Week 7 of the 2013 college football season is set to commence on Thursday, Oct. 10 when the No. 8 Louisville Cardinals host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That game will mark the beginning of a three-day period in which the national championship picture becomes a little more clear as pretenders fade away.
The question is: How are the top contenders looking entering Week 7?
Record: 5-0, 3-0 Pac-12
AP Poll: No. 5
USA Today Coaches Poll: No. 5
The Stanford Cardinal are ranked No. 5 in both the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls. With a balanced attack offensively and a high-quality defense, Stanford has one of the best rosters in the nation.
During Week 6, the Cardinal showed just how deep it is.
It wasn't without controversy, but Stanford took down the No. 16 Washington Huskies by a score of 31-28. It was the first time all season that Washington had scored fewer than 30 points, and the win marked Ty Montgomery's development into an all-around star.
That's a label that's often overused, but Montgomery had two critical touchdowns: one receiving and one returning a kickoff.
This has been the way Stanford has won games, using a constantly revolving door of playmakers to step up in opportune moments. Even as Kevin Hogan struggled against Washington, the Cardinal ran for 179 yards, and the team's defense and special teams shone.
Resiliency is just as important to a team's national title contention as skill.
Stanford will go on the road to play the Utah Utes, which is never an easy task for any team. From there, the Cardinal will face the No. 11 UCLA Bruins, 4-1 Oregon State Beavers and No. 2 Oregon Ducks in consecutive outings.
This season isn't going to get any easier for Stanford, but there's no reason to doubt them just yet.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 6-0, 2-0 Big Ten
AP Poll: No. 4
USA Today Coaches Poll: No. 3
The Ohio State Buckeyes had back-to-back games against teams that are good enough to win 10 games. The results were similar, albeit achieved in different manners, and Ohio State improved to 6-0.
Now, the Buckeyes are No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 4 in the AP Poll.
During Week 5, Braxton Miller threw four touchdown passes to lead Ohio State to a 31-24 win over the Wisconsin Badgers. In Week 6, Miller wasn't at his best, but running back Carlos Hyde carried the ball 26 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
In the end, Ohio State remained the class of the Big Ten and achieved its 18th consecutive win.
Ohio State doesn't have another ranked opponent on the schedule until the final week of the season, when it plays the Michigan Wolverines. Even without Top 25 rankings, Ohio State's opponents are the rugged, upset-minded squads that the Big Ten often produces.
After a bye in Week 7, Ohio State will move on to face the 4-2 Iowa Hawkeyes on Oct. 19.
Ohio State deserves to be in the national championship picture, especially after going 12-0 during the 2012 season. Until they falter, the Buckeyes will continue to be the hottest team in college football outside of Alabama.
Like it or not, 18 straight wins is the only number we need to talk about.
Record: 5-0, 3-0 ACC
AP Poll: No. 3
USA Today Coaches Poll: No. 4
The Clemson Tigers are ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll and No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Since defeating the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs 38-35 in their season opener, three of Clemson's past four wins have come by at least 30 points.
Should Clemson get by the Boston College Eagles on Oct. 12, the Tigers will face the No. 6 Florida State Seminoles in a game that could decide which ACC team contends for the national title.
Tajh Boyd has become a Heisman Trophy candidate by throwing for 1,449 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions on a completion percentage of 66.0. He's also run for four touchdowns to help Clemson overcome the departure of Andre Ellington.
With Sammy Watkins at wide receiver, Clemson's offense can compete with the best—just ask Georgia.
With a Week 7 meeting against Boston College looming, it'll be critical for the Tigers to avoid to the "looking ahead" syndrome. The Eagles may not be a great team, but with every passing season, contenders look past their current opponents and focus on the ranked foes they'll face the following week.
If the Tigers make that mistake against Boston College, it won't end well.
The key for Clemson's title dreams will be to secure victories over its remaining ranked opponents. A home win against No. 6 Florida State would certainly be helpful, and a regular season-ending victory over the No. 14 South Carolina Gamecocks would be the icing on the cake.
Clemson has a championship-caliber team, and as you can see in both polls, the voters believe in its legitimacy.
Record: 5-0, 2-0 Pac-12
AP Poll: No. 2
USA Today Coaches Poll: No. 2
The Oregon Ducks have opened up the season with five consecutive 50-plus-point-scoring outbursts en route to a 5-0 record. No game that Oregon has played has been decided by fewer than 39 points, and no team has scored more than 16 points against the Ducks.
In turn, Oregon ranks No. 2 in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
Marcus Mariota has emerged as a primary candidate for the Heisman Trophy, amassing 14 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores to zero interceptions. He's one of five Oregon players with at least 150 rushing yards and one of four with at least four rushing touchdowns.
In other words, a team can slow down one of Oregon's stars, but another three or four are going rise up in the same manner.
Byron Marshall has 448 rushing yards and four touchdowns, Mariota has 338 and seven scores, De'Anthony Thomas has 338 and six, and Thomas Tyner has 204 and five. As a team, Oregon is averaging an obscene 7.1 yards per rushing attempt.
If that's not enough, Bralon Addison and Josh Huff have combined for 40 receptions, 790 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. Addison also has two punt returns for touchdowns.
Oregon's schedule gets rough during Week 7, as it goes on the road to play the No. 16 Washington Huskies. From there, Oregon plays the Washington State Cougars, No. 11 UCLA Bruins and No. 5 Stanford Cardinal.
Until Oregon falls, however, it deserves to be No. 2.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Record: 5-0, 2-0 SEC
AP Poll: No. 1
USA Today Coaches Poll: No. 1
The Alabama Crimson Tide hold the No. 1 spot in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls. As the two-time defending national champions, it's not too difficult to see why the voters are so hesitant to drop Alabama out of the No. 1 spot.
So far in 2013, there hasn't been a reason to.
Alabama went on the road to pick up a 49-42 win over the No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies and shut out the previously undefeated Ole Miss Rebels 25-0. During Week 6, Alabama did what it needed to do by picking up a 45-3 decimation of the Georgia State Panthers.
With only one ranked opponent remaining on the schedule, all signs point towards yet another undefeated regular season for the Crimson Tide.
The defense ranks No. 4 in points allowed per game and the offense has used balance to reach 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. AJ McCarron is playing responsible football with 10 touchdowns to three interceptions, but proved against Texas A&M that he can step up for a 300-plus yard performance.
With T.J. Yeldon carrying the ball 72 times for 445 yards and four touchdowns, it's safe to say the running game is present to provide support.
Alabama will go on the road to face the 1-4 Kentucky Wildcats on Oct. 12 in an attempt to move to 6-0. Kentucky did take the No. 14 South Carolina Gamecocks to the limit on Oct. 5, but until further notice, there is no upset alert to be sent out.
Alabama will be favored in every game it plays, and entering Week 7, the Crimson Tide are the odds-on favorites to finish the regular season as the No. 1 team in the country.