Open Mic: the Shame of College Football in 2004

Leon WynnAnalyst IJune 11, 2008

What is the single greatest sports disappointment in history?

Until 2004, every team that finished 13-0 in Division I-A college football had been declared national champion.  Every team!

It doesn’t matter what the BCS said.  No legitimate national champion could be crowned after the 2004 Orange Bowl as long as there was another major college football undefeated team.

As I watched the Orange Bowl, I knew the wrong teams were on the field. One deserving national champion was not out there.

Who am I talking about?  Everyone (that wasn’t living under a rock during the 2004 season) knows that I am talking about the undefeated Auburn Tigers.

If Auburn can’t be the 2004 national champion, then neither can USC.

Undefeated is undefeated.  A major conference is a major conference.

Auburn remained undefeated in THE premier conference.  They were kept out of the Orange Bowl because, among their buffet of victories, one was against a Division I-AA team, The Citadel.

Auburn was scheduled to play Bowling Green but was forced to extend an invitation to The Citadel when Bowling Green pulled out at the last minute (to lose to Oklahoma).

The BCS determined that Auburn’s playing one Division I-AA team was enough cause for them to lose hold of the “strength of schedule” area.

I don’t see how.

Before the bowl season, Auburn finished with a total of four wins against teams ranked in the top 16 of both the writers' and coaches' final polls, compared to only two wins from USC and one from Oklahoma.

That’s right—Auburn had more top 16 wins than USC and Oklahoma COMBINED!

USC played Arizona and Colorado State, two teams that combined for a 7-15 record.  Oklahoma took on Houston and Baylor, two teams that combined for a 6-16 record.

I guess the lesson is that Auburn should have scheduled Buffalo (1-11 in the 2003 season) or some other Division I non-entity rather than The Citadel (6-6 in the 2003 season).

Auburn, Oklahoma, and USC all played a couple of patsies, and all played some top teams in 2004.  They all won major conferences.

Auburn played more top-tier teams than either team invited to the National Championship game.

If you want to talk strength of schedule, fine.  But measure it against the best teams you play, not the worst.

But let’s be honest, folks.  Auburn’s mistake wasn’t playing The Citadel—it was starting the season ranked behind both USC and Oklahoma.

Once the voters set that order, none of the teams were going to change positions as long as they kept winning.

Had Auburn begun the season first or second—a vote taken based on no evidence because no games had yet been played—it would have been playing for the title, not sitting at home after being cheated out of a shot.

And that doesn’t even get into the situation with Utah, an undefeated team that unfortunately isn't in a big conference.  I’d even throw the one-loss Texas team in the mix as a deserving team...

We all know what should have happened—a playoff. But this article will shy away from that in the interest of sparing the proverbial dead horse yet another beating.

It’s a damned shame that all the great teams didn’t get a chance to prove their greatness.

It’s a goddamned sin that Auburn was blocked from its National Championship