Boise State begins its quest to become the first non-AQ team to play for a national championship with a No. 5 ranking in the newly released USA Today coaches' preseason Top 25. TCU is ranked No. 7.
Here is what is interesting about this preseason poll. Boise St. finished last season ranked No. 4 and TCU ranked No. 6 in the final coaches' poll. But somehow they each dropped a spot in the preseason poll despite returning most of their starters. Boise St. returns everybody but one; TCU returns 16.
Still, this is the highest preseason ranking for two non-AQ teams. And that is a huge key when it comes to both team's chances at playing for a national title. The higher you start a season, the less you have to climb up the poll. Boise St., for example, started last season ranked No. 16 and TCU ranked No. 17 in the coaches' poll. Both went undefeated in the regular season and played each other in the Fiesta Bowl -- the first time two non-AQ teams made a BCS game in the same season.
But the stakes, and expectations are higher this season. Many have touted this as the year when a non-AQ team can finally reach the national championship game. Whether it actually happens is another discussion. But we most definitely will know early where both teams stand. Boise St. plays No. 6 Virginia Tech on Labor Day night in Landover, Md., to start the season. TCU opens with No. 22 Oregon St. on Sept. 4 in Dallas.
If they lose, whatever national title hopes they may have will end.
Utah is the only other non-AQ team ranked, coming in at No. 24.