Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
These teams didn't make my list, but might make somebody else's just as easily. They've all got a lot of returning starters and impact players, as well as good recruiting classes coming in.
Arkansas Razorbacks: This team would be a BCS frontrunner in any conference besides the absolute guantlet of the SEC West. They'll have to navigate LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State without star QB Ryan Mallett this year. His replacement, Tyler Wilson, is likely NFL-caliber in his own right, but he's new at the job. Tailback Knile Davis will be a huge part of the offense and will help take pressure off of Wilson to perform. The Hogs should be right in the thick of the jumble in the SEC, especially with eight returning starters from an upstart defense.
Ohio State Buckeyes: They are a program under some serious heat right now, but they are talented and deep enough to be a contender. Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron and DeVier Posey, among others, will miss the first half of the season on suspension, and coach Jim Tressel is out, but that provides a setting for OSU to show exactly what it is made of.
Texas A&M Aggies: QB Ryan Tannehill played near-perfect ball down the stretch as the Aggies peaked with wins over Oklahoma, Baylor, Nebraska and Texas. If he leads A&M on another run like that, with the team's 19 returning starters, this team has a legit shot of knocking out Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and storming the Big 12 title. That 9-4 record was no joke last year, with losses to Oklahoma State, Missouri, Arkansas and LSU. Few teams have a profile like last year's Aggies.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Brian Kelly's squad, when actually good, has five gimmes on the schedule every year. If the Irish are as advertised this season, that number will be more like eight. Eight relatively easy wins. Add in a couple clutch wins against Michigan State, USC, Michigan or Stanford, and the Irish might have enough for a BCS bid. The QB-WR tandem of Dayne Crist and Michael Floyd is back, as are 17 other starters. Top all that off with the No. 9 recruiting class, and the talent storehouses in South Bend are overflowing like it's 1997.