BCS Era 2002-2005
2002 Ohio State 10, Purdue 6
BCS Championship: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 2OT Fiesta Bowl
Oklahoma was the BCS No. 1 team when the standings first came out, but that ended with a 20-10 loss at Nebraska before getting its national title hopes completely crushed in the 16-13 regular season finale loss to a 4-7 Oklahoma State team.
It was relatively cut-and-dry from there. Defending national champion Miami moved into the top two, and then up to No. 1 with three weeks to go. Ohio State was also in the top two from early November on, and it was even up to No. 1 for a week.
And then it played Purdue.
Struggling all game long in a field goal fight, Ohio State was down 6-3 with under two minutes to play. On 4th and 1 on the Purdue 37, all the Buckeyes had to do was pound away, keep the drive alive, and keep a game-tying field goal in play. Instead, Craig Krenzel connected with Michael Jenkins or a 37-yard touchdown for the game-winner to keep the dream season alive.
The Buckeyes fell to No. 2 in the BCS Standings and the Hurricanes went up to the top spot, but second place was as good as first in the BCS race.
The two put on one of the most dramatic and controversial shows in college football history as Ohio State stopped the Miami 34-game winning streak in the 31-24 double-overtime thriller.
2003 Cal 34, USC 31 3 OT
BCS Championship: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14 Sugar Bowl
The BCS had its flaws, but for the most part it was doing its job.
And this is where it all went kablooey.
Oklahoma rolled through the regular season unbeaten, but it got ripped to shreds by Kansas State in a 35-7 loss in the Big 12 Championship. It didn’t matter – OU was No. 1 in the final BCS Standings.
USC started out the season 3-0, but lost to Aaron Rodgers and Cal in triple overtime. The Bears got up 21-7 in the first half, and then it was all USC in the second half in a massive comeback to force the extra frame. A 38-yard Tyler Fredrickson field goal, though, gave the Bears the win. USC roared through the rest of the slate – blowing out everyone on the way to the Pac-10 title.
The Trojans were No. 2 in the BCS standings for almost the entire time, with LSU hanging just outside the top five until moving up late in the process despite a loss to Florida. With a 34-13 blowout of Georgia in the SEC Championship – the Pac-10 didn’t have a championship game – Nick Saban’s Tigers moved up into the No. 2 spot in the final BCS Rankings, and USC moved down to No. 2.
Had USC won the OT game against Cal, it would’ve been a no-brainer – USC vs. Oklahoma for the national title, and Saban and LSU would’ve missed out on a national title.
LSU beat Oklahoma 21-14 in the BCS Championship, and USC got by Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl. LSU won the BCS title and was the final No. 1 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll, and USC was No. 1 in the AP. Grouchy about the process, the AP took its ball and went home, leaving the BCS formula the next season.
2004 USC 23, Cal 17
BCS Championship: USC 55, Oklahoma 19 Orange Bowl
2003 was crazy and weird when it came to the BCS race, but 2004 was simply unfortunate.
Auburn got through the season with little drama after a 10-9 win over defending national champion LSU finishing the regular season 12-0 with a 38-28 win over Tennessee in the SEC Championship. However, the Tigers couldn’t move up past the No. 3 spot in the BCS Standings throughout the entire process because USC was the wire-to-wire No. 1, Oklahoma was No. 2, and neither one lost.
The Sooners destroyed almost everyone, with only a few fights along the way to a 42-3 win over Colorado in the Big 12 Championship to go 12-0.
USC didn’t have to play a Pac-10 Championship, but the defending AP national champion had an extra game with a 24-13 win over a great Virginia Tech team to start the season. The one main differentiating factor between the Trojans and everyone else was a 23-17 win over Cal.
The Trojans lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Bears the year before, but this time around, they survived despite Matt Leinart and the USC offense getting slowed down. Rodgers was amazing, but the USC D held on – helped by a key sack – after Cal got down to the Trojan two in the final moments.
Cal got whacked by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, but it closed out the regular season 10-1, finishing fifth in the final BCS Standings. Texas – whose only loss was to Oklahoma – was No. 4. Because of the huge wins by the Trojans and Sooners, they ended up in the top two spots, and Auburn was shut out of the BCS Championship.