Part 8 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.
Without a doubt, 2005 was BCS nirvana.
It was the best season in the BCS's 16-year existence. It was its most controversy-free season. And it ended with its best championship game, in the best setting possible for college football—the Rose Bowl.
USC, after winning back-to-back AP national titles, was back for an unprecedented three-peat. It had a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who surprised everyone by returning for his senior season. It had a soon-to-be Heisman-winning running back. It had NFL first-round picks up the ying-yang on offense. But its defense was somewhat suspect.
No matter—the Trojans blew through the schedule by lighting up the scoreboard. They won a thriller in South Bend when their Heisman combo Matt Leinart-Reggie Bush orchestrated a final-second touchdown to beat Notre Dame. They escaped Fresno State when Bush produced a career worth of highlights in a single game, piling up 513 total yards. USC rolled into the Rose Bowl for the national championship with a 34-game winning streak after destroying UCLA, 66-19.
What's the Best BCS Title Game of All Time?
Keeping on the Trojans' heels was No. 2 Texas, led by junior quarterback Vince Young, a Heisman hopeful himself. The Longhorns were ranked right behind USC the entire season and were a juggernaut in their own right. After getting by Ohio State in Columbus in the second game of the season, Texas scored at least 40 points and won by double digits every game. The Longhorns claimed their date with USC by nuking Colorado in the Big 12 title game, 70-3.
In this BCS perfect season, everything fell into place. Penn State, the only other team that might otherwise had a claim on the title game, was done in by Michigan's Mario Manningham, who caught a TD pass on the game's final play to thwart perfection for the Lions. Alabama, the last unbeaten team besides USC and Texas, bowed out of the race on Nov. 12 after a loss to LSU.
The national championship game was a classic. The Trojans jumped ahead. The Longhorns took the lead by halftime. USC regained control in the second half and was one play away from finishing off its three-peat. On 4th-and-2 at the Texas 45, with 2:13 remaining and Texas out of timeouts, the Trojans elected to go for a first down instead of punting to protect a 38-33 lead.
Bush, the Heisman winning back, was on the sideline. The Trojans loaded up the left side of the line and ran LenDale White off tackle. It was a play full of machismo (called by then-offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin). USC had run this play three times in crucial situations in this game and prevailed each time. It dared Texas to stop it.
The Longhorns did. White was stuffed a yard short and Young got the ball back. He methodically drove Texas downfield, scoring the game-winner on 4th-and-5 with 19 seconds left. Texas ended the Trojans' reign and won its first national title since 1970.
Final BCS Standings: 1. USC, 2. Texas, 3. Penn State, 4. Ohio State, 5. Oregon, 6. Notre Dame.
Using 1998-2003 (BCS I) Formula: 1. USC, 2. Texas, 3. Penn State, 4. Ohio State.
Likely four-team playoff: USC vs. Ohio State; Texas vs. Penn State.
The last spot would be up for grabs between two-loss Ohio State and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes' losses were to Penn State and Texas and they shared the Big Ten title with Penn State whereas the Irish lost to USC and 5-6 Michigan State. OSU also had much better computer rankings than ND (No. 4 vs. No. 10). And in reality, these teams did meet in the Fiesta Bowl, with OSU winning 34-20.
There were few regarding the BCS. The title game was only slightly marred by instant-replay malfunction, which allowed a disputed Texas touchdown to stand in the second quarter. Young's knee was down on the play before he lateraled the ball to Selvin Young, who ran 12 yards for the score to put Texas ahead, 9-7. The play was not reviewed because the equipment wasn't working.
|Rose Bowl*||#2 Texas 41, #1 USC 38||93,986||21.7|
|Fiesta Bowl||#4 Ohio St. 34, #6 Notre Dame 20||76,196||12.9|
|Orange Bowl||#3 Penn St. 26, #22 Florida St. 23 (3 OT)||77,912||12.2|
|Sugar Bowl||#11 West Virginia 38, #7 Georgia 35||74,458||9.0|
* BCS Championship Game
BCS Formula Review: After the controversy of the previous year when Texas leapfrogged California for a Rose Bowl berth, the BCS made another tweak with the formula, out of necessity. A number of AP voters were besieged by angry fans who found fault with their ballots. As a result, the AP sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that the AP poll be removed from the BCS formula.
The BCS hastily contracted Harris Interactive to furnish a replacement poll, which debuted in 2005. The poll featured over 100 voters who were former athletic directors, coaches and players, as well as members of the media. Unlike the AP poll or the coaches poll, the Harris Poll did not have a preseason poll, wasn't released until mid-season and didn't have an end-of-season final poll.
With the installment of the Harris Interactive Poll as part of the standings, the BCS formula would remain unchanged until the very end. The final nine seasons of BCS's existence had the exact same formula after undergoing six changes in its first seven seasons.
Was Harris Poll an Improvement Over AP Poll?
Final Analysis: The USC-Texas game was easily the most thrilling, not to mention the most-watched BCS championship game (and college football game, of all time, with a record TV rating of 21.7), thanks to the star power of both teams.
The BCS deserved credit for making it happen. Under the previous bowl regime, USC would've played (and most likely, beaten) Penn State in the Rose Bowl whereas Texas would've faced (and also likely beaten) either one-loss Oregon or two-loss Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Because of their status as the two-time defending champion and the fact that they had been top-ranked all season, the Trojans most likely would've been voted No. 1 in both polls while the Longhorns would've been relegated to No. 2.
The 2006 Rose Bowl also marked the end of the Phase I of the BCS bowl rotation. After two consecutive cycles of playing four BCS bowls with eight berths, the BCS, partly under pressure, would expand to a "double-host" setup following the 2005 season. An extra game would be added to allow more access for non-BCS teams, and a championship game was added, to be played about a week after the traditional New Year's Day bowl games.
Follow on Twitter @BCSGuru