We did it! We survived the BCS era with little-to-no permanent damage, or trauma. Next year, the College Football Playoff arrives to make us forget that for 15 years, the sport's national champion was determined by arbitrary computer algorithms, voters who rarely watched games, and something called the Harris Poll.
Of course, the BCS wouldn't have come into being if Michigan wasn't somehow involved. They, and Nebraska, had the freak occurrence of dual undefeated seasons, and college football voters had no idea how to break the deadlock. So, they split the national championship, to please no one. It is still seared onto my brain, that image of watching Nebraska play Missouri late into the night, after Michigan had obliterated Penn State in Happy Valley, 34-8. Then Matt Davison caught a pass off of a guy's foot, and the Cornhuskers kept their undefeated party rolling for four more games.
In the end, Michigan was given the Associated Press national championship, and Nebraska got the Coaches' Poll award after they beat Peyton Manning and Tennessee 42-17 in the Orange Bowl.
A system that inexplicably gave us the following games should have been put down long ago, but it held on for dear life as long as it could. Until the big money payout potential for a four-team playoff got so immense, the BCS became the less financially-lucrative of the two options.
- 2004: Auburn gets left out of the title game in favor of Oklahoma. Saban-led LSU stomps them.
- 2007 & 2008: Ohio State falls victim to a thrashing by two different SEC teams. First, Florida, who got in over Michigan, and then Les Miles-led LSU. That was the last time a Big Ten team had even a whiff of a chance to win a BCS title in the era.
- 2011: LSU & Alabama play what, in the lead-up, was called the greatest football game anyone will ever see so we might as well stop having college football. LSU forgot to score points, and Nick Saban won championship number three.
- 2012: Alabama was given the nod ahead of a one-loss Oklahoma State team that had one small hiccup in Ames, Iowa. Alabama promptly beat Notre Dame by a lot.
That system was allowed to endure, because the 1% of college football got richer, and no one thought anything looked funny. Its error-prone ways allowed Michigan to be in a couple classics, and a couple embarrassments.
The Wolverines' BCS adventures were a mix of pain, luck, and whatever-that-sugar-bowl-was.
2000 Orange Bowl, Michigan vs. Alabama
The two perennial powers met in south Florida to battle for all of the FedExes. With the game tied at 28 halfway through the fourth quarter, future obscure NFL quarterback Tom Brady made use of Michigan's hulking tight ends to advance them into the Alabama red zone. They couldn't score, but neither could the Tide. Brady was given the ball back for one last drive, and again found Shawn Thompson in the middle of the field to give Michigan a chance at a winning field goal. Hayden Epstein had his kick blocked, and overtime was the only way this game was supposed to end. Brady to Thompson once more, with feeling, and after one play Michigan led. Alabama scored almost as quickly, but before Brad Nessler had even finished setting up the extra point try, only the Michigan Marching Band realized that the kick had gone wide right. Remember when Alabama wasn't coached by Nick Saban? Neither do I.
2004 Rose Bowl, Michigan vs. USC
USC was good at football. Michigan was...not quite as good. The Trojans and their annoying fight on theme put 21 points up on Michigan before the wolverines realized there was a game going on in southern California. The fact that Michigan only lost by two touchdowns was incredibly deceptive, because they never had a chance to outrun one of the best teams of the decade. The theme of that game was, "let's see how many times John Navarre can throw to the wrong team!"
2005 Rose Bowl, Michigan vs. Texas - The One that Got Away
Chad Henne and Mike Hart were freshmen, and very good. Vince Young was a man among small, helpless children clawing at his coattails, attempting to tackle him. Michigan was prepared, and kept a lead on the Longhorns all the way to the fourth quarter. It was tied at 14 after halftime, and while Todd Harris interviewed Mack Brown on the sidelines, Young ran right around the edge of Michigan's defense and went into the endzone without a scratch. Michigan had Chad Henne though, and he threw a laser to Steve Breaston who outran the whole Texas secondary to tie the game once more. Braylon Edwards scored a touchdown and Michigan held a 10-point lead all the way to the 11 minute mark in the fourth quarter.
Again, Young took over. Joey Sorantos committed a personal foul, because of course a Michigan defensive player committed a critical penalty late in a massive game. Young danced into the endzone again to close the gap, and Lloydball engaged. Michigan chose a field goal, and watched as Texas overtook them again by a point. True to script, another field goal for a late lead followed by defensive implosion. Young put the offense into scoring territory one final time, and Texas kicked a field goal to win as time ran out.
2007 Rose Bowl, Michigan vs. USC (Again)
Chad Henne and Mike Hart once more, behind the most talent-rich roster I've seen to this day, and thus Michigan was more evenly matched with USC. The game was tied at three late into the third quarter but the Trojans had gargantuan receivers catching balls from John David Booty. Michigan had no offensive answer, and ahead two scores late, USC put in the dagger touchdown to win 32-18.
2011 Sugar Bowl, Michigan vs. Virginia Tech - For All the Dennis Haysberts
Brady Hoke had the golden touch for his first season, because Michigan could do no wrong. Except for that dang Iowa game. Denard Robinson and crew won 10 games, and wound up in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. It was thought Kansas State was going to be Michigan's opponent, but the foolproof BCS system gave the Hokies a shot instead. Ridiculous Junior Hemingway catches, David Molk played on one leg, and there was a game-winning field goal powered by dreams of brunette girls. The crucial play of the game came when officials overturned a Hokie touchdown catch, and Michigan had the magic for the bonus period.
The BCS will be remembered for the games that didn't happen. We'll never know if Michigan could have beaten Ohio State on a neutral field with a month of rest for a second try. We won't know what Auburn could have mustered against a titan USC team. We'll also never know if Oklahoma State could erase the bad taste of losing to Iowa State and beat Notre Dame by more than Alabama did. The BCS was broken, rife with controversy, and by the end, no one clung to its walking corpse. On the horizon, the playoff looms with the potential to make us forget this whole sordid affair.
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