TEN YEARS OF BCS: 2001
The Guru’s Note: Beginning in June, the Guru will publish a
review of each of the 10 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series
came into existence in 1998. In this series —
Ten Years of BCS — the Guru will examine the
results from these seasons — who got lucky and who got robbed, what
could’ve been, what should’ve been and other controversies of the day.
The series will appear weekly leading up to the 2008 season.
If the BCS was shaken by the 2000 controversy, then
it was rocked by an earthquake in 2001.
Heading into the final weeks of the regular season,
it appeared that a Miami-Nebraska showdown in the Rose Bowl would be
inevitable. After Nebraska’s 20-10 win over previously unbeaten Oklahoma,
Miami and Nebraska were ranked 1-2 for the next four consecutive
weeks, with non-BCS Brigham Young the only other unbeaten team.
Then a series of upsets changed everything.
Heading into their final regular-season game, the
Huskers still needed a victory in Boulder to clinch the Big 12 North
against two-loss Colorado. But the Buffaloes didn’t comply, and
thrashed Nebraska, 62-36, in a game that wasn’t even that
close. Nebraska tumbled to No. 6 in the polls and its national title
aspirations seemingly squashed.
After Nebraska’s loss, Florida claimed the
all-important No. 2 spot. The Gators just needed to beat Tennessee to
secure a berth in the SEC championship game. Annually played in the
third week of September, the Florida-Tennessee game in 2001 was
postponed because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Vols surprised
Florida with a 34-32 victory, in what turned out to be Steve
Spurrier’s final regular-season game as Gators coach.
The victory catapulted Tennessee from No. 6 to No.
2 in the BCS standings after No. 4 Colorado upset No. 3 Texas in the
Big XII title game. Now all the Vols had to do was beat LSU in the SEC
title game to secure their second BCS title game appearance in four
In the meantime, left on the sideline seething was
Oregon. The Ducks, with its only defeat to two-loss Stanford, were No. 3 in both polls. Yet, they were ranked only
No. 5 in the BCS standings, behind two-loss Colorado, who had been
beaten by Fresno State and also Texas in the regular season. The
Buffs, after winning the rematch against the Longhorns, had their issue, too: Somehow, they were ranked No. 4 in
the BCS, behind the Nebraska team that had been idle since being
annihilated in Boulder.
The BCS would’ve dodged a bullet if Tennessee could
just take care of business against three-loss LSU, which had been
beaten in Knoxville earlier in the season. But the Tigers didn’t
oblige, pulling out a 31-20 victory in the SEC title game, completing
the frenzied final three weeks of the season with one more upset.
So who was going to play undefeated Miami? Oregon,
now No. 2 in both polls, seemed to have the strongest argument.
Colorado, with an impressive late-season run but two losses, wanted to have
a say, too. The team that really shouldn’t be in the discussion was
Nebraska, which had snuck back up to No. 4 after the spate of
But it was Nebraska that claimed the No. 2 spot in
the final BCS standings,
edging out Colorado by five-hundredth (.05) of a percentage point.
Oregon, with a low computer average and hampered by its
strength-of-schedule rating, was a distant fourth and never had a
The Buffaloes howled for weeks after narrowly
losing out. But the truth is that they were even that close to
Nebraska only because of the new "quality win" component, added after
the 2000 season as
make-good to Miami’s snub. Had the 2000 formula
been applied, Colorado would’ve been fourth, behind Nebraska by nearly two
full points and also Oregon as well.
At the end, the Ducks were really the aggrieved party,
and they proved it by destroying Colorado, 38-16, in the Fiesta Bowl.
Miami finished its undefeated season with a ho-hum 34-14 victory over
Nebraska, universally disparaged as being undeserving. While the
Hurricanes celebrated their national championship, the BCS was sent
back to the drawing board once again.
Final BCS Standings: 1. Miami, 2. Nebraska, 3. Colorado, 4.
Using present day formula: 1. Miami, 2. Oregon, 3.
Colorado, 4. Nebraska. (Oregon would’ve been a comfortable No. 2, and
there would’ve been little controversy)
Using 1998-2000 formula: 1. Miami, 2. Nebraska, 3.
Oregon, 4. Colorado. (Nebraska would’ve been well ahead of Oregon)
Using human polls only: 1. Miami, 2. Oregon, 3.
Colorado, 4. Nebraska.
Plus-One: Miami vs. Nebraska; Oregon vs. Colorado.
Other than Nebraska getting into the national
championship game in the Rose Bowl, not really. (But that’s like
saying a car hit my wife and then ran over my dog, but other than
that, it’s been a great day.) The only other one-loss teams from major
conferences, Illinois (Big Ten) and Maryland (ACC), were both
throttled in BCS bowl games. No. 5 Florida was the only at-large
selection, and as it turned out, sent out coach Spurrier to the NFL with a 56-23
rout of Maryland at the Orange Bowl.
BCS Formula Review: Wes Colley (of the
Colley Matrix) and Peter Wolfe were added to the computer ratings,
replacing the New York Times and Richard Dunkel. The move ostensibly
was to lessen the impact of margin of victory in computer rankings. Of
the eight ratings for each team, the highest and lowest were thrown
out and the remainder averaged.
Also, a "quality win" component was added to the
team’s final total, in response to Miami’s being snubbed in 2000. This
scheme called for teams to receive bonus points by beating other teams
in the final BCS top 15. As a result, Colorado’s late-season wins over
Nebraska and Texas gave it a boost of 2.3 points, nearly knocking
Nebraska out of the No. 2 spot.
Analysis: The 2001 mess probably should’ve
been a wake-up call for the BCS to completely revamp its formula. Yet,
the powers-that-be continued to scrutinize the computers and margin of
victory as the problem areas, overlooking the real issues that made
the cumbersome system dysfunctional. The next season brought a big
relief — through no credit to the BCS system — but the calm would
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