...Which brings us to this safe bet.
Boise State will enter the season around No. 6 in most polls.
Two of the teams in front of them are guaranteed to lose before the end of the season, as three of the teams play each other (Alabama and LSU, and LSU and Oregon). If LSU were to go 1-1 in those games, it's easy to see how Boise State rises to at least No. 4 or in the nation with an undefeated season.
Stanford, which will likely start at No. 5, is highly ranked because of one player—Andrew Luck. As good as Luck is, he's just one of a very small handful of returning starters from last season. Plus, head coaching success Jim Harbaugh is gone, and the Pac-12 is likely to be one tough gauntlet this season. Right now, Stanford doesn't appear to be the favorite in the Pac-12, meaning they'll have to lose at some point. Boise is now No. 3.
That leaves Oklahoma and either Alabama, Oregon, or LSU (depending on how LSU fares against those two opponents). Boise then only needs one of those teams to lose to rise to the No. 2 spot and earn a trip to New Orleans.
But wait a minute. We've seen an undefeated Boise State team left out for one-loss BCS AQ teams before. What makes 2011 different?
A couple of things, actually, make 2011 different. The first thing is the asinine strength-of-schedule component to the computer rankings. This season, Boise State should have sufficient SOS points to overcome a handful of weak conference opponents that have killed them in the past. If not, then something is seriously afoul.
Which brings us to the second reason. The US Department of Justice is currently making inquiries into the BCS and the way it operates. Specifically, the Justice Department is investigating the BCS for possible violations of US antitrust laws.
The argument has been that the BCS isn't fair to the programs that aren't part of a BCS conference. The BCS contends that the current system is fair and equitable. Then, there are those who stupidly come down on neither side, claiming the system isn't fair, but should remain (as in E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State).
In a nutshell, the best thing the BCS can do to alleviate the Justice Department's concerns is to admit an undefeated non-AQ program to the BCS Championship Game. The absolute worst thing the BCS could do is to reject an undefeated Boise State in favor of, say, a one-loss Oklahoma or one-loss Alabama.
All due deference to the Sooners and Crimson Tide, but 2011 doesn't appear to be a year in which losing a game will do anything but disqualify you from the title game. This season may be more about preserving the current BCS system, and for that, the BCS now needs Boise State.