Part 3 of a series: Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing each of the 16 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence in 1998. Here is a look back at who got lucky, who got robbed, what could've been, what should've been and other controversies of the day. The series will appear throughout December and January.
After two years of relative calm, controversy exploded on the BCS in Year 3. For the first time, a team's presence in the BCS title game was called into question, and the criticism went unabated even after an undefeated champion was crowned.
But if anything, this was a self-inflicted wound.
Bowing more to an ignorant media than any real pressure from public opinion, the BCS drastically changed its formula to retroactively make amends for an outcome it was powerless to change. Instead of defending its method and holding its ground, the BCS capitulated. This knee-jerk reaction would bring far more serious consequences in the years to come and compromise its claim to legitimacy in the system's formative years.
Oklahoma finished the 2000 regular season as the nation's only undefeated Division I-A team and its No. 1 ranking was undisputed. But Florida State, despite ranking No. 3 in both the AP and coaches polls, leapfrogged No. 2 Miami in the final BCS standings to earn a date with the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
Which Team Should've Played in Title Game?
The media went berserk, more so than even Miami coach Butch Davis. The credibility of BCS computers was called into question because it was the computers' preference for the Seminoles that carried the day. The main argument was this: Since both Miami and Florida State each had one loss, and the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles on the field, how could Florida State be ranked ahead of Miami?
The powers-that-be of the BCS panicked, big time. Changes were promised and then carried out in the offseason. The computer lineup was reshuffled to de-emphasize margin of victory. And a dubious "quality win" criteria was added to the formula—as if the existing arrangement wasn't convoluted enough.
But the BCS really should've responded with: "What's the problem?" and vigorously defended the system.
Florida State was a worthy No. 2 team. If you lined up FSU and Miami side by side, plenty could've been said in the Seminoles' favor.
1. Strength of Schedule: Florida State and Miami ranked second and third, respectively, in the strength-of-schedule component in the BCS standings. But upon further examination, that was laughable. (The SoS, parroted from the RPI that the NCAA uses for its basketball selections, would prove to be the most destructive part of the formula—but more on that later in this series.)
Florida State played in a tougher conference (ACC) than Miami (Big East). Its non-conference games consisted of Louisville, Brigham Young, Florida and Miami. The 'Canes played I-AA McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Washington and FSU, plus Big East cupcakes such as Rutgers and Temple.
2. Losses: Florida State's lone loss was to Miami, 27-24, at the Orange Bowl on Oct. 7. The Seminoles rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 24-20 lead late in the game, only to lose on a Ken Dorsey-to-Jeremy Shockey pass with 46 seconds left. The 'Canes' only defeat was a 34-29 loss at Washington on Sept. 9.
3. The Washington Factor: If head-to-head results were so paramount, then maybe Washington should've been ranked ahead of Miami. After all, the Huskies beat Miami and also only lost once—a 23-16 defeat at two-loss Oregon.
4. Margin of Victory: If Washington was discounted because it won lots of close games—eight of its 11 games were decided by seven or fewer points—then the fact that Florida State won its games against a considerably tougher schedule by a wider margin than Miami (38.9 vs. 30.4) should not have been overlooked—and the computers didn't.
5. Historical Precedent: Even before the birth of the BCS, there had been several instances where a team was ranked ahead of another team despite losing head-to-head matchups and possessing the same record. In 1993, Florida State finished ahead of Notre Dame in both polls even though the Irish beat the Seminoles, 31-24, at South Bend. In 1978, USC finished second to Alabama (11-1) in the AP poll even though the Trojans (12-1) beat the Tide, 24-14, in Birmingham, Ala.
The body of evidence is pretty strong in the Seminoles' favor. Their presence in the BCS championship game was easily defensible. The fact that they laid an egg in an ugly 13-2 loss to Oklahoma was immaterial. Miami's win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl—a Gators team that the 'Noles had walloped—was also irrelevant.
One more thing: Even if today's BCS formula, which gives two-thirds of its weight to the human polls, were applied to the 2000 season, you'd still end up with the same result—Florida State would've finished second ahead of Miami (.9493 vs. .9459).
Final BCS Standings: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State, 3. Miami (Fla.), 4. Washington.
Using post-2003 BCS formula: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State.
Likely four-team playoff: Oklahoma vs. Washington; Florida State vs. Miami (Fla.).
A four-team playoff really would've been useful this year, as four teams—all conference champions—clearly stood above the rest.
Notre Dame windfall: The Fiesta Bowl passed on four teams ahead of Notre Dame in the final BCS standings to take the two-loss No. 11 Irish. Virginia Tech, ranked No. 5 with its only loss to Miami, fell just outside of the "Kansas State-mandate" and was ignored. Three other two-loss teams were also swept aside—No. 10 Oregon (because two other Pac-10 teams were already taken), No. 9 Kansas State (they're pretty used to this by now) and No. 8 Nebraska.
The Huskers especially had a beef because they had defeated Notre Dame in South Bend, 27-24, earlier in the season. This occurred at a time when the Irish received a windfall of $13 million per BCS bowl appearance—as opposed to the more balanced payouts in the latter days of the BCS. Notre Dame was promptly exposed as a fraud, as it was annihilated by Dennis Erickson's Oregon State Beavers, 41-9.
|Orange Bowl*||#1 Oklahoma 13, #2 Florida St. 2||76,835||17.8|
|Rose Bowl||#4 Washington 34, Purdue 24||94,392||14.0|
|Sugar Bowl||#3 Miami 37, #7 Florida 20||64,407||13.0|
|Fiesta Bowl||#6 Oregon St. 41, #11 Notre Dame 9||71,526||10.7|
* BCS Championship Game
BCS formula review: No change to the formula was made between the 1999 and 2000 seasons, but that changed in 2001, as the formula was tweaked or overhauled in four of the next five years.
Final analysis: The changes to the BCS formula prior to the 2001 season would prove to be simply reactionary and solved nothing. While an argument may be made on Miami's behalf, the results of the bowl games really made a case for Washington.
The Huskies went 7-1 in what was easily the toughest conference in 2000 and they beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl. Bowl wins by Oregon State and Oregon gave the Pac-10 three teams in the top seven in the final AP poll. The BCS was rocked by its first real crisis, and another one would erupt the following season.
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