- Mark Schlabach, College Football and Basketball
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Let the campaigning begin.
With the first Bowl Championship Series standings set to be announced Sunday, teams across the country will begin to position themselves for two coveted spots in the Jan. 10 BCS title game in Glendale, Ariz.
And there's sure to be plenty of politicking involved between now and Dec. 5, when the final BCS standings are revealed. The top two teams in the final standings will play for college football's national championship.
Brad Edwards, ESPN's BCS guru, predicts Boise State will be No. 1 in the initial BCS standings, as long as the Broncos defeat San Jose State on the road Saturday night. The undefeated Broncos are No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, behind No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Oregon.
But Edwards believes the Broncos are nothing more than front-runners because their future schedule strength won't allow them to sustain the top spot in the BCS standings.
Here are some early campaign slogans for teams -- ranked by Edwards' projections -- dreaming of playing in Glendale:
Pro: "In Your Heart, You Know We're Right"
With apologies to 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, Boise State fans say their team deserves a chance to play for the national championship despite playing a soft schedule in the WAC. The Broncos defeated a pair of teams from BCS conferences, beating Virginia Tech 33-30 on Labor Day night and Oregon State 37-24 at home Sept. 25.
Con: "In Your Guts, You Know They're Nuts"
Do you really believe Boise State could survive the grind of playing an eight-game conference schedule in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC? Would the Broncos have survived the same three-game slate defending BCS national champion Alabama just played? The Tide made a trip to Arkansas, played Florida in an SEC title game rematch and then played surging South Carolina on the road. The Broncos will play an upcoming three-week schedule of San Jose State (road), Louisiana Tech (home) and Hawaii (home).
Pro: "Go Green"
There's nothing conservative about the Ducks' high-octane offense, which leads the country in scoring with 54.3 points per game. Oregon has scored 42 points or more in every contest, including a 52-31 rout of then-No. 9 Stanford on Oct. 2. Who wouldn't want to watch the Ducks' entertaining offense in Glendale?
Con: "It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint"
The Ducks' defense might not be equipped to handle the rigors of a 12-game schedule. Oregon allowed 31 points against Arizona State, 31 points against Stanford and 23 points to, ahem, lowly Washington State. Will the Ducks float or sink in late-season games against Washington, California, No. 17 Arizona and No. 24 Oregon State?
Pro: "Change We Can Believe In"
Don't believe Boise State deserves a chance to play in the BCS title game because of its weak schedule? The Horned Frogs play in the Mountain West Conference, which beat up the Pac-10 the previous two seasons. The Horned Frogs beat Oregon State 30-21 in their opener and will play No. 23 Air Force and No. 11 Utah before season's end.
Con: "Remember the January primary?"
Under closer examination, TCU's schedule really isn't much better than Boise State's. Horned Frogs fans can send their thank-you notes to Provo, Utah. While a national championship resume is supposed to be built on this season's results, how many voters will remember the score from the 2010 Fiesta Bowl? The Broncos upset the Horned Frogs 17-10, winning a BCS bowl game for the second time in four seasons.
Pro: "Peace and Prosperity"
After a summer filled with potential Big 12 upheaval and a 2009 season chock full of devastating injuries, things have finally returned to normal in Norman, Okla. The Sooners emerged as the team to beat in the Big 12 South after knocking off rival Texas 28-20 in the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas on Oct. 2.
Con: "Not Better than Red"
With freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez running wild and one of the country's best defenses shutting down opponents, Nebraska looks like the best team in the Big 12. The Sooners looked great while blasting Florida State 47-17 at home, but they struggled to put away their four other opponents. OU beat Utah State by seven points, Air Force by three, Cincinnati by two and Texas by eight.
Pro: "We Promise We'll Play Better"
It seems as if the light switch finally turned on for Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who ranks among the country's best passers. The Buckeyes defeated then-No. 12 Miami 36-24 at home Sept. 11, and they'll be tested in games at No. 18 Wisconsin on Saturday night and at No. 15 Iowa on Nov. 20.
Con: "Not Again"
College football fans have watched this movie a few times and already know the ending. The Buckeyes played for the BCS national championship in consecutive seasons in 2007-08, losing to Florida 41-14 and LSU 38-24.
Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. He co-authored Bobby Bowden's memoir, "Called To Coach," which was published by Simon & Schuster. The book is available in stores and can be ordered here. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the first BCS standings set to be announced Sunday, teams across the country will begin to position themselves for two coveted spots in the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game.