The next decade is already upon us, which means it’s time to predict some major changes to nonautomatic qualifying teams in the next 10 years. Some are bold, some not so much, but if the past 10 years have taught us anything, it’s that college football is an ever-changing and ever-adapting entity. Anything is possible.
1.Mountain West will get an automatic bid: This isn’t some huge revelation here. The play of the Mountain West the past couple seasons has it on the path to an automatic bid and if the rest of the conference can catch up -- which it should with good coaches such as Brady Hoke and Dave Christensen -- the MWC should be a shoo-in for an automatic berth.
2.Conferences will realign: This starts with the Big Ten and creates a trickle down effect that could realign a lot of the conferences that we see now. I also think that the performance of some lower level teams might bump them into different conferences as well. However, I’m not touching the big question of whether Boise State ends up in the Mountain West.
3.More teams will be non-AQs: Realignment and the shifting of conferences ultimately means that some FCS schools are going to get their chance to play with the big boys. Teams such as Appalachian State and Montana have been impressive for years and teams in the Great West, where there are only five football schools, could be up for consideration.
4.A non-AQ team will play for a national title: There were whispers about the possibility of TCU playing for a national title in 2009, so the thought that the non-AQs are creeping even closer to that possibility is not too far out of the realm of possibility. All it might take is going to take is starting high in the national rankings and going undefeated with a quality schedule.
5.Non-AQs will start shelling out the cash: Not every non-AQ is going to be able to pay their coach buckets of money, but already two non-AQ coaches make more than $2 million a year and I envision that by the end of the next decade, some prominent non-AQ coaches will be making more than $3 million. However, that will still be less than most of their AQ counterparts.
6.Echoes awaken: Nothing held down Notre Dame the past 10 years more than questionable coaching hires. As the Irish enter a new decade, they finally have the right guy in place. Brian Kelly will make the program a consistent winner again like he's done at every other stop in his career. This isn't the '30s or '40s, so Notre Dame won't be winning championships every year. But Kelly will make sure the Irish are in yearly contention for BCS games and are a Top 20 program again. While that may not match the loftiest ambitions of the school's fans, it's still a vast improvement over the past decade.
7.Army football will be back: Most people don’t remember when Army football was good, but there were a few years here and there where Army was one of the more formidable programs in the country. That will happen again. Similar to Paul Johnson bringing Navy to prominence, Rich Ellerson will do the same with Army using the same triple option offense to transform the program.
8.Conference USA will rise: This decade we saw the Mountain West and WAC have all the BCS fun, but next decade Conference USA will crash the party. East Carolina started the movement in 2008 and Houston carried it on in 2009. Steadily, C-USA teams are starting to recruit high-level talent and become some of the more dangerous teams among the non-AQs.
9.A one-loss non-AQ will play in the BCS: This will happen sooner rather than later. With so many non-AQ teams ranked in the Top 25 and the top 10 throughout the year, it’s only a matter of time until one happens to fall in the right spot for an automatic BCS bid or an at-large bid.
10.Name change: Teams outside of the six major conferences have been called “non-BCS” and “non-AQ” and in the coming decade the nomenclature will evolve even more. Perhaps there will be no designation if a playoff system is put in place before the end of the next decade.