CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Ranking College Football Playoff & BCS Era 20 National Champions: No. 13, 2002 Ohio State
How do the 20 national champions in the College Football Playoff & BCS rank based on how good their seasons were?
CFN, College Football Playoff & BCS Era National Champions Ranking: No. 13, 2002 Ohio State
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, coincidentally starting in 1998 when the Bowl Championship Series era kicked off.
With the BCS, no matter how the teams got there, it was finally No. 1 vs. No. 2 for the national title – that wasn’t a given before – and eventually, it all morphed into the College Football Playoff starting in the 2014 season.
Based on the tried, true, tested and tweaked CFN Historical Season Ranking Formula (criteria breakdown at the bottom of all this), welcome to the ranking of all 20 national champions in the era.
This isn’t about who the most talented or the best national champions were since 1998 – that’s debatable. This is about who had the best and most impressive seasons – the more wins over great teams, the higher the score.
2002 Ohio State Season
For a very, very very long time, Ohio State was the program that couldn’t win the big one.
Oh sure, it got the job done in 1968, but time and again, fantastic teams considered among the best in the country kept falling short.
1969, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1979, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 … the Buckeyes kept going into late November or the bowl season with the national championship puck on their stick, and they kept missing.
But in 2002, the bar wasn’t quite set so high. It was head coach Jim Tressel’s second season after going 7-5 the year before, and on a national scale, it was the Miami coronation campaign.
The Hurricanes came into the season on a 22-game winning streak coming off a devastating national championship run.
And they played the part.
They got a push from Florida State in a 28-27 win, and an unfocused 56-45 shootout win over Virginia Tech seemed a wee bit off, but whatever – this was a team going through the motions until it could get back to the BCS Championship.
Meanwhile, Ohio State generated a buzz thanks to freshman running back sensation Maurice Clarett, but it was grinding.
It took a late stop to survive Cincinnati in a 23-19 win. It took battle to get past an okay Wisconsin, a fight to get past Penn State 13-7, and a miracle fourth down touchdown pass to beat Purdue. So when it came time to deal with a great Michigan team, the 12-0 Buckeyes appeared ready to lose yet another big chance to play for the national title.
But this time, they survived, getting by 14-9 to earn the right to lose to Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
What ensued was among the greatest games in college football history.
Ohio State proved it could hang punch-for-punch, but just when it seemed like it was about to pull off the shocker, Miami PK Todd Sievers hit a 40-yard field goal to tie it at 17 and force overtime.
In two overtimes, helped by a controversial fourth down pass interference call on Miami at the end of the first overtime to keep the game alive, the Buckeyes pulled it off.
They beat the seemingly unbeatable Miami team, they proved that the program could win a national title, and until Alabama did it seven years later, they came up with the first 14-win season in the BCS era.
– As good as Miami was, and as much respect as it got in the human polls, it was second behind Oklahoma when the initial BCS standings came out, and it stayed there until the fifth installment. After the Sooners lost, Ohio State moved up to the top spot for a week, but Miami took it back and stayed there. The two were locked into the BCS top two over the final four weeks.
– The 2002 team found ways to get things done. Seven of the final 11 wins were by a touchdown or less, and while it wasn’t always pretty, it was a thrill ride. It’s not too simplistic to say the Buckeyes were battle-tested and prepared for a game like that Fiesta Bowl.
– While the defense was outstanding all season long, the offense sputtered and coughed at times. The 410 points scored were the fewest among the 20 national champions on the list.
– Ohio State was really, really young. The fun was supposed to continue after losing just five players to the NFL. A whopping 14 Buckeyes were drafted in 2004 with three stars going in the first round, while Clarett and two others from the BCS Champion went in 2005. But the follow up act lost at Wisconsin in the middle of the season, and to Michigan late.
Opponent Final Record in Parentheses
Aug, 24 Ohio State 45, Texas Tech 21 (9-5)
Sept. 7 Ohio State 51, Kent State 17 (3-9)
Sept. 14 Ohio State 25, Washington State 7 (10-3)
Sept. 21 Ohio State 23, at Cincinnati 19 (7-7)
Sept. 28 Ohio State 45, Indiana 17 (3-9)
Oct. 5 Ohio State 27, at Northwestern 16 (3-9)
Oct. 12 Ohio State 50, San Jose State (6-7)
Oct. 19 Ohio State 19, at Wisconsin 14 (8-6)
Oct. 26 Ohio State 13, Penn State 7 (9-4)
Nov. 2 Ohio State 34, Minnesota 3 (8-5)
Nov. 9 Ohio State 10, at Purdue 6 (7-6)
Nov. 16 Ohio State 23, at Illinois 16 (5-7)
Nov. 23 Ohio State 14, Michigan 9 (10-3)
BCS Championship: Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 3 Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2 OT) (12-1)
CFN Historical Season Rankings Breakdown
Wins: 14 (Texas, Tech, Kent State, Washington State, Cincinnati, Indiana, at Northwestern, San Jose State, at Wisconsin, Penn State, Minnesota, at Purdue, at Illinois, Michigan, BCS Championship vs. Miami)
Quality Wins: 8 (Texas, Tech, Washington State, at Wisconsin, Penn State, Minnesota, at Purdue, Michigan, BCS Championship vs. Miami)
Elite Wins: 1.5 (BCS Championship vs. Miami)
Bad Wins: 3 (f
Elite Losses: 0
Point Differential: Ohio State 410, Opponents 183
Winning %: 1.000
TOTAL SCORE: 26.020
The Season Formula’s Components
If you win, everything else falls into place. Each win counts as 1.
If you lose, everything stinks. Each loss counts as -1.
3. Quality Wins
The number of wins over teams that finished with a winning record. Each Quality Win counts as 1.
4. Elite Wins
The number of wins over teams that finished with two losses or fewer. Each Elite Win counts as 1 with a road win over an Elite team getting an extra 0.5.
Also counting as 1 is a road win over a team that finished with three losses or fewer (but the extra 0.5 isn’t added). A win over a team that finishes with three losses in a bowl game also gets counts as 1.
5. Bad Loss
The number of losses to teams that finished with three wins or fewer, or a loss to an FCS (DI-AA) team. Each loss counts as minus-1. Take away an additional 0.5 for a Bad Loss at home.
6. Bad Win
The number of wins to teams that finished with three wins or fewer, or a win over a an FCS (D-IAA) team. Each win counts as -0.25
7. Elite Loss
The number of losses to teams that finished with two losses or fewer. Each loss counts as 0.25.
8. Point Differential
Points for minus points against divided by 100.
9. Winning Percentage
Created as a sort of tie-breaker, the winning % is added to the total score.
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell
Photo Credit: Ohio State Athletic Department