We’re just a few days away from the 14th BCS National Championship Game and the rematch between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama. With their first meeting a 9-6 defensive slugfest and the rematch dimension, the anticipation and buzz for the actual game has been somewhat tempered. Craig James has a better chance of becoming president than this game has of becoming an offensive shootout the likes of the Alamo, Rose, and Fiesta Bowls. Nevertheless, the potential certainly exists for a tense, dramatic BCS title game… which got me thinking about the history of the occasion and where each game would rank on a countdown from 13 to 1. From Tebow to Tee and Michael Vick to Cam Newton, here’s the list from worst to first of every BCS Championship Game…
13) 2001 Orange Bowl: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
This isn’t just the worst BCS Championship Game in history, it may be one of the worst championship games ever… in any sport! C’mon Florida State, two points!!! TWO! And those came in the final minute! Perhaps the BCS deserved it as this was one of the first years of controversy regarding who got into the 1 vs 2 title game (not that it’s become a theme over the years or anything). 10-1 FSU was picked ahead of 10-1 Miami even though the Hurricanes had beaten the Seminoles earlier in the season. Both teams combined for 26 first downs in this snoozefest. West Virginia had 31 first downs by themselves in this year’s Orange Bowl. The term highlights here are being used very liberally.
12) 2002 Rose Bowl: Miami 37, Nebraska 14
Perhaps the biggest injustice in BCS history occurred after the 2001 season where a team that didn’t even win their division was allowed to play for a national championship. (Wait a minute…) Nebraska lost their final game of the season to Colorado 62-36 and continued that fine form by embarrassing Cornhuskers everywhere in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Don’t let the final score deceive you, this game was as one sided as they come. Miami led 34-0 at the half in a game that should have had the mercy rule called at the coin toss. Here’s all you need to know from the 2002 Rose Bowl…
11) 2005 Orange Bowl: USC 55, Oklahoma 19
The biggest blowout in BCS Championship history happened three years later in Miami. USC crushed Oklahoma (who you’ll see more of on the losing side of this countdown) by 36 points. However, this game ranks higher than the ’02 Rose Bowl simply for the pleasure of watching the dynamic USC offense at its peak. Matt Leinart threw for 332 yards and 5 TDs and USC led by as many as 45 in the 4th quarter. This game’s also memorable for another reason though. If you ask the BCS, it never happened.
10) 2008 BCS National Championship Game: LSU 38, Ohio State 24
Poor Ohio State. This was their second straight embarrassment in a BCS National Championship Game at the hands of an SEC opponent. Once again the Buckeyes struck quickly with a 65 yard Beanie Wells touchdown run and actually led 10-0 early on. But after that it was all Tigers as they rolled off 31 straight points that demoralized an entire region of the country once again. Todd Boeckman is still feeling this flying lariat from LB Ali Highsmith…
9) 2009 BCS National Championship Game: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14
A heavily hyped game of two powerful offenses that largely turned into a halfway compelling defensive struggle. Tim Tebow threw for 231 and ran for 109 to lead Florida to their second title in three years. Even though this game was tied early in the fourth quarter, there wasn’t much to remember about this championship tilt except for Fox’s awful tenure televising the BCS and Thom Brennaman’s ginormous mancrush on Tebow. If only we knew what was to come three years later…
8) 2004 Sugar Bowl: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14
Hey look! Another bowl game where a high powered Oklahoma offense was shut down and Bob Stoops suffered a high profile, catastrophic loss! That’s as rare as a Clemson collapse! In 2004, OU was held to 154 yards of offense and Heisman winner Jason White went 13/37 through the air as the Sooners were stunned by a ferocious LSU defense led by Marcus Spears and others. In fact, it was Spears who had the eventual game winning score on a pick six to start the second half. This was the first half of the decade’s version of the Giants upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
7) 2007 BCS National Championship Game: Florida 41, Ohio State 14
The game itself probably shouldn’t be this high on the list, but in terms of its shock value and significance to the way college football has unfolded in the last five years it should definitely be higher. Before the game it was Ohio State who had the Heisman QB, the vast array of athletes, and a legendary victory over #2 Michigan. The ’07 BCS Championship Game was going to be a Buckeye coronation. What resulted was the beginning of the SEC’s era of dominance over college football in a crushing performance nobody expected. The Florida defensive line ran through, over, and around the Buckeye offensive line for five sacks and caused Troy Smith to go 4/14 for only 35 yards. The SEC has been riding high ever since.
6) 1999 Fiesta Bowl: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16
The first ever BCS Championship Game took place in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Yes, believe it or not, Tennessee was actually once a national powerhouse in college football. Tennessee led by 14 points with just 6 minutes to go, but QB Marcus Outzen cut the lead in half with 3:43 remaining. A frantic finish was set up when RB Travis Henry fumbled with 1:30 in the game, but DB Steve Johnson intercepted FSU’s first play on their last drive. Vols QB Tee Martin threw for 278 yards including 79 here to Peerless Price…
5) 2010 BCS National Championship Game: Alabama 37, Texas 21
Although TCU, Boise State, and Cincinnati also went undefeated, it was 13-0 Alabama squaring off against 13-0 Texas in the 2010 title game. What this matchup could have been had Texas QB Colt McCoy not been knocked out of the game on the second series. Texas backup Garrett Gilbert was 15/40 and threw four picks but somehow had Texas down three midway through the final period with possession of the football. But then Alabama’s defense finally closed the door with a crucial turnover and two late touchdowns from the powerful 1-2 punch of Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
4) 2011 BCS National Championship Game: Auburn 22, Oregon 19
Yes, the most recent BCS National Championship Game came down to the final play, but there haven’t been many more disappointing games from an entertainment perspective in BCS history. Oregon was the best offense in the country, averaging over 49 PPG. Auburn over 42 PPG. Tigers QB Cam Newton had just completed one of the most impressive offensive seasons in college football history and won the Heisman in a route. This was supposed to be a shootout of epic proportions! Instead, the offensive fireworks took a backseat to Oregon’s neon green socks. Auburn broke a 19-19 tie with a last minute drive aided by a miraculous Michael Dyer run and Wes Byrum booted a 19 yard field goal “for all the Tostitos”…
3) 2000 Sugar Bowl: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29
Although the score may not suggest it, this was one of the most exciting BCS Championship Games in history thanks to Hokie sensation Michael Vick. At the time, Virginia Tech were upstarts in the college football world and Florida State was one of the most accomplished teams of the previous decade and both entered the Sugar Bowl unbeaten. The game featured a bevy of big plays with Chris Weinke throwing two 60 yard TDs in the first half to Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans. FSU was on their way to a one sided victory leading 28-7 late in the 2nd quarter, but Vick led a stunning Tech fightback with 22 unanswered points for a 29-28 lead. Vick and the Hokies scored 15 points in a five minute span in the 3rd quarter! But the Seminoles were too much as they responded and outscored VT 18-0 in the 4th quarter to win 46-29. A game that doesn’t get the lasting credit it deserves in the memory banks, but one that provided one thrill after another, like this Peter Warrick punt return…
2) 2003 Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 F/2OT
The only BCS title game to go to overtime makes the second spot on our countdown. This game had all the makings of a David vs Goliath showdown. Miami had won 34 straight games and were considered to be one of the best teams in history. They had steamrolled Nebraska in the championship game a year prior. Ohio State, led by QB Craig Krenzel, needed improbable victory after improbable victory to complete a 13-0 regular season. They were 11.5 point underdogs to the Canes but some key defensive plays (even from star freshman RB Maurice Clarett) got Ohio State to overtime tied at 17. In the first OT, it was even more Buckeye magic… and a little help from a field judge, that tied the game at 24. First, Craig Krenzel converted a 4th & 14. Then, facing another 4th down, the game appeared to be over when Krenzel’s pass for Chris Gamble went incomplete in the endzone. As Miami stormed the field, an official threw a late flag for pass interference. OSU scored 3 plays later to force OT #2 and Maurice Clarett started that period with a TD run. The Buckeyes defense held Miami out of the endzone for the national title and one of the more memorable victories of all-time.
1) 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas 41, USC 38
In my opinion, it’s not just #1 on our countdown of greatest BCS title games, but the single best game I’ve seen im my lifetime. I wrote a detailed retrospective in August during CBR’s launch week breaking down the ’06 Rose Bowl as my favorite college football game ever. The storyline of Texas trying to upset mighty USC, touted as the greatest team in history before the game, and the setting of the Rose Bowl set the anticipation for this game to the max. The talent on display was mesmerizing with future NFL players all over the field, Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush starring for USC, and one of the most transcendent college football players ever, Vince Young leading Texas. There were over 1100 yards of total offense in the game and Young accounted for 437 on his own in perhaps the best title winning performance in sports. It was a game that featured one game-changing, jaw-dropping, “can you believe that” play after another. VY led Texas from down 38-26 in the 4th quarter with two late touchdown drives spurred by a dramatic 4th down stop from the Texas defense. Young ran in an 8 yard TD with 26 seconds to win the greatest college football game ever played. This was the college football version of watching Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. If one were to script the perfect game of college football, it still wouldn’t live up to the magic of the 2006 Rose Bowl.
The entire game is the highlight and it’s worth your time to go back and relive.