The national championship picture is beginning to round into form entering Week 6 of the 2013 college football season, and in the recent AP poll, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide still reign superior.
Head coach Nick Saban's team is a perfect 4-0 and look well on their way to returning to the BCS national title game, but there are other competitors that have gotten off to similarly strong starts.
Oregon is ranked second, receiving the remaining five first-place votes. The Ducks' high-octane offense hasn't let up since the NFL departure of ex-coach Chip Kelly.
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Source: Associated Press
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Any notion of an upset last week to the Ole Miss Rebels was squashed by a smothering Crimson Tide defense, which shut out its SEC rivals 25-0.
Who is the worthiest challenger to Alabama?
The most difficult game remaining on Alabama's schedule falls on Nov. 9, when the current No. 10 LSU Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa.
Otherwise, there appears to be a great chance for the Tide to finish the regular season with a perfect record, considering the lack of ranked competition from here on out.
Quarterback AJ McCarron is having a lackluster campaign to date, but the senior's four-touchdown performance against Texas A&M saved Alabama in an early-season test. It should only get better for McCarron from here.
As long as sophomore RB T.J. Yeldon keeps averaging nearly 100 yards per contest, and the defense remains stout, the Tide are in great shape.
A stress-free test in Georgia State awaits at home in Week 6, where the Tide should roll to 5-0 with ease.
No. 2 Oregon Ducks
The up-tempo offense looks unstoppable, although it is worth noting that the Ducks haven't been too challenged to date.
Second-year starting signal-caller Marcus Mariota is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, according to ESPN.com's list. Even an ankle injury to playmaker De'Anthony Thomas on the opening kickoff of last week's 55-16 drubbing of Cal shouldn't slow down the offensive onslaught.
Every time Mariota touches the ball, he's a threat. In addition to averaging 9.37 yards per pass attempt, he leads the country in yards per carry, per GoDucks.com's Rob Moseley:
The nation's leading rusher in terms of yards per carry? Marcus Mariota, at 14.05 yards per attempt.— Rob Moseley (@DuckFootball) September 29, 2013
Not only is Oregon first in the nation in rushing and second in points per game, but it also sports the fourth-ranked scoring defense.
A road trip to Colorado shouldn't provide much resistance, but it will be interesting to see how the Ducks respond in a road clash with Pac-12 foe Washington on Oct. 12.
Thereafter, a home showdown with 12th-ranked UCLA and a subsequent trip to No. 5 Stanford await. Those games should decide who emerges as the cream of the crop in the conference.
No. 3 Clemson Tigers
Among the top five teams that are undefeated, Clemson has to have the most impressive resume.
After beating Georgia to start the season, the Tigers survived on the road against ACC rival North Carolina State.
With a little extra time to prepare for this past Saturday's clash with Wake Forest, quarterback Tajh Boyd and Co. lit up the scoreboard in a 56-7 blowout.
Boyd and star wide receiver Sammy Watkins are forming an excellent combination to drive Clemson's passing game, which is complemented by a solid running game driven by the dual-threat Boyd and senior RB Roderick McDowell.
The Carrier Dome's hostile environment awaits the Tigers when they square off with the Syracuse Orange this weekend, but that adverse hurdle should be cleared to keep their national title hopes alive.
As long as Tigers defensive end Vic Beasley (six sacks in four games) can keep wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks and the offense keeps operating smoothly, Clemson has a great shot to run the table.
An enormous showdown looms on Oct. 19 in Death Valley, though, when the Florida State Seminoles and superstar QB Jameis Winston come to town.