The BCS Era: Texas, USC give the nation one of greatest games ever

Mack Brown and Texas celebrate after winning the Rose Bowl. (USATSI)
Mack Brown and Texas celebrate after winning the Rose Bowl. (USATSI)

Throughout June and July and to commemorate the final year of the BCS era, Jerry Palm will be taking a year-by-year look at the machinations and controversies of the postseason system unleashed upon college football in 1998. Previous installments of the series can be found HERE.

Format: The championship game was the Rose Bowl. The regular Rose Bowl wasn’t played.

Number of bowls: 28. New bowls: Poinsettia, which replaced the Silicon Valley Bowl.

Number of Division I-A teams: 119. New schools: Florida Atlantic and Florida International, both of which joined the Sun Belt.

Conference realignment: Boston College joined former Big East mates Miami and Virginia Tech in the ACC. The Big East added Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida from C-USA.  Conference USA still managed to get bigger, with the addition of Marshall, Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UCF and UTEP.  Army became an independent, as did Temple, which was kicked out of the Big East. During all the conference realignment of the decade, Temple was the only school to leave a league unwillingly (but would return). The WAC picked up Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State, and the Mountain West welcomed TCU.

Formula changes: The BCS formula was changed for the final time for the 2005 season. The AP got an ethical wakeup call in 2004 during the Texas-Cal debate and dropped out of the formula. To replace it, the BCS commissioned the people behind the Harris Poll to create a new poll. The Harris Poll has a roster of 115 voters nominated by the conferences, including players, coaches administrators and some current and former media. There is a fair amount of turnover from year to year in the list of voters, and some of the most comical poll votes ever have come from this group.

The formula was irrelevant for 2005. We didn’t need a formula to tell us USC and Texas were the best teams in 2005. Those two gave us one of the most dramatic and entertaining championship games of the BCS era, which ended with a 41-38 Longhorns victory.

Both at-large teams were automatic qualifiers, but neither needed the help. Ohio State finished fourth and qualified thanks to the Kansas State rule, which ensured that a team from a major conference that didn't win its league, but still finished in the top four in the rankings, would receive an at-large spot. Notre Dame finished sixth, and automatically qualified under its own distinct qualification standard, written into the BCS rules, which said the Irish automatically qualified if they finished in the top eight. This was the first year they accomplished that. Ohio State and Notre Dame were two of the most desirable bowl teams, though, so automatic or not, they would have been chosen anyway. Oregon finished fifth and never had a chance.

This was also the last time the SEC was irrelevant in the national title picture. Georgia won the league and finished seventh in the BCS. The league has won every national championship since.

If the soon-to-be-launched four-team playoff were in place:

The top three are pretty easy. Ohio State is the likely fourth choice. The Buckeyes were fourth in the polls and the computers in the BCS, which means they played a good schedule as well.

West Virginia finished 11th and won the Big East, so the Mountaineers get the nod as the nonmajor representative. TCU was the only other such team in the top 10 at No. 14.

Texas Tech was only 15th in the polls but gets a spot in the Sugar Bowl because that game matches up the SEC and Big 12.

Orange Bowl: No. 1 USC vs. No. 4 Ohio State

Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Penn State

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. LSU

Peach Bowl*: Florida State vs. Virginia Tech

Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Texas Tech

Fiesta Bowl: Miami (Fla.) vs. Notre Dame

*- The Peach Bowl became the Chick-fil-A Bowl until 2006.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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