While college football is a great sport to follow, the fact that the sport is a tiered system can hinder the enjoyment. For those programs not associated with the BCS, the height of success can barely touch that of other programs. An undefeated Boise State team can't even finish above a few one-loss teams and because of that, the system is essentially corrupt. It benefits the top at the expense of the bottom and though now it's far easier for non-BCS teams to play in one of the four major bowl games, it still can't mask the fact that there are far more difficulties in achieving that point than for most other BCS programs.
With that said, two teams have been successful at doing that. In 2004 it was the Utes and last year it was Boise State. Both Utah and Boise State went undefeated, however under the old system which was in place the year the Utes busted the BCS, Boise State most likely would have been left out. So the system is definitely more accessible for teams like Utah and the Broncos. However it doesn't change the fact that a few things need to come into play.
If a program wants to crash the BCS, they need to finish in the top-12 of the BCS rankings. Boise State did last year, but finished 12-0, which means if they had dropped a game (like against San Jose State, who lost to BSU on a last second field goal), they would not have finished 12th in the BCS rankings and would not have played in the Fiesta Bowl. That essentially means a team from the WAC, which is abysmal at the bottom of the conference, needs to go undefeated, or they probably won't be able to finish 12th in the rankings. On the other hand a team from the Mountain West Conference could have a favorable ranking even with one loss. In 2005 TCU finished 11-1 and would have played in a BCS bowl had the rules today been in place back then. What this means is that programs like Utah, TCU and BYU have a far easier path to the BCS than maybe a team from the WAC and Conference USA. After that, teams from the MAC and Sun Belt are probably not likely to crash the BCS even with an undefeated season.
The fact that there is a tiered system definitely lowers the pool of potential programs that have a realistic shot at a BCS bowl game. While I think it's possible for a team from the MAC to make a BCS bowl game, I think it's highly unlikely. The MAC is just not a good football conference and it would most likely take an upset win over a perennial power early in the season to pull that one off. As for the Sun Belt, none of those teams are going undefeated and the one or two teams that might have a slim chance of doing so won't have the tough schedule needed to make enough noise to garner a look.
The following teams I think have the best shot at crashing the BCS. Each team is listed in the order I think their chances are of playing in a BCS bowl.
- TCU - The Frogs have a really favorable schedule, but it's also very tough. Realistically I don't see TCU going undefeated, with a game against the Texas the second week of the season. Though I do believe it's possible for them to pull off the upset, it's not likely. Luckily for TCU, they can lose to Texas and win out. Doing so should be enough to get them into the BCS, though tough games against Utah and at BYU might be a road block to their dream season.
- Hawaii - Though Hawaii has yet to finalize its schedule, currently they have the perfect one for running the table. The Warriors toughest out of conference game will be Washington, which is played on the island and the fact both Fresno State and Boise State have to travel to Honolulu only makes it sweeter for the Warriors. The problem will be TCU, because even a one-loss TCU team might climb higher in the polls unless the Warriors find an impressive, top-notched BCS program to play. If they do, and win, it could be enough to guarantee them a spot in a major bowl game.
- Boise State - They did it last year and very well could do it again this year. The Broncos have a ridiculously easy schedule, with their toughest out of conference game coming against Washington in Seattle. Like last year, it's perfectly built for an undefeated season and doing so would give Boise State another spot in a BCS bowl. With that said, 4 of their final 5 conference games are on the road and they do need to travel to Fresno State and Hawaii -- both potential losses.
- Southern Miss - The Golden Eagles should be favored to win the Conference USA and they have a pretty decent schedule. However going undefeated is very unlikely with a road game against Tennessee early on in the season. If they can go 11-1, defeating Boise State, Memphis and UTEP, they might be able to make some BCS noise, especially if the above three teams falter.
- BYU - The Cougars were a couple of plays short of being undefeated last year and most likely would have made the BCS if that had happened. However they had to settle for an 11-2 finish, an undefeated conference season and a dominate win over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. After losing a few offensive weapons, including Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year John Beck, the Cougars could struggle. Yet they luck out with a fairly easy schedule. Though they have a tough road game against UCLA, the rest of their schedule breaks down nicely for the Cougars, as their toughest conference games are all at home. Air Force, Colorado State, TCU and Utah all have to travel to Provo. The biggest knock for BYU will be the fact they most likely will start the season outside of the top-25. So if they can't pull off the upset against UCLA, it may take a few weeks for them to crack the top-25, which might be too late for any type of run toward the BCS.
I believe the five teams listed above have the best shot at crashing the BCS. They have the talent and schedule needed for that kind of run, which is why I left Utah out. While I do believe the Utes are just as good as the listed, their schedule is far too tough for any type of run that would give them a slot in a BCS bowl. Though if Utah somehow goes undefeated (extremely unlikely), they might just have a case for playing in the national championship. Hey, I can dream, right?