Boise's path, Arizona's future, more 

April, 9, 2010
Here's this week's mailbag. Also, just a reminder, if you want to send questions, feel free to do so via @BFeldmanESPN on Twitter.

From Jspont (via Twitter): What would a non-BCS school have to do to find itself in a National Championship game? Let's use the TCU Horned Frogs or Boise State Broncos as examples.

For all of the strides the likes of Boise, TCU and Utah have made in the past five years -- and I do believe it has had to be a collective effort to some degree (when Utah handles Alabama, it's also a win for Boise, for example, just like when UGA pounded Hawaii, it was a big blow to the BSU/TCU/Utah group) -- they still are down on the pecking order. They can't have a combination of two unbeatens from most of the power conferences in their way. They need to have one-loss conference champs almost across the board.

We can talk about how Boise will open up in the preseason top six or so, and how advantageous that is. No doubt it is a better spot than the Broncos have ever been before to start a season. Plus, they can win points with pollsters by going to the East Coast and beating the Virginia Tech Hokies.

The downside is there is still the likelihood of the Broncos getting leapfrogged by teams beneath them with stronger schedules. Alabama will start the season at No. 1, most likely. If the Tide run the table, they're going to the BCS title game. However, let's talk about the LSU Tigers, who probably open somewhere between No. 11 and No. 20 in the preseason. If they have a great year and go undefeated -- which would include beating Alabama at LSU -- then they're going to jump a lot of teams. Florida would, too. Anyone in the SEC would, in theory, if they have a great season.

The Miami (FL) Hurricanes could open the season at No. 10, beneath the Broncos. If Miami goes to Columbus and beats the Ohio State Buckeyes (who will open even higher than BSU in the polls, maybe in the top three) and later in the season beats the same Va. Tech team that BSU would have beaten, only it wouldn't have been a home game, Miami's going to be ahead of Boise, too. And, I think there are a lot of possibilities of teams with the potential -- or teams that, in the dreaded draft term, "have higher ceilings" -- to jump Boise no matter how much higher the Broncos are in the preseason.

Oklahoma is an interesting test case. I don't think OU opens as high as Boise will, and I'm not sure the Sooners have an opponent that will come into its game against OU ranked higher than VT will be when it faces Boise. However, the Sooners do face a potentially strong Florida State Seminoles team and visit a Cincinnati Bearcats team that just went to a BCS bowl, plus they also play a solid MWC team in the Air Force Falcons, in addition to the annual Red River game with the Texas Longhorns and most of the rest of the Big 12, which would include a league title game. It is a much tougher road. My hunch is OU would jump them, too.

A big key for Boise ultimately is going to be what happens to Va. Tech after a loss to the Broncos (assuming of course the Hokies do lose). Va. Tech would need to win the ACC or else it's going to devalue the win to some degree. Is this fair or right?

This is the trouble with playing in a conference that doesn't have other top-50 teams in it.

TCU's situation is different. The Horned Frogs play in a conference (MWC) that gets more respect amongst pollsters. The tricky part for them is their toughest nonconference opponent figures to be the Oregon State Beavers in Texas. The Beavers may open in the low 20s. They're a good team, but not deemed a powerhouse. Unless the Beavers go on to win the Pac-10, I don't think that's going to be a big enough chip to trump what an unbeaten from almost any BCS conference would tout. TCU also needs to beat Baylor and then have BU to go to have a big season and win eight or nine games.