Since the inception of the BCS, one-fourth of the teams that have played in the national championship game were not ranked in the preseason top 10. Therefore, you never really know which somewhat interesting opening-weekend games could turn out to be much more significant than anyone realizes. Identifying national title contenders among the teams ranked No. 11 through No. 25 might not be an easy task, but we have a bit of history to use as our guide.
Twenty-eight teams have played in the BCS National Championship Game, and 75 percent of them had double-digit wins the previous year along with an average of at least 8.5 wins during the previous four seasons. There are eight teams ranked outside the preseason top 10 that match this profile, and two of them open the season against each other.
The No. 24 Boise State Broncos play the No. 13 Michigan State Spartans on Friday night in one of only two matchups of ranked teams in the first five days of the college football schedule. Compared to the top-10 bout pairing the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines, this game may look like broccoli on the dinner plate next to prime rib, but it's still a big game.
We all know Boise State's story. The Broncos have averaged a remarkable 11.8 wins per season during the past decade, but this year they have to replace one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football history (Kellen Moore) along with most of their defensive starters. With so much roster turnover, it is a major sign of respect for Chris Petersen and his program that they are only a touchdown underdog on the road against one of the best teams in the Big Ten.
If BSU finds a way to win this game -- after beating Georgia, Virginia Tech and Oregon in season openers the past three years -- the Broncos are likely to jump about 10 spots in the polls next week and assume their typical role of BCS-buster. We've seen more talented Boise State teams fail to crack the top two of the BCS standings, though, so it would take quite a confluence of events for this team to become a legitimate national title contender, even with an undefeated season. And that's exactly why BSU chose to join the Big East next season.
Michigan State is more intriguing as a dark-horse candidate to reach the BCS title game.