FBO: How good is the non-BCS elite?

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.

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