Last night’s action filled National Title game between Auburn and Florida State not only gave us an amazing game and a great end to another college football season, but more importantly, it brought us to the end of a spectacular era in college football.
Some may look back at the past 16 years of college football and call it controversial, unfair, unjust, or unruly. At times it was chaotic, hectic, unreasonable, doubtful, and even hierarchical. But amidst these claims, we can never argue that the BCS wasn’t exciting, full of theatrics, and like last night’s game, always unpredictable.
While most college football fans are relieved that the BCS will no longer reign over college football starting next season, I am quite sad that the computers will no longer have an effect on college football.
I thought it would only be right to take a look back at what I consider to be the top five championship games of the BCS era.
Sit back, relax, and open up that bag of chipps.
1999 Fiesta Bowl: FSU vs. Tennessee
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t at least mention the game that started it all, the first BCS National Title game. Paired up with two powerhouse programs, Tennessee took control of the game in the second quarter and jumped out to a 14-0 lead. FSU was able to cut the lead to 14-9, but a 79-yard touchdown pass from Volvs quarterback Tee Martin (Peyton Manning’s successor) to Peerless Price made it a 20-9 game, and ultimately Tennessee went on to win 26-13. Future NFL star Sebastian Janikowsi (who still claims he can hit 80 yard field goal) played for FSU then, so I felt the need to give him some love. Holla!
2009 BCS Championship Game: Florida vs. Oklahoma
This game was your stereotypical headliner: two great teams battling it out for the national title. Sam Bradford vs. Tim Tebow. Bob Stoops vs. Urban Meyer. Florida vs. Oklahoma. On paper, this game had the makings of an all-time classic. Both teams were loaded with NFL talent. Besides Heisman Trophy winner Bradford, the Sooners had an abundant of scoring options that included Ryan Broyles, Jermaine Gresham, Juaquin Iglesias, and DeMarco Murray. On Florida’s side, besides Tebowmania, the Gators had speedster Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon spikes, and cornerback Joe Haden. A 14-14 game midway through the fourth quarter, Florida would run away with the game and seal the win with a Tim Tebow touchdown pass to make it a 24-14 win, and give Tebow and Meyer their second national title in three years. Why get the honorable mention? This was the beginning of the end for Tim Tebow’s football career, so this game deserves some love. Ya I know, that was harsh.
Now to the good stuff.
#5 2012 BCS Championship Game: Alabama vs. LSU
This one really pains me, because either way the SEC was going to win another national title. A rematch from earlier in the season (the “Game of the Century”) in which LSU defeated Alabama 6-3 in Tuscaloosa, it was the first national title game between two teams from the same conference. Clearly the two best teams all season, the Crimson Tide and Tigers battled it out in the Superdome to claim supremacy over college football. Behind five field goals from Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelly, the Crimson Tide rolled over LSU 21-0, revenging their lost from earlier that season and rightfully claiming the national title. You’re probably wondering why this game goes in the top five. Plain and simple, anytime two teams from the SEC play each other, it’s worth mentioning. Sorry Big 10 fans.
#4 2011 BCS Championship Game: Oregon vs. Auburn
A classic in the desert, the 2011 BCS Championship Game was a battle against two newcomers to the BCS party. Both Oregon and Auburn were making their first appearances in the national title game, and were ridden behind their unstoppable offenses. In his second season as Oregon head coach, Chip Kelly’s spread offense had taken the nation by storm. His Ducks averaged 49 points per game and over 500 yards of total offense per game. On the other side, Auburn’s heart and soul was star quarterback Cam Newton. Newton’s one and only season at Auburn felt more like a soap opera than a football season, combined with redemption, scandal, and a Heisman Trophy. Newton was looking for one last claim to glory before taking his talents to the NFL. A great game indeed, after what looked like Auburn had taken the game over with a 19-11 lead, Cam Newton fumbled the ball, leading to a Oregon touchdown and two-point conversion, tying the game at 19-19. But Auburn didn’t panic; Superman came to the rescue. Behind Newton and the infamous “roll-over” when freshman running back Michael Dyer rolled over a Oregon player and was never ruled down, the Tigers marched down the field and won the game on a last second field goal to win, 22-19.
Since then, Newton has gone on to become a Pro-Bowl quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. While Dyer on the other hand…I think he’s attending his fourth college now. Not really sure where things went wrong there. Nonetheless, this game certainly deserves its place.
#3 2014 BCS Championship Game: Auburn vs. FSU
One day later and we’re already calling it a classic?! Yes sir, it’s never too early to put this game down as an all-time great. Last night’s title game between Auburn and FSU was the epitome of great college football. Freshmen quarterback Jameis Winston lived up to the hype and played like he rightfully deserved this year’s Heisman Trophy. After falling down 21-3 early in the second quarter, FSU needed a big play to get the back into the game. On a gusty call by FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles ran a fake punt on fourth down that led to a touchdown to make it 21-10. The Seminoles rallied back and scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to make it a one-point game, 21-20. After an Auburn field goal put the Tigers up 24-20, FSU’s Levonte Whitfield came right back with a stunning 100-yard kickoff return to give the Noles an improbable 27-24 lead with four minutes left in the game. But no worries, Auburn’s Nick Marshall and Tre Mason come right down the field and Mason scored on a 37 yard touchdown run, making it a 31-27 game with 1:19 left. And then, “Famous Jameis” took over. With the game on the line, Winston led the Seminoles down the field in a less than a minute. With 13 seconds left, Winston threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin to win the game, 31-27. Yep, that’s a classic alright. You go Jameis, even if we had absolutely no idea what you said in the post-game interview.
#2 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas vs. USC
A lot of people would make the case that this game is the greatest game in BCS history, but I rank this title game at number two. This matchup was one of the most highly anticipated games of the last few years, and it delivered. The Trojans came into the game riding a 34-game winning streak and were spear-headed by the last two Heisman Trophy winners, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Junior quarterback Vince Young, a Heisman finalist that season, was the heart and soul of a Longhorns team that was a heavy underdog against the defending national champs. A back and forth affair throughout the game, things really got wild in the fourth quarter. After a 22-yard touchdown pass from Matt Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett made it a 38-26 game, Vince Young put the team on his back and led Texas to a touchdown, making it a 38-33 game with four minutes left to go. After stopping USC on fourth down to take over the ball at the Texas 45-yard line, Young had the ball and the game in his hands once again. With two minutes left, Young took the Longhorns down the field and scored the winning touchdown with just 19 seconds left in the game. USC’s winning streak came to an end, and the Longhorns won their first and only national title of the Mack Brown era. The sad thing about this game is that it turns out Texas didn’t even have to win this game to actually win the national title. A few years later, USC would be swamped with NCAA violations and would have to vacate all games that Reggie Bush played in, which included this one. Still a great game though.
#1 2003 Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Miami
And finally, I saved the best for last. There is no controversy here, at least in my neck of the woods. Maybe I’m biased for ranking this game at the top of the BCS national title games, but this was really the best game of the BCS era. Miami came into this game on a 34-game winning streak, and was arguably the most dominant team in the history of college football. The Hurricanes were loaded with NFL talent: Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, Jonathon Vilma, and Sean Taylor, just to name a few. The Buckeyes on the other hand were the true team of destiny. Led by talented freshman running back Maurice Clarett, the Buckeyes lived and died by their great defense and their amazing luck, which carried over to this game too. The Buckeyes surprisingly had a 17-7 lead over the Hurricanes all the way into the third quarter, but Miami came back to tie the game 17-17 at the end of regulation. We needed overtime to settle this one.
Miami scored a touchdown on their first possession to make it 24-17. Like so many times throughout that season, OSU was down to their final play, and they needed a miracle. On 4th and 3, OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel threw the ball in the direction of receiver Chris Gamble, and the pass was incomplete. It looked like the Buckeyes miraculous season had finally ended, but their luck continued when a controversial pass interference call went against Miami (IT WAS PASS INTERFERENCE), giving the Buckeyes new life and a first down. OSU scored on the drive, and eventually went on to win the game in double overtime, 31-24. The first and only BCS title game to go into overtime, I would argue this game was the greatest game of football ever played, but I don’t want to stretch my luck. From “the strip,” to “the call,” to “the touchdown,” nothing was missing from this game. It’s just too bad Maurice Clarett never played a down of football again in a Buckeye uniform. Stay in school kids!
I don’t know about you all, but I will surely miss the BCS, even if they didn’t always get it right. Let the madness of playoff football begin, I can’t wait.