By Chris Mahr
Such was the case in advance of Monday’s BCS Championship Game. It started on Dec. 2 with a column in which Lost Lettermen founder Jim Weber called it “the BCS title game to end all BCS title games.” It continued with a feature story on Rocket Ismail’s famous punt return that wasn’t, a write-up on the two team’s 1973 Sugar Bowl matchup and various other stories covering all angles of the game.
The build-up was glorious. The end product was far from it.
I’ll admit that I was caught up in the hoopla like many others. There was no earthly way that arguably the most blue-blooded championship game ever could produce such a dud.
While hindsight is 20/20, I should have known better. The BCS era has now given us 15 championship games — supposed mega-matchups pairing the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. You know how many of those games have been truly memorable and can be considered classics? Two.
With the latest dud of a BCS title game in the books, let’s take a closer look back at every one.
1999 Fiesta Bowl: No. 1 Tennessee 26, No. 2 Florida State 16
Vols WR Peerless Price was outstanding with 199 receiving yards — including a game-clinching, 79-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter — but he was an exception in a game that was mostly a snoozer. Seminoles QB Chris Weinke, largely responsible for Florida State being in the game, didn’t even play due to a neck injury sustained toward the end of the regular season.
2000 Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State 46, No. 2 Virginia Tech 29
The electric Michael Vick truly introduced himself to a national audience with 322 total yards and had the Hokies in the lead (29–28) at the end of the third quarter. But Weinke, Peter Warrick and the rest of the Seminoles overwhelmed Virginia Tech in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Hokies 18–0 en route to a comfortable 17-point victory.
2001 Orange Bowl: No. 1 Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
Two of the nation’s most dynamic offenses engaged in a defensive battle while the rain fell in Miami. The game’s first (and only) touchdown wasn’t scored until the fourth quarter when Quentin Griffin’s 10-yard TD run gave the Sooners a 13–0 lead. There’s just something ugly looking about a 13–2 final score in a college football game, particularly a national championship game.
All anyone could talk about in advance of this game was how undeserving Nebraska was to make the game in light of their 62–36 demolition at the hands of Colorado 41 days before. As most predicted, the Cornhuskers proved to be road kill for a Hurricanes juggernaut that raced to a 34–0 lead and staked its claim as one of the most all-around talented teams in recent history.
2003 Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State 31, No. 1 Miami (FL) 24 (2 OT)
Ohio State’s upset of a Miami team that was littered with future NFL players and had entered the game on a 34-game winning streak is one of the two “classics” on this list. While it was indeed a great game, one can make the argument that Willis McGahee’s horrendous knee injury and the questionable pass interference penalty in the first OT are just as memorable as the end result.
2004 Sugar Bowl: No. 2 LSU 21, No. 1 Oklahoma 14
As with Nebraska two years before, a chorus of critics lamented Oklahoma’s berth in the title game after the Sooners’ 35–7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. LSU’s victory gave it the BCS crown, yet it was USC who was awarded the AP National Championship after their 12–1 season, calling into question (again) the legitimacy of the BCS.
2005 Orange Bowl: No. 1 USC 55, No. 2 Oklahoma 19
Before this year, the ’05 Orange Bowl had arguably the most amount of hype of any national title game in the BCS era. And like this year, it ended up being a rout. USC led mistake-prone Oklahoma, 38–10, at halftime. While Matt Leinart’s Orange Bowl-record five TDs were certainly memorable, Ashlee Simpson’s dud of a halftime performance arguably left a more lasting impression.
The exception that proves the rule. This isn’t just the best national title game of the BCS era, it might also be the best ever. Vince Young capped off a superhuman performance (467 total yards) by rushing for the game-winning TD with 19 seconds left, ending seemingly unbeatable USC’s 34-game winning streak. Legendary play-by-play man Keith Jackson couldn’t have picked a better final game to call.
2007 BCS National Championship Game: No. 2 Florida 41, No. 1 Ohio State 14
In what would become a familiar refrain, an SEC defense wore the opposition down. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith played his worst game of the season, and Florida put this one away early by racing to a 34–14 halftime lead. Just one TD was scored in the game’s final 30 minutes.
2008 BCS National Championship Game: No. 2 LSU 38, No. 1 Ohio State 24
For the second year in a row, a top-ranked Ohio State team got off to a fast start (10–0 lead) only to be worn down the rest of the way by the SEC champion. The Buckeyes actually outgained the Tigers (353–326), but three turnovers — not to mention 31 unanswered points by LSU across the first, second and third quarters — turned this into a runaway for the Bayou Bengals.
Fans gearing up to see Oklahoma’s record-setting offense (702 points) go head-to-head with do-everything Florida QB Tim Tebow had to settle for a sloppy affair instead. Tebow and OU counterpart Sam Bradford combined to throw four INTs after throwing just eight between them all year, and the Gators won despite committing eight penalties for 81 yards.
2010 BCS National Championship Game: No. 1 Alabama 37, No. 2 Texas 21
This game could have been so much more dramatic had Texas QB Colt McCoy — coming off his second straight Heisman runner-up finish — not been knocked out of the game on the Longhorns’ first series. Texas rebounded and cut the deficit to 24–21 with 6:15 remaining, but two late Crimson Tide TDs provided a comfortable 16-point margin of victory.
2011 BCS National Championship Game: No. 1 Auburn 22, No. 2 Oregon 19
Two teams with offensive firepower in droves combined for just 41 total points despite rolling up 968 total yards between them. Yes, the Tigers won the title on a field goal with no time remaining, but from a less-than-dramatic 19 yards out. And the big play that got Auburn in position to kick that field goal, Michael Dyer’s 37-yard run on which everyone thought he was down, was more bizarre than great.
2012 BCS National Championship Game: No. 2 Alabama 21, No. 1 LSU 0
A controversial rematch of a midseason “Game of the Century” turned out to be perhaps the worst championship game of the BCS era. LSU managed a paltry 92 yards of total offense, managing to cross midfield just once all game. Alabama, for its part, kept the game close by settling for five field goals before scoring its only touchdown with 4:36 remaining.
2013 BCS National Championship Game: No. 2 Alabama 42, No. 1 Notre Dame 14
What happened to that titanic matchup everyone was expecting? Alabama rolled through and over Notre Dame’s ballyhooed defense for 529 yards of offense while putting the clamps on Notre Dame’s strong running game. By the midway point of the third quarter, it was 35–0 and any conversation around the game dealt primarily with Brent Musburger lusting after AJ McCarron’s girlfriend.
There you have it. Fifteen purported mega-matchups between the best and second-best team in the country, only two of which are worth remembering.
Outlets might already be daydreaming about an Alabama-Ohio State matchup in next year’s BCS title game (including Lost Lettermen), but surely I can be excused to do something else next Jan. 6. You’ll forgive me if history has lowered my expectations.
Chris Mahr is the managing editor of Lost Lettermen. His column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can follow him on Twitter at @CMahrtian.
Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports