interception to begin his career stood as an NCAA record until Robert Griffin III broke it in 2008. He began his coaching career as an assistant with Oklahoma State. He also held assistant posts at Baylor and Maryland.

 

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

After serving as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Gundy was promoted to head coach when Les Miles left for LSU in 2005. The program progressed gradually under Gundy, with the highlight being the 2011 season that featured a Big 12 championship, a 41–38 win against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl and a final national ranking of No. 3.

 

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Fitzgerald was a two-time All American linebacker who helped the Wildcats win back-to-back Big Ten championships in the mid-90s. In 1995 he won the Nagurski and Bednarik awards as the nation's best defensive player. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

 

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Fitzgerald was thrust into the job at age 40 when Wildcats coach Randy Walker died suddenly in the summer of 2006. Fitzgerald led Northwestern to its first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl by beating Mississippi State in the 2013 Gator Bowl. But the team has struggled with consecutive 5-7 finishes after that 10-3 season.

 

David Shaw, Stanford

Shaw was a receiver for the Cardinal in the early 90s, under coaches Dennis Green and Bill Walsh. He made 57 receptions for 664 yards and five touchdowns. Shaw was an assistant for nine years in the NFL with the Eagles, Raiders and Ravens. He joined Jim Harbaugh's staff at University of San Diego in 2006.

 

David Shaw, Stanford

When Harbaugh got the job at Stanford, Shaw came him with him as offensive coordinator. Then after Harbaugh was hired by the 49ers in 2011, Shaw was named his successor at Stanford. The Cardinal won the Pac-12 championship in 2012 and 2013.

 

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury won the Sammy Baugh Award as the nation's best passer in 2002 when he threw for 4,445 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Kingsbury appeared in one NFL game with the Jets in 2005. He began coaching with the University of Houston in 2008. He was Texas A&M's offensive coordinator in 2012 when Johnny Manziel won the Heisman.

 

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury was hired as Texas Tech coach in December 2012 after Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati. The Red Raiders went 8-5 in 2013, including a 37-23 win against Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Injury issues contributed to a 4-8 season in 2014.

 

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Chryst was the Badgers quarterback in the mid-80s. His coaching career has included stints with the old World League of American Football and the CFL as well as college programs, including Oregon State and Illinois State. He had two separate tenures as a Wisconsin assistant, first as tight ends coach and then as offensive coordinator.

 

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

After seven seasons as offensive coordinator with the Badgers, Chryst became Pitt head coach in 2012. He went 19-19 in two seasons with the Panthers. When Gary Andersen left Wisconsin for Oregon State after the 2014 season, the Badgers hired Chryst.

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