- Brian Fremeau, ESPN Insider
The recently released preseason Associated Press poll and USA Today coaches' poll pay more respect to the non-BCS conferences than any in recent memory. Four mid-major teams appear in the Top 25 rankings -- the Boise State Broncos, TCU Horned Frogs, Utah Utes and BYU Cougars -- which was an unthinkable feat only a few years ago. Boise State's No. 14 Associated Press poll ranking is the highest preseason nod for a non-BCS team since the Bowl Championship Series was formed; the chances are the Broncos will finish even higher.
Since 2003, at least one non-BCS team has placed in the top 15 of the final Associated Press poll or USA Today coaches' poll in every season. On three occasions -- No. 4 Utah in 2004, No. 5 Boise State in 2006 and No. 2 Utah in 2008 -- a non-BCS team has cracked the final poll top five. On average, the highest-ranked non-BCS team at season's end has been ranked 12 spots better than the highest-ranked non-BCS team in either preseason poll.
That trend will be difficult to duplicate this year, if only because the preseason bar has been set so high.
To see how undefeated non-BCS teams of recent years would have fared in the SEC and other BCS conferences, as well as what to expect this year, you must be an ESPN Insider.
Football Outsiders analyzes the non-BCS schools for 2009 and finds that after an amazing run by Utah in 2008, it's time for Boise State to grab the brass ring of mid-majordom back from the Utes.