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.
After two years of turmoil, BCS got a big break in
2002 as two undefeated teams — the only ones — met in a memorable
title game that wasn’t decided until after two overtimes. This time,
the only controversy came only during the game.
But just like in 1999, while the BCS could pat itself on the back all
it wants, the reality is that a caveman could’ve picked the Miami-Ohio
State matchup — and he wouldn’t even need the BCS standings to muddle
After Oklahoma was upset in the first week of November, it became
clear that the title game would feature defending champion and No.
1-ranked Miami and second-ranked Ohio State. The Buckeyes had to
survive a tight battle with arch rival Michigan, 14-9, while the
‘Canes romped through the final weeks, bidding to become the first
team in the BCS era to repeat as champions.
Ohio State, riding on the back of the criminally talented freshman
Maurice Clarett, would spoil Miami’s quest, but it needed two big
breaks to do it. First, Hurricanes running back Willis McGahee tore
his ACL in the third quarter, slowing down the Miami offensive
powerhouse. Then, just as the ‘Canes seemingly clinched victory on the
game’s final play, a pass-interference (wait, or was it defensive
holding?) flag came out five seconds later that gave the Buckeyes new
Was that a good call? You decide.
(Warning: The neutrality of the
commentary is in question)
But the most significant development of this season went mostly
unnoticed. After losing two of its first five games, USC blew through
the rest of the Pac-10 and routed Iowa in the Orange Bowl, led by
Heisman-winning quarterback Carson Palmer. The Trojans would re-enter
college football’s top echelon and become the most BCS-relevant
juggernaut for years to come.
* Using present day formula: 1. Miami, 2. Ohio State.
* Using 1998-2000 formula: 1. Miami, 2. Ohio State.
* Using human polls only: 1. Miami, 2. Ohio State.
* Plus-One: Miami vs. USC; Ohio State vs. Georgia.
* The Rose Bowl in Miami: The real Rose Bowl lost out on the
traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup and was none too pleased about it.
Adding insult to more insult, the Orange Bowl invoked a little-known
BCS backroom rule to secure a USC-Iowa matchup that announced the
arrival of the Trojan Empire.
Here’s how it happened:
After the Fiesta Bowl took the top two teams for the national title
game, the Orange Bowl snagged No. 5 Iowa, the Big Ten runner-up. The
Rose Bowl was next. With Pac-10 co-champ Washington State (which beat
USC head-to-head) already anchored, and Iowa unavailable, the Rose
took Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
The Sugar Bowl was next, ready to invite No. 4 USC to play No. 3
Georgia. But the Orange Bowl took advantage of an exception clause
that allowed a higher-paying bowl to jump another once every four
years and swiped the Trojans away. The Sugar Bowl was stuck with SEC
champion Georgia and ACC winner No. 14 Florida State.
BCS Formula Review: Computer rankings by Herman Matthews and
Dave Rothman were dropped and the New York Times added back in, making
it a total of seven. The lowest ranking was discarded and the
remaining six averaged.
All rankings now purged the margin-of-victory component, as Jeff
Sagarin introduced a new ELO-CHESS rating that removed margin of
victory, reluctantly — in his words: "In ELO-CHESS, only winning and
losing matters; the score margin is of no consequence, which makes it
very ‘politically correct’."
Analysis: The BCS celebrated its most successful season yet,
and decided to take the rest of the year off to congratulate itself.
The Miami-Ohio State game was a boon to the BCS and seemingly
validated its existence — without the participation of the Big Ten,
Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl, this matchup wouldn’t have happened in the
pre-BCS era. But the next two years would bring nothing but trouble
for the system, especially 2003, when the mother of all controversies
would force the BCS to blow itself up.