Who exactly is against a plus-one playoff at this point?
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is willing to consider it. SEC commissioner Mike Slive is predicting major changes to the current system. NCAA president Mark Emmert would support a four-team playoff.
OK, there a few. But it’s clear, the times they are a-changin’. While a four-team playoff isn’t a panacea, the idea has become as trendy as skinny jeans lately. No. 1 vs. No. 4, No. 2 vs. No. 3 in the BCS standings facing off in two national semifinals. The two winners meet for all the Tostitos. Or whatever corporate sponsor wins the rights.
Emmert even used the term “Final Four approach.” Think of the possibilities. Even more corporate sponsors.
We digress. Nothing actually changes until the 2014 season. The BCS commissioners will hash things out over the next six months. Before we get there, we’ve got a chance to look back at what would have been. Using the BCS standings as a template, CBSSports.com went back and matched up the top four teams in each of the 14 years of the BCS.
Some years it was wonderful. Some years it wasn’t needed. Every year it was fun to fantasize. We kick off today with the first five years of the BCS (1998-2002). What emerged, at least in this space, was an extension of the Miami dynasty.
BCS champion: Tennessee, 23-16 over Florida State.
The setup: Back when the BCS was young and it made sense there was little controversy over Florida State and Tennessee meeting in the first championship game. FSU was on a 10-game winning streak since losing the second game of the season to N.C. State. No opponent had come within of the Noles 11 points during the streak.
Tennessee was a no-brainer as the other half of the first BCS title game. The undefeated SEC champs were a foreshadowing of how college football’s postseason would be dominated. The difference was Bobby Bowden having to rely on backup quarterback Marcus “Rooster” Outzen because of a neck injury to Chris Weinke. Rooster, a former high school option quarterback, completed only nine of 22 while throwing two picks. The formerly explosive FSU offense was held to 253 yards by a great Tennessee defense led by Dwayne Goodrich (54-yard interception for a touchdown).
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Ohio State, No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Kansas State. Ohio State’s John Cooper was on a run of four straight seasons with at least 10 wins. The Buckeyes only loss was to a Nick Saban-coached Michigan State team that finished 6-6. Tennessee’s superior defense would have ruled the day. Tennessee 20, Ohio State 16.
A four-team playoff would have saved Kansas State which was coming off the most devastating loss in program history. Like UCLA that season, the Wildcats were a win away from a national championship berth. They led Texas A&M by 15 in the fourth quarter in the Big 12 championship game. K-State lost in double overtime dropping from the title game to the Alamo Bowl after suffering its first loss.
The collapse was so sudden and complete that Bill Snyder called it the worst of his career. “The pain that comes from this,” he said, “is obvious.” The guy who scored the winning touchdown for A&M, Sirr Parker, had a movie made about him.
It is still considered by some the best K-State team ever. Given a second chance, Michael Bishop and the Wildcats would have rebounded against FSU. Kansas State 27, Florida State 20.
Championship game: Kansas State vs. Tennessee. Because of FSU’s injuries, K-State would have been a much better opponent for the Vols. Watching Bishop and receiver Darnell McDonald try to break down the Tennessee defense would have been a treat. In the end, Bishop, prone to turnovers, would have given the Vols at least one short field. Plus, he wasn’t the best thrower. Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis would have attacked those two weaknesses all night. Tennessee 30, Kansas State 23.
Fantasy quote: "We'd play 'em again tomorrow in a parking lot in shorts and T-shirts. That would be Indiana State, not Tennessee." -- Bill Snyder
Who got screwed: UCLA found out it’s when you lose, not if you lose. A lot of the blame goes on coach Bob Toledo. With a berth in the title game hanging in the balance, Toledo chose to travel to Miami the day before the final regular-season game in early December. The Bruins weren’t acclimated to the South Florida heat and lost a shootout, 49-45. UCLA dropped from second to fifth in the final BCS standings meaning the Bruins wouldn’t even have made a four-team playoff.
The “consolation” for the Bruins was the Rose Bowl, won by Wisconsin 38-31.
BCS champion: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29
The setup: No controversy here. Florida State and Virginia Tech were the only two undefeated major-college programs. Tech had a team for the ages – at least in Blacksburg -- in Michael Vick’s first year as a starter. The only thing that slowed FSU’s Peter Warrick’s that season was the receiver’s suspension for getting a significant discount from a friendly clerk at a local department store. The Noles went wire-to-wire at No. 1 in AP.
In the championship game, Tech rebounded from 21 down to take a 29-28 lead going into the fourth quarter. Vick accounted for 322 yards in total offense but couldn’t play defense. FSU scored 18 unanswered in the final 15 minutes, winning 46-29.
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Alabama, No. 2 Virginia Tech vs. No. 3 Nebraska: This was probably a year when a plus-o
ne would have been worthless. Virginia Tech and FSU had nothing to prove except to play each other. A playoff would have allowed Nebraska (11-1) and Alabama (10-2) in. The Huskers would have earned a semifinal spot with what is now their last team to win a conference title. Nebraska got even for its only regular-season loss by beating Texas in the Big 12 title game.
Even though Nebraska posted two shutouts that year, Vick was a force of nature that season. Virginia Tech 29, Nebraska 22.
Meanwhile, it was hard to believe a Mike Dubose-coached team that lost to Louisiana Tech would have been able to play for a national championship. Despite winning the SEC that year, Bama wasn’t national championship caliber. Florida State 32, Alabama 20.
Championship game: Little would have changed. Noles 35, Virginia Tech 24.
Fantasy quote: "When's the Miami game next year?" -- Bobby Bowden.
Who got screwed: Really, no one. For the second straight year, No. 6 Kansas State lost only once in the regular season but didn’t get close to a BCS bowl after Nebraska won the Big 12. No. 5 Tennessee actually beat Alabama during the season but finished second in the SEC East. But as we would see in a couple of years, winning your division was no prerequisite to playing for the national championship.
BCS champion: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
The setup: plus-one matchups would have addressed one of the great BCS injustices. No. 2 Florida State played No. 1 Oklahoma for the title despite losing to No. 3 Miami by three in Wide Right III. FSU eventually got the No. 2 spot over the Canes by .32 of a point.
While Miami was in the process of kicking off a 34-game winning streak that season, FSU was at the end of an incredible 14-year run in which it finished in the top four. Despite Weinke winning the Heisman that year, the Noles were dominated in a defensive snoozer of a championship game.
While the season felt unfulfilling in South Florida, Oklahoma had a season for the ages. Juco quarterback Josh Heupel made a run at the Heisman running something called the zone-read option. Bob Stoops’ defense was suffocating, allowing 14 or fewer points nine times. With its championship, the Sooners finally crawled out of bomb crater caused by crippling NCAA penalties 11 years earlier.
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Washington, No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Miami. A Florida State-Miami rematch would have been a championship game in itself. The issue was further complicated because the Canes only loss that season came to Washington in the second week of the season.
It’s hard to beat a team twice in a season but by the end of the 2000, Miami might have been the best team in the country. Miami 28, Florida State 24.
In the other semifinal, Oklahoma was a much more complete team. The Huskies won six of their games by a touchdown or less. Quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo was the spark on a team not loaded with a ton of NFL talent. Oklahoma 38, Washington 25.
Championship game: Miami vs. Oklahoma. A matchup for the ages. Two programs, full of swagger, reborn before our eyes. Think of the talent on that field – Jeremy Shockey, Santana Moss, Bryant McKinnie, Ed Reed, Rocky Calmus, Heupel, J.T. Thatcher, Torrance Marshall, Quentin Griffin.
In what would have been Butch Davis' final game, the Canes have bit more speed and athleticism. Miami 27, Oklahoma 23.
Fantasy quote: "Someone from the Cleveland Browns on Line 1, coach." --Davis' secretary
Who got screwed: In the real world, it was Miami. With a plus-one it would have been Virginia Tech. In Vick’s last season, the Hokies went 10-1 in the regular season, losing only to Miami, but were nosed out for the No. 4 spot by Washington. Tech was actually better than the Huskies in the computers but was hurt by its schedule strength.
BCS championship game: Miami 37, Nebraska 14
The setup: If there was ever a year for a four-team playoff, 2001 screamed for it. The Miami-Nebraska game was one of the great BCS traveshamockeries. The Huskers played for the championship despite failing to win the Big 12 North and getting blown out in the final regular-season game by Colorado.
It was considered a further scandal when the Big 12 champion Buffs finished at No. 3, .05 of a point behind Nebraska. And you thought the Rematch of the Century was controversial? Oregon also had a beef, finishing No. 4 in the BCS but was consensus No. 2 in both human polls.
Two outsiders to the Pasadena tradition – Huskers and Canes -- were made to feel like they had to wipe their feet before stepping foot on the hallowed Rose Bowl turf.
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 Oregon, No. 2 Nebraska vs. Colorado. Miami would have easily handled Oregon. This was one of the best UM teams of all time. Miami 34, Oregon 16.
A Nebraska-Colorado rematch would have been tasty. The 62-36 regular-season CU win signaled the beginning of a long, slow decline for Nebraska football. Would the Huskers have had to suffer the same indignity again? Yes. Colorado 32, Nebraska 30.
Championship game: This season kicked off a streak in which CU’s Gary Barnett got to the Big 12 championship game in four of five years. Nothing, though, would have stopped Miami which won the national championship in Larry Coker’s first season after taking over for Davis. Miami 30, Colorado 17.
Fantasy quote: "How hard can this be?" -- Larry Coker
Who got screwed: College football? The more BCS fathers think about the 2001 season, the more they want to induce vomiting. Colorado beat Nebraska, played a tougher schedule and won the conference yet still didn’t get to play for it all. The thing is, no one in Nebraska would have said a word if the Huskers would have been left out.
BCS champion: Ohio State 31, Miami 24, 2 OT
The setup: No need to even discuss a playoff this year. What was left to determine after one of the best games in history? Ohio State’s double-overtime title game win over Miami had everything – dozens of future pros, points, penalties and Porter. Actually, Terry Porter, the official who made the infamous call in the end zone that turned a Miami celebration into more overtime.
You know what happened next. A molecular biology major named Craig Krenzel studiously led the Buckeyes to a come-from-behind win. In the end the Canes couldn’t believe they lost. Somewhere beneath the Fiesta Bowl stands that night Miami’s Kellen Winslow II muttered, “The best team didn’t win.”
How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 USC, No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Georgia. A Miami-USC semifinal would have had plenty of brand-name value. Carson Palmer won the Heisman that year but his Trojans lost twice before the second week of October and couldn’t recover in the rankings. Miami 24, USC 23.
An argument could be made that Georgia was one of the great one-loss teams in BCS history. In Mark Richt’s second season, the Dawgs went 13-1, losing only to Florida. A Georgia team that included Jon Stinchcomb, Boss Bailey and David Greene would have been a fine semifinal opponent for the Buckeyes. But based on nothing more than mojo, Ohio State would have won because it was a team of destiny winning half of its 14 games by a touchdown or less. Ohio State 23, Georgia 19.
Championship game: Miami, an 11 ½-point favorite, blew the real meeting to Ohio State because it took the Buckeyes lightly and committed five turnovers. In a playoff, it's hard imagining the 2002 Canes being that bad. Miami 24, Ohio State 17.
Fantasy quote: "Beers in my room after the game. Media invited." -- Terry Porter
Who got screwed: In a four-team playoff, perhaps it would have been No. 5 Iowa. Brad Banks led the nation in pass efficiency that year. The defense was fifth against the run. The scoring offense was top 10. The Hawkeyes finished .28 of a point behind No. 4 USC.
Iowa finished third in both human polls. But the Trojans – fifth in both polls – at least won their conference while playing the toughest schedule in the country.
Plus-one champions, 1998-2002: Tennessee, Florida State, Miami, Miami, Miami.
Tomorrow: A plus-one from 2003 to 2007.