The Bowl Championship Series came of age this decade.
That's not to say the BCS matured or got better. It just got older -- and more controversial. This was the first decade in which every major-college season ended with a championship decided on the field.
Not necessarily the championship, just a championship.
|Eric Crouch and Nebraska made it to the title game even though they failed to win the Big 12 North. (Getty Images)|
Nebraska got to the championship after not even winning its division in the Big 12. Auburn couldn't get there despite being undefeated.• B/R: Best teams of BCS era
The BCS commissioners tried to give their system some stability through this decade. The strength of schedule component was eliminated. The Associated Press pulled out after the 2004 season. The BCS quickly assembled the Harris Poll, for better or worse, to replace it. Beginning in 2006, a fifth BCS game was added to appease non-BCS schools wanting more access.
Through it all the term "unintended consequences" became BCS slang.
Utah (twice), Hawaii and Boise State did break through the glass ceiling and played in BCS bowls. When Utah got to the Fiesta Bowl in 2004, it marked only the second time since 1961 that a team outside one of the current six power conferences had played in one of the four major bowls (Rose, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar). Air Force played in the 1971 Sugar Bowl. Louisville played in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl but is now part of the Big East.
Still, there was more faith in Dick Cheney's aim than college football's postseason. The decade actually started out pretty tame with Florida State beating Virginia Tech on Jan. 4, 2000, to decide the 1999 champion.
Soon, though, confusion turned to bitterness which turned to anger which evolved into anti-trust proceedings.
In summarizing the BCS Decade, I decided to offer an opinion on which teams should have played in each of the nine contested championship games. (All rankings are in the BCS standings.)
2000: Oklahoma earned its shot by going undefeated. That part was easy. Controversy erupted when Florida State got to the championship game despite losing to No. 3 Miami during the regular season. Miami's lone loss was to No. 4 Washington. The computers rated FSU's schedule slightly better than Miami's.
Who should have played: In terms of theater, a Miami-FSU rematch would have been a natural. That year's championship game was a clunker won by OU, 13-2.
|2009||BCS Title||Florida 24, Oklahoma 14|
|2008||BCS Title||LSU 38, Ohio State 24|
|2007||BCS Title||Florida 41, Ohio State 14|
|2006||Rose||Texas 41, USC 38|
|2005||Orange||USC 55, Oklahoma 19|
|2004||Sugar||LSU 21, Oklahoma 14|
|2003||Fiesta||Ohio State 31, Miami 24|
|2002||Rose||Miami 37, Nebraska 14|
|2001||Orange||Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2|
2001: Miami got justice this time around, going undefeated and advancing to the Rose Bowl.
Somehow, Nebraska finished .05 of a point ahead of Colorado for the second spot despite losing to the Buffs, 62-36 in Boulder. That's right, the Huskers didn't even win their division and still played for the national championship. (Technically, there was a tie in the Big 12 North, but Colorado won the head-to-head tiebreaker and eventually the Big 12 title).
Oregon was second in both major polls but No. 4 in the BCS. The Ducks were doomed by a weaker strength of schedule than the other contenders.
Who should have played: Oregon, a 38-16 winner over Colorado in the Fiesta, would have been a much better opponent for Miami. For the third consecutive year, the title game was a yawner (Miami 37, Nebraska 14).
The Rose Bowl would have turned up its petals either way. The disappointment was palpable from the Tournament of Roses which staged its first non-Pac-10/Big Ten game since 1947.
2002: Miami and Ohio State coasted undefeated to an undisputed title game.
Who should have played: Miami -- into a third overtime, according to Hurricanes fans. Back judge Terry Porter made the infamous pass interference call that kept Ohio State alive before winning in the second OT.
2003: For the second time in three years, a Big 12 team lost its last game and still played for the national championship.
No. 1 Oklahoma was blasted by Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 title game but still had enough cred in the computers and strength of schedule to advance to the Sugar Bowl.
USC was No. 1 in both AP and the coaches' polls but third in the BCS. LSU finished second and used home-field advantage to beat the Sooners 21-14 in New Orleans.
The Trojans beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl to earn a split national championship, a fact that LSU fans still will not accept.
Who should have played: USC-LSU would have been a more compelling game.
|Tommy Tuberville's Tigers were left out of the national championship picture in 2004 despite a 13-0 record. (Getty Images)|
Who should have played: Bowling Green at Auburn early in the season. If you want a reason why the Tigers were left out, a weak non-conference schedule might have been it.
Let's recap: Bowling Green was originally scheduled to play at Auburn in September but saw a chance to grab a bigger guaranteed check and instead signed a contract to play at Oklahoma. The switch had a double whammy effect. It added to OU's schedule strength and took away from Auburn's. Left to scramble, the Tigers replaced the Falcons with I-AA The Citadel.
Then-Bowling Green AD Paul Krebs has to go down as one of the most influential BCS figures of the decade. The former Oklahoma ticket director knew exactly what he was doing when he made the schedule switch. Krebs is also the man who gave Urban Meyer his first head coaching job with the Falcons in 2001.
In 2004, Meyer broke through with Utah, which joined USC as the only other undefeated major-college program.
We would hear a lot more from Meyer later.
2005: Texas-USC was a no-brainer in the Rose Bowl. Texas-USC in the actual game was a classic.
It had everything. The new-fangled instant replay messed up when Vince Young's knee touched down in the first half. Reggie Bush inexplicably tried to lateral when he was running to daylight and lost a fumble.
Both teams were brilliant, but in the spirit of the decade, neither could stop the other. Finally, USC had a chance to sew it up with a 4th-and-2 at the Texas 45 with 2:09 left in the game. Make it and USC wins.
Not only did Reggie Bush not get the ball, he wasn't in the game.
Pete Carroll called for a run to LenDale White and the fourth-down gamble failed. Texas took over and drove for the winning touchdown. With 19 seconds left, VY pulled it down and swept past USC defensive end Frostee Rucker to score the winner, giving Texas its first national championship in 35 years.
Who should have played: No one else. This one remains the best BCS title game ever.
2006: A fifth BCS game (called "double-hosting") debuted with Boise State and Oklahoma meeting in the Fiesta Bowl. The national championship game in the same spot a week later between Ohio State and Florida was almost a letdown.
Using three trick plays (some coaches don't use that many in their entire careers), Boise's Chris Petersen shocked the Sooners in overtime. The Broncos' best running back, Ian Johnson, proposed after the game. This wasn't a game, it was Lollapalooza.
And it wasn't even the championship game.
Who should have played: Some were hoping for an Ohio State-Michigan rematch which wouldn't have been bad in retrospect. The Buckeyes didn't show up in Florida's 41-14 BCS title game victory.
Ohio State's 42-39 November win over Michigan that got the Buckeyes to Glendale was easily the game of the year. Playing a day after legendary coach Bo Schembechler died, the Wolverines showed up with all the emotion you would expect. Too much, it turned out.
Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable cheap-shotted Ohio State's Troy Smith along the sideline with 6:49 left allowing the Buckeyes a first down and new life. They went on to score the eventual winning touchdown.
|Maybe Josh McManus and LSU were lucky to make the title game, but they sure took advantage of it. (Getty Images)|
LSU hung on at No. 2 and for the second time in five years was able to play a "home" game in the Louisiana Superdome. You've heard this before but once again Ohio State didn't show up.
The Tigers won their second title of the decade, capping off The Year of the Upset. It started with Appalachian State beating Michigan and Stanford shocking USC. There were six changes at the No. 1 spot in the AP poll. Seventeen teams were in the top five at one time or another.
It was that type of year. LSU lost its last regular-season game, giving up 50 points to Arkansas and still played for the title.
How crazy was it? Notre Dame had a longer winning streak going into January (two) than LSU and Ohio State.
Who should have played: Almost anyone vs. Ohio State. Make an argument. Missouri was No. 1 for a week. Kansas didn't win its division but played in the Orange Bowl. USC and Georgia were hot at the end.
Hawaii was the only undefeated team, but got embarrassed in the Sugar Bowl.
If there were ever a need for an eight-team playoff, 2007 was the shining reason why.
2008: Another contentious finish. Another Florida title.
Oklahoma lost to Texas but beat out the 'Horns for the Big 12 title game in that controversial three-way tiebreaker. That opened the door to Sam Bradford's Heisman and Bob Stoops' fourth title berth this decade. He still has only that 2000 championship to show for it.
Utah knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to secure its second undefeated season in five years. That touched off a national debate led by the Mountain West. Suddenly, the BCS wasn't good enough -- the conference wanted access to the national championship.
Its case failed, for now, because its argument was Mountain West-centric. Boise State also finished undefeated in the regular season. The WAC has had as many BCS appearances as the Mountain West (each with two).
Meanwhile, the Gators established the game's latest dynasty winning its second title in three years while playing in the sport's toughest conference. The Gators go for three in four years while Tim Tebow and Bradford each try to win a second Heisman.
Who should have played: Florida and Utah, no doubt.
This isn't an argument about Oklahoma having more talent than the Utes (they did). This is about who deserved to play in the national championship game. The only undefeated major-college team should have gotten a look.
Utah wasn't Boise State in 2006 or Hawaii in 2007. It was better. Utah wasn't even the Utah of 2004. It was bigger, faster, stronger. It is a major program playing in the best non-BCS league in the country. By beating Alabama, the Utes proved they could play with and beat anyone.
Not that it matters. Get used to it. We're locked into the BCS for at least the next five years.