Since everyone’s already heard all the analysts’ opinions on Michigan’s unfortunate postseason fate, I decided the best way to handle the blow would be to rank the top-four Bowl Championship controversies.
No. 4: 2000.
In what’s become a common BCS trend, the regular season ended with an undefeated and a one-loss team in the championship game. Florida State recovered from an early-season loss to Miami – which coincidentally also finished with one loss – to place second in the standings. The Hurricanes were also ranked second in both human polls, but in the BCS computation, Miami couldn’t beat out Florida State. The Seminoles entered the game as a 10.5-point favorite, but the Sooners rolled to a 13-2 win. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden even commented on the matchup after the game.
“When I look at it now, I think it should have been Miami and Oklahoma,” Bowden said to The Associated Press. “We didn’t look like we belonged here.”
At least he was willing to acknowledge a mistake had been made.
No. 3: 2004.
Every year, BCS antagonists prayed for more than two teams to finish the regular season undefeated. They thought that kind of scenario would force the conference commissioners to get together and find a new system to decide the National Championship.
Well, 2004 was the BCS critics’ year. Southern Cal, Oklahoma and Auburn all finished the season with perfect records, but after adding up the numbers, the Trojans and Sooners took the top-two spots in the BCS. Auburn had survived a brutal Southeastern Conference schedule, which somehow holds more weight now when the pollsters consider who should go where. In 2004, it wasn’t good enough for the computers, and the Trojans and Sooners squared off for the title.
In the Orange Bowl, Southern Cal dismantled Oklahoma 55-19, taking the National Championship and leaving Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville whining for months afterward – apparently a common trend among SEC coaches.
No. 2: 2001.
Miami entered the season the hands-down favorite to take home the National Championship, and as the season progressed, Nebraska looked poised to contend for the chance. The Cornhuskers finished 11-1 with just one glaring weakness: They didn’t win their own conference. Colorado handily defeated Nebraska, 62-36, in the Big 12 Championship Game, but when the rankings were averaged, the Cornhuskers remained entrenched in the No. 2 spot. That resilience didn’t help them beat Miami, as the Hurricanes rolled over Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl to claim the National Championship.
No.3 Oregon also sported a 10-1 record, but the Ducks were left out of the National Championship conversation because their strength of schedule was too weak.
No. 1: 2003.
Michigan-Nebraska was supposed to be the last split National Championship, or at least that’s the problem the BCS should have fixed. But in 2003, the greatest BCS controversy yet unfolded in the final few weeks of the season.
Oklahoma and Louisiana State went through the regular season as clear-cut favorites to make the title game. And Southern Cal had an outside shot after rebounding from an early loss to California to finish the regular season 11-1. The Sooners dominated every team they played until running into Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game. Oklahoma lost badly, but the Sooners’ performance throughout the season gave them enough room that the loss didn’t change their final destination. Oklahoma fell just one spot in the BCS standings, to No. 2. The final BCS rankings proved late-season losses aren’t that harmful.
Still, the National Championship matchup between Louisiana State and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl suggested that one of the two teams didn’t belong there, as the Tigers won 21-14 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
After Southern Cal’s victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, both The Associated Press and Coaches Polls voted Southern Cal No. 1. But, the computer rated Louisiana State the National Champions. The two teams split the honor, and controversy remained the name of the game for the BCS.
So there you have it. While you might feel too depressed to go on this holiday season, at least take some solace in previous team’s misfortunes.
It’ll beat that hand-knitted sweater you get from your grandma.
Wright can be reached at email@example.com.