Week 4 has come and gone, and college football now shifts to the conference play portion of its schedule. With the lion's share of non-conference games in the books, it's time to take a look at the most serious* contenders and pretenders for the 2014 College Football Playoff. Or, wait, do we call it 2015? Because technically ... you know what I mean?
* 
NC State (4-0, 0-0)
When you talk about teams in the driver's seat for the Playoff, the conversation has to start with the Wolfpack, who have roared (wolf reference) to a 4-0 start with victories over multiple-time national champion Georgia Southern, former No. 2 South Florida, Old Dominion, and Presbyterian. Jacoby Brissett can vault into the Heisman race if his team picks up wins over Atlantic Division rivals Florida State and Louisville.
Duke (4-0, 0-0)
Over in the Coastal, Duke rolled over its non-conference opponents with an average margin of victory of 32 points per game. Kansas went to the Orange Bowl and Tulane went to two Sugar Bowls and a Rose Bowl in a nine-season span — not gonna check the dates on those — so those must be high-quality wins. Couple that with Duke's appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year, and you've got the ACC's best candidate for a Playoff bid.
Florida State (3-0, 1-0)
The Seminoles have 25 percent fewer wins than the Wolfpack or Blue Devils. Sorry, we'll pass.
The actual five best right now
Few Playoff contenders escaped the weekend without major question marks, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0)
Everything might look hunky-dory for Bob Stoops and crew, but looking beneath the surface, there are some real problems here. Ranked foes Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State all have to come to Norman, and the committee won't like seeing OU refuse to play tough road games. Strength of schedule matters, people!
Indiana (2-1, 0-0)
There's no room for error in Bloomington, with the loss already on the record, but the Hoosiers have already begun making up for it by winning at Missouri. That'll be the biggest non-conference win in the Big Ten this year, and the committee will notice that. Indiana has opportunities for several more high-profile victories against Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. With any luck, Michigan's slide into the basement won't harm the Hoosiers' strength of schedule too badly.
Minnesota (3-1, 0-0)
If a Big Ten champion is 12-1 at the end of the year, that team's in, right? Minnesota just beat San Jose State by 17 while completing just one pass in the process. What happens when Minnesota completes, like, 10 passes in a game? That's a blowout in the making! The 35-24 victory over Middle Tennessee State is a strong spot on the resume, too; the middle of Tennessee is where all the good football is. That's just a higher concentration of quality!
Michigan State (2-1, 0-0)
The Spartans may be ranked the highest of anyone in the Big Ten, but it doesn't exactly take a powerhouse to beat Jacksonville State and Eastern Michigan, the only two pelts in Michigan State's collection. Sure, running wild through the Big Ten will look good in terms of a strict wins-and-losses perspective, but is there anything on the field that suggests Michigan State is better than NOTED CONTENDER Minnesota? No, there's not.
Nebraska (4-0, 0-0)
The Huskers needed a miracle play from Ameer Abdullah to get past FCS punching bag McNeese State, and if beating Miami were any great accomplishment, then how has rinky-dinker Virginia done it five times in the last eight years? Tommy Armstrong? Maybe, but Tommy Armaccurate would be more beneficial to Nebraska.
Arizona (4-0, 1-0)
The Wildcats led off their Pac-12 campaign with a thrilling, 49-45 comeback victory over Cal, capped by a Hail Mary touchdown in the dying seconds. That was part of a 36-point fourth quarter for Arizona, which is more than all but 30 FBS teams scored in their entire games in Week 4. Look, we're not math gods here, but any undefeated team that's capable of scoring at a 144-points-per-game pace in college football and can bust out a successful Hail Mary when necessary stands a great chance of running the table.
Washington (4-0, 0-0)
It's been no Sark, no problem for the Huskies, who are one of only 14 teams with a 4-0 record in the FBS thus far. Also, we've dug through the stats for this gem: every single team that's ever finished with a perfect record in college football, including the Huskies' title-winning 1991 squad, started out 4-0*. Can't argue with history, folks.
* Exceptions: teams that finished 1-0, 2-0, or 3-0.
Oregon (4-0, 1-0)
There's no pride, no glory in beating up on an FCS team and a member of the hapless Big Ten, and that (plus a win over Wyoming) is all Oregon did with its non-conference slate. A 38-31 victory over lowly Washington State in the Pac-12 opener only confirmed Oregon's mediocrity.
Florida (2-1, 1-1)
If there's any conference where you can get away with an early loss, it's the SEC, and Florida has a lot to build off of: forcing four turnovers, scoring three touchdowns against Alabama, the nine passes QB Jeff Driskell did complete ... I, we could go on and on. The point is, Florida still controls its own destiny on the path to the SEC Championship, and the Gators' 7-3 all-time record there speaks for itself. Gotta think the road to at least one Playoff berth still goes through Gainesville.
Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0)
Quarterback Dak Prescott is the story of the year in the SEC until further notice, and Mississippi State has already dispatched one of five top-10 teams on its schedule. Hey, the committee loves big wins, and beating half of the top-10 would turn a few heads.
Alabama (4-0, 1-0)
Don't look now, but Alabama is still undefeated. The Crimson Tide may not be able to sell a comically easy non-conference schedule to the Playoff committee, but the potential for a decent win or two in conference play is there for this upstart program. Hats off to head coach Nick Saban for getting his team this far already.
Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0)
I'd be more impressed if A&M faced Kendrick Lamar than by the 73-3 win it got over FCS foe Lamar, and the committee is sure to agree. Sure, beating South Carolina to start the season was impressive, but Kevin Sumlin hasn't gotten out of an SEC schedule with fewer than two losses yet (and only finished better than 6-2 in the C-USA once). Further, A&M must travel to NOTED CONTENDER Mississippi State in just two weeks; does the Aggie dream die in Starkville?