Here's a look at the top teams that can't automatically qualify for a birth in a BCS Bowl but still have a shot at cracking the Top 25.
1. Boise St: Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore returns to lead the Broncos to hopefully another BCS game and maybe even a national title appearance as they move to the Mountain West. Kellen Moore will be helped by running back Doug Martin, who had over 1200 yards last year, and receiver Tyler Shoemaker. The defense has always taken a back seat to the powerful offense but it is still extremely good, giving up only 12.8 point per game last season. The defense is a little under sized in some areas but is always one of the fastest and most aggressive defenses in College Football. Boise St starts off with a big game vs Georgia and will face TCU on November 12th. Article on Kellen Moore and the Broncos here: Boise St in 2011
Ed Wesley looks to lead TCU back to a BCS Bowl
2. TCU: The Horned Frogs are coming into the 2011 season after an upset win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl to finish off the season with a 13-0 record. They are also just a year away from a move to the Big East. TCU loses Andy Dalton, a four year starter at quarterback, and some key players from the best defense in the nation but should only drop of a little bit despite those loses. They return leading rusher Ed Wesley and their top receiver in sophomore Josh Boyce. The defense will be very good in 2011 but not the same team that stepped on the field last season and gave up only 12 points a game. The battle between TCU on November 12th will likely determine the winner of the Mountain West.
3. Notre Dame: Brian Kelly enters his second year as head coach of the Irish and he has them poised to get back to double digit wins in South Bend. Quarterback Dayne Crist is back after a knee injury forced him to miss the final four games and the bowl appearance. He will be joined by Cierre Wood in the backfield and his top three targets from last season will be back, led by Michael Floyd. Junior Manti Te'o was sensational last season and will likely be the leader of an improved front seven. A difficult schedule that includes South Florida, Michigan, Michigan St, Pittsburgh, Air Force, USC, Navy, Maryland, Boston College, and Stanford and a developing secondary could keep the Irish from that ten win season.
Tim Jefferson will lead the Falcons'
triple option attack
4. BYU: BYU fans wish Jimmer played football but instead they'll have to rely to sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps for the upcoming season. The Cougars enter their first season as an independent and Heaps will be at control of the offense. Heaps started last year as a freshman and helped salvage their season after winning five of their last six games and ending with a 7-6 record. Running back JJ Di Luigi, best name in College Football, was a threat in both the running and passing games last season (917 rushing 443 receiving) and comes back as the leader in both categories. BYU's best defenders, LB Jordan Pendleton and DT Romney Fuga, didnt play much last season due to injuries but are coming back to lead a much improved defense.
5. Air Force: Tim Jefferson comes back to lead an Air Force team that ranked second in the nation in rushing last season thanks to the triple option offense. Jefferson comes back with leading rusher Asher Clark and leading receiver Jonathan Warzeka back on the roster. The back seven of the defense will be strong with a great returning linebacking core and a solid secondary. The problem will be up front on the line. The Falcons should hang close with the likes of TCU and Boise in the Mountain West but I think they are just out of reach.
Others to Watch
-Navy Midshipmen: The triple option looks to continue despite not having Ricky Dobbs
-San Diego St Aztecs: RB Ronnie Hillman will be one of the best in the nation
-Houston Cougars: Case Keenum is back.
- Central Florida Knights: The Knights look to improve on a top 25 finish last season
-SMU Mustangs: The most talented team in the C-USA looks to make a third straight Bowl game