BCS Era 2005-2008
2005 USC 34, Notre Dame 31
BCS Championship: Texas 41, USC 38 Rose Bowl
After the BCS craziness of 2003 and 2004, this one was a breeze.
USC and Texas were 1-2, respectively, from the start, and as long as they kept winning, nothing was going to change that no matter what anyone else did. Those two finishing as the only unbeaten teams – before their all-time amazing showdown in the Rose Bowl – only made it easier.
Texas didn’t have too many nasty teams to get through – Oklahoma was a bit down – but USC had to get by a UCLA team that provided a big push in 2004 and dealt with a fantastic Oregon squad. There were no problems with the Bruins – winning 66-19 – and in the Pac-10 opener, the Trojans got three touchdown passes from Matt Leinart and 100-yard rushing days from Reggie Bush and LenDale White in a 45-13 thumping of the Ducks in Eugene.
Oregon never got above No. 6 in the BCS Standings, but that was its only loss of the regular season before losing to Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl. If the Ducks had been able to do anything against the Trojans and pull off the the win, they would’ve had to deal with Vince Young in the BCS Championship.
But USC had a bigger battle to deal with a few weeks later.
Notre Dame lost to a mediocre Michigan State team 44-41, but it was 4-1 going into the showdown with the mighty Trojans. In a tight battle throughout, the Irish were able to take a late 31-28 lead on a Brady Quinn touchdown run with just over two minutes to go, and then things went bonkers.
USC’s Matt Leinart completed a fourth down pass to keep the last gasp drive alive, and then hit Dwayne Jarrett for a 61-yard play to get within field goal range.
The Trojans got down to the Irish two in the final seconds, but a Leinart dive for a possible score appeared to be a disaster – he lost the ball through the end zone. But it didn’t get called a touchback and Notre Dame’s ball – USC kept possession – and with three seconds to play, Leinart powered it in from the one, helped by what came to be known as the Bush Push.
The Irish went on to win their final five games. Had they held on against USC, they likely would’ve played Texas for the national title.
2006 UCLA 13, USC 9
BCS Championship: Florida 41, Ohio State 14 Fiesta Bowl
Just when it seemed like the 2006 BCS picture was crystal clear, the Pac-10 messed it all up.
In the greatest and most important game ever in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, Heisman-winner Troy Smith and BCS No. 1 Buckeyes held off the No. 2 Wolverines in a 42-39 classic. This was easily the game of the 2006 season – except for one problem.
The Buckeyes didn’t show up in the national championship, getting blown away by Florida 41-14.
That the Gators got there at all took a minor miracle.
After the win over the Wolverines, Ohio State was the only Power Five conference unbeaten team and the easy BCS No. 1. There was talk that Michigan might be No. 2 – considering it battled so hard on the road in the lone loss – but in the second-to-last week, USC was second in the standings, Michigan was third, and Florida was fourth.
USC beat UCLA 29-24 in a fight in 2004, but the following year – with the spotlight on against a 9-1 Bruin team – it got ugly in a 66-19 Trojan blowout. The 2006 USC team lost to a fantastic Oregon State squad 33-31 on the road, but it was still able to rise up to No. 2 in the second-to-last BCS Standings with a shot to play for the national title with a win over the the mediocre 5-6 Bruins, but …
The UCLA D held the high-powered Trojan O to just nine second quarter points, Justin Medlock hit three field goals with two in the second half, and the 13-9 stunner ended USC’s national title dream. The USC loss gave the Gators the break they needed.
Florida had lost to Auburn 27-17 in the middle of the season and needed a blocked field goal to beat South Carolina, but it got to the SEC Championship, beat Arkansas, and followed it up with the destruction of the Buckeyes. In the Rose Bowl, USC disposed of Michigan 32-18.
2007 Pitt 13, West Virginia 9
BCS Championship: LSU 38, Oklahoma 24
No one seemed to want to play for the 2007 BCS Championship.
LSU did everything it could to gag the season away. It had the most talent, and it was the best team in college football, but it lost a strange 43-37 game at Kentucky in the middle of the season. Fortunately for the Tigers, BCS No. 1 Ohio State lost a 28-21 thriller to Illinois, moving LSU up to No. 1 late in the process … and then it gacked it away in a 50-48 loss to Arkansas to move down to No. 7.
It was over. LSU was done, Les Miles was – supposedly – off to take the open Michigan job, and then everything went wacky.
With all of the top teams losing, the only Power Five conference team still unbeaten was Kansas, but it lost to Missouri to miss out on the Big 12 Championship and, potentially, the BCS title game.
With the LSU and Kansas losses, West Virginia – despite a loss to a strong USF team early in the year – moved up to the BCS No. 2 spot behind No. 1 Missouri, and Ohio State rebounded from its loss to the Illini to beat Michigan to get up to No. 3.
On the same day as the SEC Championship, Oklahoma whacked Mizzou 38-17 in the Big 12 Championship. The MU Tigers were out, meaning Ohio State was almost certainly going to slide on into to the BCS Championship to face a West Virginia team that only had to get by a home game against a bad Pitt team.
With everything on the table, Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers were stuffed for 197 yards, Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran for 148 yards, and West Virginia blew it at an all-time level in a 13-9 loss. As that was happening, LSU beat Tennessee 21-14 for the SEC title.
With West Virginia losing, LSU rocketed up five spots in the final BCS Standings past a one-loss Kansas and a whole slew of two-loss teams to finish No. 2 behind Ohio State. The Tigers beat the Buckeyes 38-24 for the national title.
2008 Florida 31, Alabama 20 SEC Championship
BCS Championship: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14
The BCS was just never, ever, ever going to be easy.
The Big 12 was the story of the season. Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35 to be the early BCS No. 1, but Michael Crabtree’s dramatic late touchdown catch to push Texas Tech past the Longhorns changed that. With the Red Raider win, Nick Saban’s unbeaten Alabama team moved up to No. 1, and Texas Tech was No. 2.
Oklahoma ended part of that in a big way with a 65-21 blowout of Mike Leach’s Red Raiders. Because Texas beat OU, it took over No. 2, and Oklahoma was No. 3 right up until the very end.
However, with a three-way tie in the Big 12 South, the league determined that eventual Heisman-winner Sam Bradford and the point-a-minute Sooners should get the Big 12 Championship spot to face Missouri. OU won 62-21, and that extra game – and after the SEC Championship was done – moved Bob Stoops’ team past Texas up to No. 1.
While all of that was going on, the SEC had its own drama.
Tim Tebow did the nearly-impossible and kept air-mailing Percy Harvin in key moments as Florida was shocked 31-30 by Ole Miss. Tebow gave his “promise” press conference, and the Gators went on a roll, obliterating everything in their path – because they were amazing, not because of Tebow’s speech – to get to the SEC Championship against the Crimson Tide.
In what became a playoff game, Tebow came through with a brilliant fourth quarter as Florida got by Bama 31-20 for the SEC title to finish past Texas in the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings. The Gator D took care of business against the Sooners in a 24-14 BCS Championship win.