The BCS National Championship Game has been set for almost a week now, and no one is complaining about the matchup. Both Notre Dame and Alabama deserve to be playing for the title this season.
But what about the other teams that feel like they deserve a shot this season? There are certainly a few of them out there. For that matter, what about teams in prior seasons that felt they should have had a chance to play for the crystal football, but were kept out of the game for one reason or another?
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done for those teams. However, there are still fans out there that remember those teams and may still be wondering “what if?”
Here is a comprehensive list of the 10 best teams to never play for the BCS National Championship. Please note that overall record and final BCS ranking were two of the strongest factors in determining this list.
Also note that in a couple of years, most of these teams would have gotten a shot to play their way into the championship game via a semifinals matchup. Thank goodness for playoffs.
Sure, the Buckeyes weren’t eligible to play for the national title this season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make this list. In Urban Meyer’s first year as head coach at Ohio State, the team was far from spectacular during certain games, almost blowing a big lead against Cal and needing the heroics of backup quarterback Kenny Guiton to beat Purdue in overtime.
But aside from a defense that ranked 36th nationally in yards given up per game, this team brings back memories of the 2002 Ohio State squad that won the national championship in Jim Tressel’s second season. The team played a bend-but-don’t-break style, winning five games by seven points or fewer.
One can only wonder how the Buckeyes would have done against another undefeated 2012 squad that thrived in close games.
It’s hard to imagine a team that began the season ranked fourth in both the coaches’ poll and AP poll and went on to beat the No. 1-, No. 11- and No. 8-ranked teams in consecutive weeks wouldn’t make it to the national title game. But that’s what happened to the Texas Longhorns in 2008.
On November 1, 2008, Mack Brown’s team took on Texas Tech in Lubbock, the Longhorns’ fourth ranked opponent in as many weeks. Just as it appeared Texas would make it through the toughest part of its schedule unscathed, Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell threw a pass to Michael Crabtree, who escaped two defenders and scored with one second remaining in the game. The score and PAT put the Red Raiders up 39-33, which ended up being the final score.
Thanks to that loss, the Longhorns ended up in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South Division with Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Oklahoma won the tiebreaker and beat Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game (Texas beat both schools during the regular season).
While Oklahoma would go on to play Florida in the national title game, Texas would have to settle for a 24-21 victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Of the one-loss SEC teams in 2012, Florida can say with some confidence that it got the raw end of the deal.
The Gators were an up-and-down team this season, beating Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State, but looking flat against teams such as Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State. Still, what ended up hurting Will Muschamp’s team the most was a loss to rival Georgia in late October.
While Georgia ended up going to the SEC Championship and was less than 10 yards from knocking off eventual BCS title game selection Alabama, Florida was left hoping for a miracle.
Would Florida’s stout run defense have fared better than Georgia’s against Alabama’s vaunted rushing attack in the SEC title game? No one can be sure, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the faithful in Gainesville would respond with a resounding “yes."
Instead, the Gators will play Louisville in a much less anticipated Sugar Bowl matchup.
The 2008 Utah Utes squad is just one of a few examples of a team from a smaller conference that was grossly underrated by the media. One of two undefeated squads at the end of the 2007 regular season, the Utes were the only undefeated team after the postseason, as Boise State lost to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham’s squad was matched up against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and made a statement by beating the Crimson Tide 31-17. This prompted several voters in the AP poll to vote Utah first overall (the Utes received 16 first-place votes).
In addition to the voters, four of the six computers used in the BCS formula had the Utes first in the final standings. But Utah was never seriously considered for the national title game because of the conference it played in (Mountain West Conference) and its perceived weak schedule compared to other teams.
The 2009 Broncos squad kicked off perhaps the best three-year period in Boise State football history. Not surprisingly, the Broncos never got to show the world how good they really were against the best in the country.
Despite ending the regular season 13-0, Boise State was matched up in the Fiesta Bowl against fellow unbeaten mid-major TCU. There was speculation that this matchup was staged so that neither team would have the chance of knocking off one of the “Big Six” conferences' best teams.
The Broncos beat the Horned Frogs in the desert, and the future seemed bright for one of the youngest teams in college football at the time. However, two costly missed field goals ruined Boise State’s chances of making it to the national title game each of the next two seasons.
This team would be the only one that quarterback Kellen Moore, who would end up winning 50 games over his four-year career, would lead to an undefeated season.
Before Chip Kelly, Oregon ran the spread offense under a different coach: Mike Bellotti. Bellotti is sometimes mistaken for not having the kind of success in Eugene that Kelly has experienced, but that isn’t necessarily true. In addition to leading the Ducks to four ten-win seasons, Bellotti’s team was involved in one of the first BCS controversies.
The Ducks finished the 2001 regular season 11-1, suffering a 49-42 loss to Stanford at home in the middle of October. By the end of the season, Oregon had climbed back to No. 4 in the rankings. However, even after Colorado obliterated Nebraska 62-36 in the last game of the regular season, the Cornhuskers were given the nod to play in the national title game over Oregon and Colorado because time of loss was not taken into account in the BCS rankings.
Nebraska would go on to lose to Miami 37-14 in the national title game, while Oregon would beat Colorado 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Being ranked No. 2 in both human polls at the end of the season and beating No. 1 and No. 2 during the regular season is enough to make it to the BCS title game, right?
That’s what happened to the Miami Hurricanes in 2000, when the 11-1 squad was shut out of the big game in favor of Florida State and Oklahoma. The Hurricanes actually beat the Seminoles in October of that year, when the Seminoles were ranked first in the nation. However, a close loss to Washington on the road proved to be too much for the Big East Champions to overcome.
Miami’s situation actually prompted a rule change to the BCS, which took “quality wins” (beating a Top 10 team) into account after the 2000-01 season.
Like Boise State the year before, TCU didn’t get nearly the recognition it should have for its undefeated season because of the reputation of the conference it played in.
After taking care of business in the regular season, including a 47-7 beatdown of then-No. 6 Utah in early November, the Horned Frogs were matched up against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Few gave Gary Patterson’s team a chance to slow down the Badgers’ three-headed rushing attack of John Clay, James White and Montee Ball.
However, after building a 21-13 lead in the final quarter, linebacker Tank Carder preserved perfection by knocking down Wisconsin’s two-point attempt that would have tied the game with just two minutes left.
Far and away the best defense in the nation in terms of yards given up per game, it would have been very interesting to see how the Horned Frogs would have responded against Auburn’s offensive machine led by Cam Newton.
A three-point loss in triple overtime to Cal is all that separated this team from a sure spot in the 2004 national title game. Unlike many teams on this list, the Trojans were still rewarded for their efforts by members of the media.
Other than the Golden Bears, no one came close to challenging USC in 2003. Not one team came within two touchdowns of beating the Trojans other than Cal, including USC’s opponent in the Rose Bowl, Michigan. While Pete Carroll’s team won its bowl game by two touchdowns, eventual BCS champions LSU beat Oklahoma in fairly unimpressive fashion 21-14.
The 2003-2004 season was marked by extreme controversy regarding the BCS title game decision. Three teams (LSU, Oklahoma, USC) finished the season with one loss. In addition, Oklahoma was blasted in the Big 12 Championship Game by Kansas State 35-7, yet still received the nod over the Trojans.
In response, the AP poll broke ground by crowning USC national champions. The split also marked the first time the BCS champion was not a unanimous champion in the coaches' poll, as three coaches also voted the Trojans No. 1.
It may be hard to remember, but there was once a time where an SEC team could run the table and it wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the national title game.
The 2004 Auburn Tigers essentially serve as the poster child for all of the complaints against the BCS system. Five teams ended the 2004 regular season undefeated, with three of those teams being from “Big Six” conferences. Oklahoma and USC were chosen over Tommy Tuberville’s team for the BCS title game, in what ended up being one of the most lopsided title games in history (USC walloped Oklahoma 55-19).
Although the Tigers beat LSU, Georgia and Tennessee twice, all ranked teams, strength of schedule was not as important of a factor in the BCS rankings at the time.
Auburn didn’t exactly impress in its bowl game, defeating Virginia Tech 16-13, but its 13-0 record highlighted the issues associated with computer and human polls selecting two teams to play for the national championship rather than playing the games on the field.