This weekend's rash of poll-rattling upsets -- nine losses by ranked teams, six of them to unranked foes -- allowed several teams to make considerable rises while barely lifting a finger. One of the primary beneficiaries: 4-0 BYU, which, on a bye week, jumped from 11th to seventh in the coaches poll, eighth in the AP poll.
If the Cougars can reach the top eight by the end of September, where might they be a month from now if they keep winning? Three of the teams above them (using the AP poll) -- No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Missouri and No. 5 Texas -- could well knock each other off by mid-October (OU faces Texas and Texas faces Mizzou), while No. 6 Penn State visits No. 18 Wisconsin in two weeks.
It's time to face a once-unimaginable reality: An undefeated non-BCS team could, for the first time, play for the BCS championship.
No previous party-crasher has received even cursory consideration for the title game, the assumption being that even an undefeated Mountain West or WAC team does not have the same credentials as a one-loss team from one of the major conferences. But no previous such team has ever risen this high, this fast, either. Five weeks into the 2004 season, undefeated Utah was 11th in the polls. On Oct. 1, 2006, Boise State hadn't yet made it out of the 20s. Hawaii was 18th when the first BCS standings were released on Oct. 14 last season.
Conventional wisdom says BYU will eventually hit a ceiling. In '04, for example, Urban Meyer's Utes were seventh when the first official standings were released on Oct. 16. Three of the teams ahead of them (Miami, Florida State and Wisconsin) eventually lost, but Utah moved up just one spot over the remainder of the season.
But the Mountain West of 2008 has already attained far more respect than the Mountain West of '04 thanks to its teams' 7-4 record against the BCS conferences. While BYU's "signature victory" so far -- a 59-0 trashing of UCLA -- might not stand the test of time if the Bruins go 5-7, an undefeated season will require beating its three toughest conference opponents (Utah, TCU and Air Force) on the road.
Make no mistake: BYU will never get the nod over an undefeated SEC or Big 12 team. If a USC or Georgia wins out, it would likely jump back ahead of the Cougars.
But what happens if everybody ahead of them loses (which, at the current rate, seems highly plausible)? Is the nation ready for a national-title crasher? Or will the pollsters eventually invoke a BYU ceiling?