The pending playoff will likely do away with the non-AQ tag, but that's still a couple of years away. In the meantime, there are still teams in non-BCS leagues scrambling for berths in the big bowls -- a feat Boise State, TCU and Utah have all demonstrated is possible in recent seasons.
First, though, a qualifier about this particular list in this particular year: It isn't as strong as it has been, for a variety of reasons. For one, the pool is smaller. TCU and Utah figure to have decent squads this season, but they have managed to wiggle into BCS-level leagues. Others, such as Boise State, could soon be making similar moves to remove the mid-major tag.
Also, the fact is that some of the upstarts are just down, in terms of talent and depth, relative to the level they have played at in recent years (Boise is a great example of this). So the likelihood that there's an 11-1 BCS buster knocking on the door of, say, the Fiesta Bowl is pretty low. But, hey, you never know -- especially with the more manageable schedules in Conference USA, the Mountain West, Sun Belt and the WAC.
Here are the five non-BCS teams with the best chance to make some noise this season, and possibly work themselves into the BCS conversation (listed alphabetically).
Gus Malzahn might have wound up as the coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks last month if he hadn't just settled into his digs in Jonesboro. Regardless of the location, he finally has his own program; now, let's see what he can do with it.
To see the rest of Travis Haney's top non-BCS teams, sign up for ESPN Insider.