The BCS Era: Five undefeated teams in 2009, but Alabama wins title

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide celebrate after beating Texas. (USATSI)
Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide celebrate after beating Texas. (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 played at the Rose Bowl.

Number of bowls: 34. New bowls: None.

Number of Division I-A teams: 120. New schools: None.

Conference realignment: Western Kentucky joins the Sun Belt after two years as an independent.

Formula changes:  None. While there was plenty of chaos at the end of the previous season, the top two poll teams played for the title, so no change was needed.

In 2007, at least one team in the top two lost each of the last five weeks of the season. In 2009, nobody lost. There were five undefeated teams at the end of the regular season, and the SEC title game featured a matchup of unbeatens in Alabama and Florida. The Gators were the top-ranked team entering that game, but lost and dropped to fifth. They still placed ahead of 13-0 Boise State. Texas ended up the No. 2 team in the BCS after Florida lost. Big East champion Cincinnati was third, and Mountain West champ TCU finished fourth.

Texas as the opponent for Alabama wasn’t a controversial selection, which didn’t make Bearcats and Horned Frogs fans any happier. Texas was a clear second in both polls, but Cincinnati was the better computer team.

Longhorns QB Colt McCoy was injured in the first half of the championship game and Alabama won comfortably, 37-21, for the SEC’s fourth straight title. Alabama was the third different team to win the championship in that stretch.

The historic footnote for this season, though, was that Boise State was selected for a BCS game, even though it did not automatically qualify. The Broncos were the first non-major to be selected on merit alone. However, they were paired with TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. Neither team was particularly happy with that arrangement. Non-majors don’t want to play each other in the BCS. In fact, many fans thought that matchup was put together to protect the majors from a couple of embarrassing defeats. That’s not true, but good luck convincing some people.

The Sugar Bowl was also noteworthy in that it was Tim Tebow’s last game. Florida fans stayed away in droves, though. I guess the disappointment of losing to Alabama was the cause there. Cincinnati was being coached by offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn after Brian Kelly took the Notre Dame job before the bowl game.

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

Again, there aren’t enough spots for the number of deserving teams. There aren’t even enough spots for just the undefeated teams, and certainly Florida would be strongly considered. I think in this case, though, the Gators get left out, along with Boise State.

Florida doesn’t even get a high quality opponent in its bowl game. The Sugar Bowl will match up the SEC and Big 12, but the next highest rated Big 12 team is 18th rated Oklahoma State.

Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Cincinnati

Chick-fil-A Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU

Cotton Bowl: Iowa vs. Boise State

Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma State

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Penn State

Rose Bowl: <span data-shortcode= State" data-canon="Ohio Bobcats" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> vs. Oregon

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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