Dark-horse BCS contenders

Vontaze Burfict and the Sun Devils were (and are) far better than their 2010 record. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

NFL fans can brag about their parity all they want, and yes, there's some validity to the "haves versus have-nots" argument in college football.

But it's not as though the sport doesn't also feature its fair share of surprises every year. Winning 10-plus games in one season is by no means a prerequisite for achieving next-year success.

Take last season, for example.

Five of the 10 BCS bowl participants (Arkansas Razorbacks, Connecticut Huskies, Oklahoma Sooners, Stanford Cardinal and BCS champion Auburn Tigers) finished with five or more losses in 2009. That level of turnover at the top isn't the norm, mind you (there were five such turnaround teams in the four previous seasons), but good-but-not-great teams taking the next step to BCS glory isn't exactly an anomaly, either.

Consider this: Since 2000, four teams have gone on to win the BCS championship after recording five or more losses the year before.

Which teams that hung a fiver in the loss column last season have a chance to go BCS bowling this season?

Our Eliminator model can help us answer that question by looking at the stat categories in which championship-level teams have excelled the past few seasons. Here are five candidates that fit the bill:

Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6 in 2010)

A quick scan of the schedule shows us how close the Sun Devils were to having a much better record last season than they ended up with. Of their six wins, only one was by less than 10 points, and of their six losses, four were by four points or fewer. Few close wins plus several close losses is a recipe for underperformance.