The BCS Era: Auburn keeps SEC streak going in 2010; TCU left out

TCU finished 13-0 after winning the Rose Bowl, but never got a shot at the national title. (USATSI)
TCU finished 13-0 after winning the Rose Bowl, but never got a shot at the national title. (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 hosted by the Fiesta Bowl.

Number of bowls: 35. New bowls: Pinstripe, TicketCity. Defunct bowls: International

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

Conference realignment: None for this season, but the Mountain West raid of the WAC began with the announcements that Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada would be moving over.

Formula changes: The top two teams in the polls played for the title in 2009, so no changes.

Auburn and Oregon ended up playing for the BCS title in 2010, but neither team started the season in the top ten of either the AP or coaches’ polls.  The Ducks were No. 11 in both polls, while the Tigers barely cracked the top 25. Nobody had any idea how good Cam Newton would be.

Two non-majors, Boise State and TCU, were in the top 10 however.  The Broncos were fifthin the coaches’ poll and third with the AP.  TCU was fifth with the writers and seventh with the coaches.

The Harris poll, which replaced the AP in the BCS formula in 2005, didn’t have a preseason poll. It didn’t appear until the week before the initial BCS ratings release each year.

Alabama and Ohio State were at the top to begin 2010 and would hold onto those spots for a while.  Alabama lost to South Carolina on October 9th to relinquish the No. 1 rating and would go on to finish 9-3. 

Oregon’s climb to No. 1 was complete the following week when the Buckeyes suffered their only loss, to Wisconsin. The Ducks passed TCU at the end of September.

Meanwhile, Auburn was racing up the charts as well.  The Tigers were in the top 10 when October started.  They cracked the top 5 on October 16after hanging 65 points on Arkansas, which would go on to finish in the top 10.

However, Auburn fans were nervous. They remembered 2004, when the Tigers started at the bottom of the top 25, finished undefeated, and didn’t play for the title because they couldn’t get by USC or Oklahoma, which started the year ranked 1-2 and never lost. This time, they were staring up at Oregon, Oklahoma, Boise State and TCU.  It was likely the voters would move Auburn past the non-majors if it kept winning, but they would likely need help with one of the others.

That help would come the next week, when the Sooners lost at Missouri. The Tigers moved up to third in the polls that week, past TCU, but still behind Boise State and Oregon. However, Auburn was first in the BCS ratings.

Oregon would take that ranking back the next week and hold it for a month, but the final rankings had Auburn No. 1 and the Ducks second. They split the top spot in the two polls, but Auburn was the better computer team.

Auburn won the national title over Oregon by a surprisingly low score of 22-19 -- the most competitive game in the SEC's current streak of title game wins.

TCU finished undefeated for the second straight year, and never had a shot at the title game.  The Horned Frogs finished third in 2010, one spot up from the year before.  They did get to play in the Rose Bowl though, where they beat Wisconsin.  The Frogs became the first and only non-major to play in the Granddaddy of Them All. That was made possible by a rule that required the Rose Bowl to choose a non-major the first time it lost a team (in that case it was Oregon) to the title game, if one automatically qualified.  So, the bowl was stuck with TCU instead of Stanford, which it would have preferred.  Stanford was shipped out to the Orange Bowl instead, which was also a bad fit. It was an indication that too many rules had been made, forcing matchups that were bad for teams and bowl.  This was the fifth Rose Bowl in the BCS era that did not feature the traditional Big Ten-Pac-10/Pac -12 matchup.

One interesting footnote is that Texas started the year in the preseason top 5, but ended up with only 5 wins. That’s not the worst preseason prediction ever though. That happened in 2000, when Alabama was No. 3 before the season and 3-8 at the end.

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

The three undefeated teams at the top of the ratings would easily get picked for the playoff.  Wisconsin finished 11-1, fourth in the polls and fifth in the BCS, but as a conference champion, would likely get the last spot.  Although, 11-2 Oklahoma might get considered as well.  The Big 12 champs were the fourth-best computer team based on a very strong schedule.  Among the non-champs that would get a look are Stanford, Ohio State and Michigan State.  The Spartans finished 11-1 and didn’t even get into a BCS game because of the two-team-per-league limit.  That won’t be a problem in the new system.  Also, the new system wouldn’t be subjected to 8-4 Big East champ UConn.

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 TCU

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 4 Wisconsin

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Boise State

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Arkansas vs. Michigan State

Orange Bowl: LSU vs. Virginia Tech

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford vs. Ohio State

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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