The 2003 college football season was the first really controversial season for the Bowl Championship Series. Three teams: LSU, Oklahoma, and USC had only one loss and had every right to play in the championship game. BCS ranked USC third in the final polls despite gaining the top spot in both the AP and Coaches’ polls. However, by being third in the BCS, they were left out of the final game. USC’s win secured a share of the national title, but they were forced to share it with LSU automatically won the Coaches’ poll by winning the BCS National Championship.
The next year, 2004, drew an even bigger dilemma. Three teams from BCS conferences all ended the season undefeated. USC won the Pac 10; Oklahoma won the Big 12, and Auburn won the SEC. Although the SEC was thought to be the toughest conference that year, Auburn was not highly rated at the beginning of the season, and never passed USC or OU in the BCS rankings. This left undefeated Auburn without a chance to play for the national title. USC then demolished OU 55-19, and the AP voted them number one, and Auburn was not even given a share of the title. Auburn ran through a gauntlet in the SEC, remained undefeated and was not even given an opportunity to play for the championship. Auburn went on to beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl to finish the season undefeated. Utah also went undefeated in 2004, but since they were from the smaller Mountain West Conference, they were overshadowed by the other three teams.
Auburn’s biggest problem was they didn’t look good enough in spring practice. Despite the BCS trying to limit preseason perceptions, USC and OU started the season number one and two, respectively, in the AP and Coaches’ Polls, which count for two thirds of the BCS formula. Auburn began number 17 in the AP and 18 in the Coaches’ poll. Despite winning all their games, they were never able to jump either USC or OU, and therefore shut out of the big game.
Bill Parks is a college football writer. He is the chief editor for a site which calculates BCS Rankings. For more great information on the BCS Football Standings visit http://www.whatifbcs.com.