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The Bowl Championship Series: Hits and Misses

The BCS Has Had Its Moments. But It's Far From Perfect.


2003 Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State outmuscled Miami -- and caught a break with this late pass interference call -- en route to their upset win in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
2000 Sugar Bowl

Michael Vick was sensational, but he couldn't will his Virginia Tech team to a win over Florida State in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, was created in 1998, out of the ashes of the Bowl Alliance, with the seemingly simple purpose of matching the No. 1 team in the country against the No. 2 team for the national championship.

But the highly controversial system, which ended after the 2013–14 season, didn't always deliver on its promise, leaving some deserving teams out of the championship mix while at the same time delivering some less-than-inspiring match-ups in the non-championship BCS bowl games.

Here we take a quick look at the successes and failures of the BCS dating back to its launch:



Championship Game: No.1 Tennessee vs. No. 2 Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl

Championship Result: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16

On the Outside Looking In: UCLA (10-1) was on the fast track for the BCS title game but was upset in its season finale at Miami. Even though the Bruins, like Florida State, had only one loss, UCLA learned the hard way what many teams have since: It’s not necessarily if you lose, but when you lose.

Other BCS Bowls: The Florida-Syracuse Orange Bowl matchup was a snore-fest, leading to some of the earliest questioning of the Big East as a deserving BCS conference. The Rose Bowl was a great one, though, as No. 9 Wisconsin upset still-reeling UCLA, 38-31.



Championship Game: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl

Championship Result: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29

On the Outside Looking In: With both the Seminoles and Hokies posting undefeated marks, no team – not even 11-1 Nebraska – had grounds to grumble. In its second year, the BCS worked.

Other BCS Bowls: The Rose (Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9) and Fiesta (Nebraska 31, Tennessee 21) were average at best, but the Orange Bowl, which matched 9-2 Michigan and 10-2 Alabama, ended up a classic. Michigan emerged with a 35-34 win.



Championship Game: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 2 Florida State in the Orange Bowl

Championship Result: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2

On the Outside Looking In: Both Miami and Washington had good reason to complain. Like Florida State, both the Hurricanes and Huskies finished with just one loss. Miami had even beaten the Seminoles earlier that year, while Washington had beaten Miami. No matter, when the computers and polls were added up, Florida State had earned the No. 2 spot.

Other Bowls: Miami blew past Florida in the Orange and Washington overpowered Purdue in the Rose, making the case once again that they should have been playing for the title. Meanwhile, Oregon State shocked the college football world by dismantling Notre Dame, 41-9, in the Fiesta.



Championship Game: No. 1 Miami vs. No. 2 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl

Championship Result: Miami 37, Nebraska 14

On the Outside Looking In: One year after the mess with Miami, Florida State and Washington, the BCS once again faced stiff criticism when Nebraska earned a trip to the title game over Oregon, even though the ‘Huskers lost to Colorado in their season finale and didn’t even win their conference. The PAC-10 champion Ducks, at 10-1, were left out in the cold. The criticism only increased when Nebraska was dominated by a superior Miami team in the Rose Bowl.

Other Bowls: The three other BCS games were blowouts, too. Oregon crushed Colorado 38-16 in the Fiesta, LSU beat Illinois 47-34 in the Sugar and Florida dismantled Maryland 56-23 in the Orange. A bad year for the BCS.


Championship Game: No. 1 Miami vs. No. 2 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl

Championship Result: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (OT)

On the Outside Looking In: Coming off the back-to-back controversies in 2000 and 2001, the BCS needed an undisputed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup and got one. The game was a classic, too. Ohio State stunned the Hurricanes to earn their first championship since 1968.

Other Bowls: As good as the Fiesta was, the other bowls fell short. Georgia beat Florida State 26-13 in the Sugar, USC crushed Iowa 38-17 in the Orange and Oklahoma was too much for Washington State, beating the Cougars 34-14 in the Rose.


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