While this year’s BCS Championship between Notre Dame and Alabama might have been a dud, it was one of the few years in which there was very little argument over which teams deserved to play in the game in the first place. Notre Dame ended the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record, while Alabama was the highest-rated conference champion with only a single loss.
This is a far cry from what the BCS has seen in the past, and hardly a note of support for the current system. In fact, every single team on this list would love to have a crack at the playoff system that is coming in 2014. The only real question is which team has the biggest BCS gripe…
10. A whole mess of teams, 2007
Many consider 2007 to have been the most exciting regular season of the BCS era, as it seemed like every week produced new teams in the top two spots of the national polls. When the dust settled, no AQ conference team managed to finish with an unbeaten record, and only top-ranked Ohio State managed to finish with a single loss on the year. The Buckeyes were matched against LSU, the first two-loss team in the history of the BCS to make it to the Championship Game.
LSU crushed eventual ACC champ Virginia Tech early in September and spent the first thirteen weeks of the season ranked in the top five. They also benefited from a favorable SEC schedule that avoided cross-divisional matchups against Tennessee (the East champ) and Georgia during the regular season. But the Tigers twice lost grip of the top spot, the second of which resulted in the team dropping all the way to seventh right before the SEC Championship Game against Tennessee. Fortunately, a series of crazy upsets during the final week allowed LSU to jump six spots in the rankings following the Tigers’ win over the Vols for the SEC title.
There were few complaints about LSU earning a spot in the BCS Championship, particularly since the Tigers would crush Ohio State to win the crown. At the same time, USC, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all had arguments for LSU’s spot after winning their respective conferences while finishing with the exact same number of losses as the Tigers.
9. Multiple teams, 1998
The inaugural year of the BCS sure set the tone for things to come, as an 11-1 Florida State squad benefited from a series of upsets late in the season to earn the right to face unbeaten Tennessee in the BCS Championship.
This was also a rare time where Mother Nature had a say in who played for the championship, as UCLA’s trip to Miami was moved from September to December after Hurricane Georges threatened the city. Miami, which lost to Florida State early in the year, showed great improvement as the season wore on and wound up ending the Bruins’ 20-game winning streak with a 49-45 win.
Ohio State and Wisconsin also had reason to gripe, as the two teams tied each other for the Big Ten title with identical 10-1 records. But a quirk in the conference schedule resulted in the two temas not playing each other on the year, effectively eliminating both from contention.
Still, there were no major gripes about Florida State playing for the championship.
8. USC, 2008
A fun comparison: two teams managed to finish the 2008 regular season with a single loss. Team A lost by a touchdown to an 8-4 team in a Thursday night game on the road. Team B lost by a single point to an 8-4 team two days later in an afternoon game at home. Both teams would go on to win their respective conferences, with Team A fielding one of the best defenses in college football history and Team B posting one of its most powerful offenses.
Just by looking at that info, it is nearly impossible to decide which team was deserving of a spot in the BCS Championship Game in a year in which there were no unbeaten AQ teams. If anything, Team A should be given the benefit of the doubt, since their loss was a higher degree of difficulty.
Team A is USC, which lost to Oregon State and was relegated to the Rose Bowl. Team B was Florida, which lost to Ole Miss and received a spot in the BCS Championship opposite Oklahoma.
This was right at the end of USC’s incredible run over the past decade, and many voters were either suffering from USC fatigue or holding the Trojans to a higher standard than everybody else. They also had to work against the aura of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, whose emotional post-game speech following the Ole Miss game undoubtedly swayed a few voters.
Many people point to Texas and Texas Tech as being the teams that were screwed over this season, as the Big 12 decided to use the BCS standings to determine that Oklahoma was the South champ after all three teams finished the year with identical 11-1 records. On the other hand, all three of these teams had the opportunity to take care of business on the field against each other, and it is the Big 12 that is more to blame for this fiasco than the BCS.
USC, however, had a much bigger gripe. That should have been their spot in the BCS Championship.
7. Louisville, 2006
All of the talk around the BCS Championship centered around whether or not unbeaten Ohio State should have been matched up with conference rival Michigan instead of SEC champ Florida. Both teams finished the season with a single loss, but the Wolverines’ lone blemish was a 42-39 loss to Ohio State in what many regard as the greatest matchup in the history of that storied series.
Lost in the shuffle was a Louisville squad that won the Big East and also finished the year with a single loss. Bobby Petrino’s crew held victories over Kentucky, Miami, and Kansas State in non-league play, while their 44-34 takedown of West Virginia gave the Cardinals a signature victory over what was then a top-five opponent.
Yet at the end of the year, the Cardinals found themselves about as far from the BCS Championship conversation as can be and were relegated to the Orange Bowl instead.
So why did Louisville not receive more of a push for the championship? Simple: no voter wanted to give the Cardinals’ conference any credit. The Big East had been raided by the ACC in the previous two seasons, which led many to view it as a league on life support and in danger of losing its automatic BCS berth. Nobody expected it to withstand the raid and come back stronger than ever, finishing the year with three teams in the top 12 and a perfect 5-0 record in postseason play.
This is a shame, because in hindsight Louisville looks every bit as worthy for the BCS Championship as Florida that season.
6. Washington, 2000
Many people forget that, as aggravating as the BCS has been over the years, the first two years of the system produced a pair of title games that were largely free of controversy. It was not until year three of the system that the college football world got a taste of how crazy things could get in the future.
Virtually everybody outside of Tallahassee scored the matchup of unbeaten Oklahoma and 11-1 Florida State in the BCS Championship, as the Seminoles’ one loss on the year was to a 10-1 Miami team that finished one spot behind FSU in the BCS rankings. Many claimed that the Hurricanes’ head-to-head victory should have been enough to put them in the championship instead. The controversy did not die down after Oklahoma handed Florida State a 13-2 defeat in the Championship while Miami thrashed Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
“When I look at it now, it probably should have been Miami and Oklahoma,” remarked FSU head coach Bobby Bowden after the game.
Here’s the only problem with the entire debate: every single argument that applies to Miami over Florida State also applies to Washington over Miami.
People seem to forget that the Huskies, who won the Pac-10 with a 10-1 record, handed Miami a 35-29 defeat in Seattle early in the season yet finished right behind the Hurricanes in the final BCS standings. Critics often state that the Huskies were not a dominant team, as seven of their victories on the season were by a touchdown or less. They also claim that UW was not even the best team in the Pac-10 at the end of the year, as Oregon State (which lost a heartbreaker in Seattle) may have been the best team in all of college football at season’s end.
But the bottom line is that Washington was able to defeat Miami during the 2000 season, which is something that even Florida State cannot claim to have done. So why don’t more people acknowledge that the Huskies have a legitimate beef?
5. Oklahoma State, 2011
Nobody was arguing whether or not LSU had earned the right to play for the BCS Championship, as the unbeaten Tigers sported a resume that included victories over the champions of both the Pac-12 and Big East conferences.
But there was plenty of debate over whether Oklahoma State or Alabama would be their opponent, and each made a fairly convincing case. Both teams went 11-1 on the season, with Oklahoma State’s argument centering around the fact that they rode a juggernaut offense to the Big 12 title while Alabama was not even the champion of their own division. Alabama, meanwhile, could make the claim that their only loss was in overtime to the nation’s only unbeaten team, while Oklahoma State’s loss was to a lesser Iowa State squad.
Oklahoma State can counter by stating that their loss was also in overtime, and in a Friday night road game in wake of a major tragedy within their athletic department. Alabama’s loss, while impressive, was still under ideal circumstances in front of a hometown crowd.
In the end, voters decided that Alabama having a “better” loss overcame Oklahoma State’s conference title, creating the first-ever BCS Championship between conference foes. The Crimson Tide validated that faith by crushing LSU in the rematch, leaving the Cowboys to wonder if they could have done the same.
4. USC, 2003
Heading into the final week of the season, Oklahoma’s spot in the BCS Championship Game seemed like a forgone conclusion. The Sooners had dominated the competition up to that point, winning their first twelve games by an average of 35.1 points and maintaining the top spot in the national polls. There was still the Big 12 Championship to be played against Kansas State, but most people considered that to be a mere formality.
The only real debate at that point centered around Oklahoma’s potential opponent, as both USC and LSU went into the final weekend with a single loss. USC, whose only blemish was an overtime loss at Cal, entered the weekend ranked 2nd in the human polls but had already completed their regular season. LSU, whose loss was at home to Florida, was ranked 3rd but like Oklahoma still had to play a Congerence Championship.
But a funny thing happened on that final weekend: Kansas State handed Oklahoma a brutal 35-7 loss, allowing USC and LSU to leapfrog the Sooners into the top two spots in the human polls. But the BCS had other ideas, keeping Oklahoma in the top spot despite the loss and matching the Sooners up against LSU in the Championship.
This meant that the team ranked in the top spot in both human polls was shut out of the championship game in favor of an Oklahoma team that did not win its conference.
This result was so baffling that the entire system underwent a massive overhaul, resulting in a brand-new formula that did not include the AP poll.
3. Oregon, 2001
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NCAA announced that it would be going along with professional sports in cancelling all of the college football games of that weekend. Many of these games were made up later in the season; one that was not, however, was Colorado-Washington State.
What does all of this have to do with Oregon being screwed by the BCS?
It turns out, both Colorado and Washington State would wind up being top-ten teams. In fact, Colorado’s 63-36 thrashing of a Nebraska squad that was then ranked 2nd in the country was impressive enough to move the two-loss Buffaloes into the conversation for the BCS Championship. They would go on to defeat Texas in the Big 12 Championship, giving Colorado something that could match Pac-10 champ Oregon. The Ducks still had the upper hand, as their record (which included a win over WSU) contained one fewer loss than that of the Buffs.
After much anticipation, the BCS decided that unbeaten Miami’s opponent in the Championship would be… Nebraska? Ahead of both the Pac-10 champ AND the team that beat it like a drum in the final game of the regular season?
This is widely regarded as the most baffling result ever produced by the BCS, which is really saying something. And had Colorado and WSU played their scheduled matchup, either the Buffaloes or the Ducks would have received enough of a boost in the BCS to leap past the Cornhuskers to be Miami’s opponent.
In truth, all of these teams were competing to be a sacrificial lamb, as that Miami squad contained 38 future NFL draft picks and is widely regarded as the most dominating team of the BCS era. Still, we have yet to hear an explanation as to why Nebraska was chosen for the title game that year.
2. Cincinnati, 2009
Truth be told, there were very few people who complained about Cincinnati being shut out of the BCS Championship in 2009. Both Alabama and Texas finished the regular season unbeaten, so it is hard to criticize the system’s selection of those two teams.
But Cincinnati still has a legitimate gripe, as the Bearcats are one of only two teams from AQ conferences that found themselves on the outside looking in despite finishing the year with an unbeaten record. They could realistically do nothing more to improve their chances of playing for the Championship, which is why they find themselves in the second spot in these rankings even though there was no great outcry to put them in the game.
Of course, the Bearcats did not help their case by putting up an anemic showing against Florida in the Sugar Bowl. This is what separates Cincinnati from the top team in these rankings…
1. Auburn, 2004
Much like 2009, it is really hard to criticize the BCS for choosing unbeaten USC and Oklahoma for that year’s Championship Game. Those two teams went wire-to-wire in the top two spots of the national polls, and their lofty preseason rankings have been identified as the main reason they were chosen for the championship ahead of fellow unbeaten Auburn.
And just like Cincinnati, it can also be said that the Tigers could do nothing else to improve on their regular season. It was also the first time that the BCS encountered an issue that could not be fixed, no matter how much tinkering they did with the formula. Auburn were just out of luck, and that was that.
So why does Auburn get the top spot? Simple: they were still unbeaten after bowl season, having defeated Virginia Tech 16-13 in the Sugar Bowl. The fact that Oklahoma was clobbered by USC in the Championship does not exactly hurt Auburn’s case, either.