2001 Hurricanes cream of BCS champions crop
During the past 10 years, the BCS hasn't always produced the national championship game college football fans wanted to see. But usually it has produced the best national championship team. Seven of the past 10 national champions finished the season unbeaten, and many are considered among the best teams in college football history.
So ranking the 10 BCS champions isn't an easy task, but here goes:
1. 2001 Miami Hurricanes (12-0, 7-0 Big East)
Signature moment: Miami finished the regular season with a 26-24 victory at No. 14 Virginia Tech, its closest game of the season. The Hurricanes led 24-7 in the fourth quarter, but the Hokies nearly came back after blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown. Virginia Tech's two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, and Miami's defense held up on two late possessions.
The championship game: For the first time in 56 years, teams from outside the Pac-10 and Big Ten played in the Rose Bowl when Miami met Nebraska for the national championship. Miami dominated the Cornhuskers from start to finish, taking a 34-0 lead at the half. Ken Dorsey and Andre Johnson connected for two touchdowns, and Clinton Portis scored on a 39-yard run. Miami's defense held Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch and Nebraska's vaunted running game to only 259 total yards.
The stars: The Miami roster was littered with future NFL players such as Portis, Johnson, tight end Jeremy Shockey, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Phillip Buchanon. McKinnie won the Outland Trophy as college football's best interior lineman, and Reed was named a consensus All-American. Five Hurricanes were selected in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft. Portis, who ran for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, was a second-round pick. Dorsey completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 2,652 yards with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Why they're No. 1: Perhaps no team in college football history had as much talent as the 2001 Hurricanes. Ten players who started for Miami during the 2001 season were first-round selections in the next three NFL drafts. In fact, Miami had 16 NFL first-rounders from 2002 to 2005.
2. 2004 USC Trojans (13-0, 8-0 Pac-10)
Signature moment: The Trojans played No. 7 California at the Coliseum in one of the most anticipated games in Pac-10 history. Bears quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed his first 23 passes in the game and nearly led his team to an upset win. The Bears had first-and-goal at the USC 9 with 1:47 to play, but USC's defense forced three incompletions and a sack to seal a 23-17 win.
The championship game: The Orange Bowl featured No. 1 USC against No. 2 Oklahoma for the national championship, but the game failed to live up to its lofty hype. The Trojans turned four Oklahoma turnovers into 24 points and led 38-10 at the half. USC quarterback Matt Leinart completed 18 of 35 passes for 332 yards with five touchdowns, including three to receiver Steve Smith. The USC defense forced Oklahoma quarterback Jason White to throw three interceptions and Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson was limited to 82 rushing yards.
The stars: Leinart won the 2004 Heisman Trophy after throwing for 2,990 yards and 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions during the regular season. Bush was the country's most versatile player, scoring 15 touchdowns on runs, catches, passes and kick returns. The Trojans had six first-team All-Americans: Leinart, Bush, defensive end Shaun Cody, linebacker Matt Grootegoed, defensive tackle Mike Patterson and linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
Why they're No. 2: After sharing the 2003 national championship with LSU, USC's motto during the 2004 season was "Leave No Doubt." The Trojans certainly did that during their championship season, becoming only the second team to be ranked No. 1 in the AP poll from start to finish. USC extended its winning streak to 22 games and had won 33 of 34 games after blowing out the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
3. 1999 Florida State Seminoles (12-0, 8-0 ACC)
Signature moment: FSU coach Bobby Bowden won his 300th game with a 17-14 victory at Clemson in the eighth game of the season. It was the first father-son coaching matchup in major college football history, as Tommy Bowden coached the Tigers. The Seminoles trailed 14-3 at the half before rallying with two second-half touchdowns. FSU won when Clemson's Tony Lazzara missed a 42-yard field goal with 1:57 to play.
The championship game: Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick nearly led the Hokies to an improbable national championship, but FSU receiver Peter Warrick wouldn't let it happen. Warrick scored on two long pass receptions, a 59-yard punt return and a two-point conversion to set a Sugar Bowl record with 20 points. Warrick caught six passes for 163 yards. His punt return for a touchdown gave FSU a 28-7 lead with 11:40 to play in the first half. But led by Vick's dazzling running, the Hokies stormed back to take a 29-28 lead going into the fourth quarter. After FSU went ahead 39-29, the Hokies tried a fake punt but were stopped short of the first down. On the next play, Weinke fired a 43-yard touchdown to Warrick to make it 46-29 with 7:42 to play. The Seminoles turned the tables on "Beamer Ball," blocking a punt for a touchdown and snuffing out a fake field goal attempt.
The stars: It wasn't FSU's most talented team, but it was the only squad to finish unbeaten. Weinke, a 27-year-old junior who went to FSU after a minor league baseball career, completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 3,103 yards with 25 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He won the Heisman Trophy the next season. Warrick might have won the 1999 Heisman Trophy, but he was suspended three games for shoplifting. Warrick still caught 71 passes for 934 yards with eight touchdowns and scored on three runs and one punt return. The FSU defense, led by All-America nose tackle Corey Simon, was solid but unspectacular. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski was a two-time Lou Groza Award winner and led the ACC in scoring with 10.5 points per game in 1999.
Why they're No. 3: The Seminoles became the first team to start and finish a season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. It was a fitting end to the 1990s for FSU. The Noles had a 109-13-1 record during the 10-year stretch, which is the most wins by a team in any decade in college football history.
4. 2005 Texas Longhorns (13-0, 8-0 Big 12)
Signature moment: Oklahoma had been Texas' roadblock during the previous five seasons. The Longhorns had lost the Red River Shootout five consecutive times, and the loss prevented them from reaching the Big 12 title game in four of those seasons. When Ramonce Taylor scored the game's first touchdown, it was Texas' first lead in the series since 2002. Jamaal Charles added an 80-yard touchdown run, and the Longhorns built a 24-6 lead at the half before winning the game 45-12.
The championship game: The 2005 Rose Bowl was a back-and-forth slugfest that finally lived up to the enormous expectations of a national championship game. The No. 1 Trojans had won 34 games in a row; the No. 2 Longhorns had won 19 in a row. The Trojans were led by Leinart and Bush, the past two Heisman Trophy winners. USC built a 38-26 lead with 6:42 to play. After Young scored on a 17-yard run to make it 38-33 with about four minutes left, USC coach Pete Carroll gambled and lost. Facing fourth-and-2 at midfield with 2:09 left, Texas' defense stuffed LenDale White, and the Longhorns took over. Young scored on an 8-yard run on fourth down with 19 seconds to go, then ran the two-point conversion to give Texas a 41-38 victory.
The stars: Young finished second in Heisman Trophy voting after running for 1,050 yards and passing for 3,036. He became the first player in NCAA Division I-A to run for 1,000 yards and throw for 2,500 in the same season. Safety Michael Huff won the Jim Thorpe Award as the country's top defensive back. Huff, Young, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive tackle Rodrique Wright were named All-Americans. Texas had six players selected in the 2006 NFL draft and seven more in 2007.
Why they're No. 4: The Longhorns had the most prolific offense of the BCS era, setting an NCAA Division I-A record with 652 points scored during the 2005 season. Texas scored at least 40 points in all but one of its 13 games and 50 or more points seven times.
5. 2000 Oklahoma Sooners (13-0, 8-0 Big 12)
Signature moment: Ranked No. 1 in the country with an 8-0 record, the Sooners trailed No. 23 Texas A&M by 10 points in the fourth quarter at Kyle Field. Oklahoma cut the Aggies' lead to 31-28 on Quentin Griffin's 2-yard touchdown run. On Texas A&M's next play, linebacker Torrance Marshall intercepted Mark Farris' pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown in the 35-31 win.
The championship game: Despite finishing the regular season with a 12-0 record, Oklahoma was an 11-point underdog against defending national champion Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The once-beaten Seminoles led the country with 42.4 points and 549 yards per game. But Oklahoma's defense rose to the occasion, limiting FSU to only a safety in a 13-2 victory. Oklahoma's defense confused Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, who completed 25 of 51 passes for 274 yards with two interceptions. The Sooners dropped five or six defensive backs into coverage and dared FSU to run. The Seminoles ran 27 times for 17 yards.
The stars: Quarterback Josh Heupel cooled off considerably down the stretch but still finished the season with 3,606 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Griffin ran for 823 yards and 17 touchdowns, and Antwone Savage caught 50 passes for 621 yards and three scores. Oklahoma's underrated defense, led by All-Americans linebacker Rocky Calmus and free safety J.T. Thatcher, ended up being the difference.
Why they're No. 5: Few teams have been more impressive while climbing their way up the rankings. The Sooners beat six ranked teams during their championship season and during a three-game stretch outscored No. 11 Texas, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 1 Nebraska by a 135-59 margin. The Sooners started the season blowing opponents off the field with their high-powered offense and finished it by playing stingy defense.
6. 1998 Tennessee Volunteers (13-0, 8-0 SEC)
Signature moment: Ranked No. 1 in the country with an 8-0 record, the Volunteers trailed No. 10 Arkansas 24-20 with less than three minutes to play at Neyland Stadium. Arkansas tried to punt from its 41-yard line, but the ball sailed over punter Chris Akin's head. Akin booted the ball out of the back end zone for a safety, leaving the Hogs a 24-22 lead with 2:56 to play. Tennessee received a free kick and went nowhere on four straight plays. Arkansas got the ball back and needed to kill only 87 seconds to win the game. But on the second play, defensive tackle Billy Ratliff pushed guard Brandon Burlsworth into quarterback Clint Stoerner. Stoerner stumbled and fumbled, and Ratliff recovered the ball at the Hogs' 43. Travis Henry ran five straight times, scoring on a 1-yard run with 28 seconds to go to win the game 28-24.
The championship game: The Volunteers played No. 2 Florida State in a Fiesta Bowl marred by sloppiness. There were a total of seven turnovers and 21 penalties for 165 yards. Tennessee's defense limited FSU star Peter Warrick to only one catch, and the Seminoles couldn't muster much offense with quarterback Marcus Outzen making his third career start. Quarterback Tee Martin threw a 79-yard touchdown to Peerless Price to put the Vols ahead 20-9 with 9:17 to go. The 23-16 victory gave the Volunteers their first national championship since 1951.
The stars: Martin had the unenviable job of replacing Manning as the Vols' starting quarterback, but he was brilliant. He completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 2,442 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. After Lewis was lost to the knee injury, Henry ran for 998 yards and seven touchdowns. Price caught 65 passes for 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns. Linebacker Al Wilson and Ellis led a stingy defense.
Why they're No. 6: Though they lost Manning and 10 other players who were drafted or signed with NFL teams, the Volunteers simply found ways to win games. They needed a controversial pass-interference call to beat Syracuse in the opener, then received the miracle of all miracles against Arkansas. But the Volunteers beat five ranked teams away from Neyland Stadium and finished unbeaten.
7. 2003 LSU Tigers (13-1, 7-1 SEC)
Signature moment: At No. 15 Ole Miss, the Tigers had a 17-14 lead with less than two minutes to play. The Rebels faced fourth-and-10 at their 32-yard line. After Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe called timeout, quarterback Eli Manning took the snap and dropped back to pass. He took one step before he was tripped by guard Doug Buckles, giving the football back to LSU. The Tigers won the game and clinched the SEC West title.
The championship game: The 2004 Sugar Bowl wasn't the game most college football fans wanted. No. 1 Oklahoma lost to Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 title game but stayed ahead of No. 2 LSU and No. 3 USC in the final BCS standings. The Trojans beat No. 4 Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl, securing a share of the national championship. The Tigers shut down Oklahoma's high-octane offense, limiting the Sooners to only 154 offensive yards to secure the BCS championship and the school's first national title since 1958. LSU sacked Heisman Trophy winner Jason White five times and forced him to throw two interceptions. LSU's Justin Vincent ran for 117 yards and defensive end Marcus Spears scored on an interception return.
The stars: The Tigers weren't that talented offensively, although receivers Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson were big-play weapons. Running back Joseph Addai became a much better NFL player, and Vincent all but vanished after a sensational freshman season. The Tigers' defensive front was as good as any in recent college football history, led by Spears and Marquise Hill and All-American tackle Chad Lavalais.
Why they're No. 7: USC fans will argue the Trojans were the best team in college football during the 2003 season, and they might be right. LSU played only four ranked teams the entire season (beating Georgia twice) and played in only one ranked opponent's home stadium.
8. 2006 Florida Gators (13-1, 7-1 SEC)
Signature moment: Facing former coach Steve Spurrier in the Swamp, Gators defensive end Jarvis Moss blocked a potential game-winning 48-yard field goal with eight seconds left in a 17-16 victory over South Carolina. Florida also blocked an extra-point attempt and field goal try earlier in the game.
The championship game: After the Gators finished ahead of Michigan in the final BCS standings, they faced No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz. The unbeaten Buckeyes were sizable favorites and took a 7-0 lead when Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. But the Florida defense harassed Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith throughout the contest. He completed only four of 14 passes for 95 yards, and he was sacked five times and held to minus-29 yards on 10 runs. The Gators won their second national championship in 10 years by a score of 41-14.
The stars: Leak finally won over the Gator Nation in his final season at quarterback, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 2,942 yards with 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Tim Tebow was sensational as a freshman, leading the Gators with eight rushing touchdowns and three touchdown passes in limited action. Baker caught 60 passes for 920 yards with 10 touchdowns. The defense was led by All-America safety Nelson, who had six interceptions and numerous other big plays, and pass-rushing ends Moss and Derrick Harvey, who combined for 18½ sacks.
Why they're No. 8: The Gators avoided several close calls while playing perhaps the country's most difficult schedule. After Florida won five games by a touchdown or less, not many people were convinced the Gators deserved to play Ohio State for the national championship. But the Gators answered their critics by blowing the Buckeyes off the field.
9. 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes (14-0, 8-0 Big Ten)
Signature moment: On Nov. 9, the No. 3 Buckeyes trailed Purdue 6-3 late in the fourth quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium. On third-and-14, Krenzel threw a 12-yard pass to tight end Ben Hartsock. On fourth-and-1 from the Purdue 37, coach Jim Tressel opted to throw the ball instead of running for a first down. Krenzel threw deep for receiver Michael Jenkins, who caught the ball at the goal line and scored. Ohio State held on for a 10-6 victory.
The championship game: The Buckeyes did the unimaginable in the Fiesta Bowl, stunning No. 1 Miami 31-24 in double overtime. It looked like the Hurricanes had the game won in the first overtime after Glenn Sharpe broke up a pass to Chris Gamble in the end zone. But field judge Terry Porter penalized Sharpe for pass interference, giving the Buckeyes new life. Krenzel scored three plays later on a 1-yard run, forcing a second overtime. The Buckeyes took a 31-24 lead on Maurice Clarett's 5-yard run to start the second overtime. Miami had a first-and-goal at Ohio State's 2, but the Hurricanes were stuffed on three consecutive runs, and Ken Dorsey's fourth-down pass was incomplete.
The stars: Clarett became the first freshman since Georgia's Herschel Walker in 1980 to lead a national championship team in rushing. Clarett finished the 2002 season with 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns. Strong safety Mike Doss was a two-time All-American and Gamble was a two-way player at cornerback and receiver. Linebacker Matt Wilhelm finished the season with a career-high 122 tackles.
Why they're No. 9: It's hard to believe a team that nearly lost to 4-5 Purdue and needed overtime to win at Illinois could beat one of the greatest teams in college football history. But that's exactly what Ohio State did when it prevented Miami from winning its second consecutive national title. It wasn't Ohio State's greatest team and it didn't overwhelm many opponents, but the Buckeyes finished unbeaten and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
10. 2007 LSU Tigers (12-2, 6-2 SEC)
Signature moment: In a season filled with many memorable moments, LSU fans will never forget quarterback Matt Flynn's 22-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd with four seconds to play against Auburn. LSU trailed 24-23 in the closing seconds, and the safe play would have been to move the ball to the middle of the field to set up a field goal try. But coach Les Miles decided to give Flynn one more shot at the end zone, even though time might have expired. But Byrd was able to sneak behind Jerraud Powers and make a sliding catch for the game-winning touchdown.
The championship game: The Tigers faced No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game in the Louisiana Superdome and turned it into another SEC nightmare for the Buckeyes. Ohio State took an early 10-0 lead, but LSU scored 31 consecutive points to take a 21-point lead in its 38-24 victory. Flynn completed 19 of 27 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns.
The stars: All-America defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey became the most decorated player in LSU history, winning the Nagurski Award, Lombardi Award, Lott Trophy and Outland Trophy. Safety Craig Steltz was named All-American and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award. Flynn threw for 2,407 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and Hester ran for 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Why they're No. 10: The Tigers lost two of their last eight games and avoided several other close calls. Dorsey wasn't healthy for much of the season, and Flynn missed the SEC title game. Still, LSU beat eight ranked teams and dismantled No. 1 Ohio State for the national championship.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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