Oklahoma, Clemson, Georgia and USC took early strides in the College Football Playoff race with head-turning performances Saturday.
The Sooners and Bulldogs went on the road and bolstered their resumes with nonconference wins against Ohio State and Notre Dame, respectively, while the Tigers and Trojans defended home turf against Auburn and Stanford.
Associated Press voters noticed, placing each in favorable spots after the second full slate of games, per the AP.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1,522 points)
2. Oklahoma Sooners (1,447 points)
3. Clemson Tigers (1,380 points)
4. USC Trojans (1,324 points)
5. Penn State Nittany Lions (1,299 points)
6. Washington Huskies (1,124 points)
7. Michigan Wolverines (1,107 points)
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (1,003 points)
9. Oklahoma State Cowboys (1,002 points)
10. Wisconsin Badgers (993 points)
11. Florida State Seminoles (944 points)
12. LSU Tigers (935 points)
13. Georgia Bulldogs (882 points)
14. Louisville Cardinals (658 points)
15. Auburn Tigers (591 points)
16. Virginia Tech Hokies (559 points)
17. Miami Hurricanes (542 points)
18. Kansas State Wildcats (475 points)
19. Stanford Cardinal (364 points)
20. TCU Horned Frogs (352 points)
21. Washington State Cougars (233 points)
22. South Florida Bulls (188 points)
23. Tennessee Volunteers (159 points)
24. Florida Gators (146 points)
25. UCLA Bruins (119 points)
Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, take a bow. The Oklahoma and USC quarterbacks made Heisman and playoff statements in arguably the two most important games of the week.
Mayfield went into Ohio Stadium against a Buckeyes defense that largely flummoxed him last season and amassed 386 passing yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He outshined counterpart J.T. Barrett (183 passing yards and an interception) along the way to a 31-16 win.
"We got beat by a very good team and a quarterback that was dynamic," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said, per Mitch Stacy of the Associated Press (h/t Chicago Tribune). "I thought our defense hung in there against, like I said, a very good player."
Darnold enacted USC's own version of revenge in a 42-24 victory over the Cardinal after dropping last year's showdown by 17 points. He finished with 316 passing yards and four touchdowns, with two apiece going to Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell Jr.
While USC and Oklahoma are in ideal positions to make runs at the playoff, they may have to deal with Georgia and defending champion Clemson once they get there if Saturday was any indication.
The Bulldogs earned a hard-fought 20-19 win at Notre Dame thanks to a defense that allowed 1.5 yards per carry and zero touchdowns through the air, while Clemson proved to be the superior Tigers against Auburn by not allowing a single touchdown in a 14-6 triumph.
Clemson will remain in the spotlight moving forward because of its upcoming ACC clash with Louisville.
The Tigers won last year's matchup 42-36 in a battle defined by dynamic quarterbacks. Louisville's Lamar Jackson threw for 295 yards and ran for 162 while accounting for three touchdowns, while Clemson's Deshaun Watson threw for 306 yards and ran for 91 while tallying five touchdowns.
Watson is now on the Houston Texans, however. It will be up to the defense that allowed a mere six points to Auburn to play well again in support of new quarterback Kelly Bryant.
Elsewhere, Tennessee and Florida renew their SEC East rivalry in a contest that takes on even more importance given how formidable Georgia looked without starting quarterback Jacob Eason in its win over Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs appear to be legitimate playoff contenders behind a strong defense, and the Gators and Volunteers cannot afford to drop early conference games before they even play Georgia if they want to remain alive in the race for the SEC Championship Game.
Like Georgia, USC will be tested a week after its impressive win with a showdown against Texas. The Longhorns are looking for their first marquee win in the Tom Herman era and could use some of the magical pixie dust Vince Young used in his legendary victory over USC at the 2006 Rose Bowl.
While other games stand out more, everyone is still chasing mighty Alabama in the AP poll. The Crimson Tide face an overmatched Colorado State squad in their final game before SEC play.