Five potential playoff spoilers

Taysom Hill

As college football heads into its first season with a four-team playoff, nearly everyone associated with the sport -- coaches, players, administrators and fans -- is anxious to see how the selection process turns out.

How much weight will strength of schedule carry? Which Power Five conference champion gets left out?

How many SEC teams will be selected -- one, two or even three?

What about teams from outside the power conferences? Their odds of making the four-team playoff seem slim at best, but who had UCF winning the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl the past season? Who had TCU winning the 2011 Rose Bowl? Or what about Utah stunning Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl?

Here's a look at five teams from the non-Power Five conferences that might be spoilers in 2014:

BYU Cougars (Independent)

The good: The Cougars have been one of the country's most consistent programs. They have played in nine consecutive bowl games and have won at least seven games in the past eight seasons.

BYU will once again rely on its running game, which was fantastic the past season -- just ask Texas' defense. Taysom Hill is one of the sport's best dual-threat quarterbacks; he passed for 2,938 yards with 19 touchdowns and ran for 1,344 yards with 10 scores. Tailback Jamaal Williams is also coming back after he ran for 1,233 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. Even better, the Cougars expect to have back each of their five starting offensive linemen.

The bad: On paper, at least, BYU's schedule doesn't seem too demanding. The Cougars will play at Texas on Sept. 6, which figures to be a big revenge game for the Longhorns, and at UCF on Oct. 9. They'll also play road games at Boise State and California and home games against Virginia and Utah State.

But what figures to make BYU's schedule so difficult is the travel. The Cougars open the season at Connecticut, finish in California and will travel more than 15,000 round-trip miles to six states during the regular season. Talk about jet lag.

The ugly: BYU, perhaps more than any other program, seems to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the new postseason. The sport's power brokers only protected the highest-rated champion of the non-Power Five conferences (AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt) and Notre Dame (which has a partial tie-in with the Orange Bowl) when it wrote the selection rules for the playoffs and the other four New Year's Day bowl games. BYU, which became an independent in 2010, obviously doesn't belong to a conference.

The ACC and SEC also didn't include BYU as a potential "power" conference opponent for their member schools, which is going to make it difficult for the Cougars to put together a schedule demanding enough in the eyes of the selection committee.

Cincinnati Bearcats (AAC)

The good: The Bearcats, coming off a 9-4 record in coach Tommy Tuberville's first season, should be among the best offenses in the AAC -- if Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel plays well at quarterback. UC has to replace quarterback Brendon Kay (3,302 passing yards with 22 touchdowns the past season) and top receiver Anthony McClung (72 catches for 939 yards with five scores).

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