Every year, as August rolls into September, college football fans across the country analyze their favorite teams' schedules and start penciling in wins, losses, and those "toss-up" games. Depending on who you're talking to, the U-word often comes up: undefeated.
It's a powerful word to use in the realm of college football. Coming from a power conference, "undefeated" usually means an appearance in the BCS Championship Game. And for those outside the Big Six conferences, "undefeated" usually means a BCS at-large bid.
We haven't seen an all-undefeated BCS Championship Game since 2005 when USC played Texas, but this year the title game has a great chance to feature not one but two undefeated teams.
First, take a look at the defending champion Florida Gators. Their schedule is almost laughable. Though the games were already set in stone a while ago, this might be the easiest schedule for a defending champion in the BCS-era.
The Gators begin their season with three straight home games vs. Charleston Southern, Troy, and Tennessee. They then travel to Lexington to take on Kentucky. Their toughest test will come against LSU in Baton Rouge on Oct. 10, but the Orange and Blue have two weeks to prepare as they do not have a game scheduled Oct. 3.
Any SEC fan knows you don't just waltz in to Death Valley and take down the mighty Tigers, but look at how LSU's defense collapsed at the end of last season. Has their defense improved considerably in the offseason? Any who's defense got much better?
The Gators, who held Oklahoma to a mere 14 points in the title game.
Last year the Tigers let Death Valley become an un-intimidating stadium by losing to Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss, and narrowly avoiding a loss to Troy.
We're talking about the best team in the nation, not Mississippi State or Vanderbilt. If you think the Gators will beat LSU, you're not crazy.
After Baton Rouge the Gators' toughest game might be at Columbia against the Gamecocks on Nov. 14. (Sorry UGA, after last year's 49-10 debacle it's difficult to even call this a "toss-up" game for the Gators.)
After winning two of the last three national championships with one-loss teams, this is Urban Meyer's best shot to have an undefeated Florida team.
The Big XII will once again be the center of the college football universe as Texas and Oklahoma are the most realistic contenders to prevent the Gators from winning back to back titles.
But only one team will be fortunate enough to finish undefeated as UT and OU will meet in the highly anticipated Red River Shootout on Oct. 17.
Aside from that game, each team plays a favorable schedule. Four of the Longhorns' first five games are in Austin (their one road game is at Wyoming). The Sooners will play three of their first five games at home. (One game is at a neutral location: Dallas vs. BYU.)
Once the Red River Shootout is behind them, each team still has a favorable schedule.
Texas plays its two toughest road games back to back against Missouri and Oklahoma State. Will Missouri be anything like the Mizzou Tigers of 2007? And can Oklahoma State's offense produce like they did in 2008?
Meanwhile, Oklahoma's two toughest road games will be at Nebraska on Nov. 7 and at Texas Tech on Nov. 21.
In addition to Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma, even Alabama fans wouldn't be out of line talking about being undefeated (minus the SEC Championship of course).
Bama's only road games are against Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Auburn. They get to play South Carolina, Tennessee, and LSU in Tuscaloosa while their non-conference matchups feature cream puffs Florida International, North Texas, and Chattanooga.
And while the Big Ten has taken a back seat to the SEC and Big XII over the past couple of seasons, who's to say Penn State can't go undefeated?
The Nittany Lions' only road games come against Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, and Michigan State. Since when could you get away with only playing four road games in one season?!
Penn State plays four home games in the month of September alone (Sept. 5 vs. Akron, Sept.12 vs. Syracuse, Sept. 19 vs. Temple, and Sept. 26 vs. Iowa). In addition to those three pathetic non-conference home games, Penn State hosts Eastern Illinois on Oct. 10.
It's easy to get caught up in the preseason undefeated talk, but take a look at your favorite team's schedule. If it resembles anything of a majority of this year's likely Top 10, go ahead and use the U-word, liberally.