When a mid-major team's star coach gets called up to the big leagues, your program is supposed to fall back to the pack; this is the way it has worked for decades amid the so-called lesser schools in FBS. Tonight's bowl participants -- the Utah Utes and Boise State Broncos -- have followed a different script. In the mid-2000s, they both lost highly successful coaches to AQ-conference schools, and their fortunes have not fallen at all.
At Football Outsiders, we use a stat called "F/+ Rankings," which you can read more about here, as one way to evaluate programs. Among non-AQ schools from 2006 to 2010, Boise (No. 1, with a 14.2 F/+ Ranking on average) and Utah (No. 4, at 32.0) are both in the top five via this metric.
This happened after Dan Hawkins and Urban Meyer left for bigger jobs at Colorado and Florida, respectively.