Commentary

Longhorns, Trojans played in game for the ages

Originally Published: May 19, 2008
By Chirs Low | ESPN.com

Since the advent of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, some have sworn by it. Others have sworn at it.

While the debate for a college playoff rages in many quarters, what's not up for debate is that the BCS certainly keeps things interesting throughout the course of the college football season.

You know that's what former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, the father of the BCS, had in mind when he came up with this system to determine the national champion a decade ago. Nobody can say it's been boring.

Here's a look at our 10 best BCS bowl games over the past 10 years:

1. 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas 41, USC 38

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesVince Young and Texas dove past USC for the title.
In a game you wanted to just go on forever, Texas' defense stopped USC when it had to, and Texas quarterback Vince Young couldn't be stopped. This one had it all: hype, star power, a combined 53-game winning streak between the teams and drama at every turn. The talk before the game centered around USC's being perhaps the greatest team in college football history. But the Trojans, gunning for an unprecedented third straight national championship, weren't even the best team on the field that Jan. 4 night in Pasadena. Young accounted for 467 yards of total offense in rallying the Longhorns from 12 points down in the fourth quarter. Texas' defense paved the way for Young to become the hero with a clutch stand on fourth-and-2. USC coach Pete Carroll elected to go for it from the Texas 45-yard line with 2:13 to play and leading 38-33. But LenDale White was stopped inches short of the marker, leaving Young with just enough time to work his magic. Four players from that game -- Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Michael Huff and Young -- were selected among the top 10 picks of the draft later that year. And even though only two seasons have passed since that memorable night in the "Granddaddy of Them All," it's a game that has already attained legendary status as not only the best BCS bowl game ever played, but the best college football game ever played … period.

2. 2003 Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 31, Miami 24, 2 OT

[+] EnlargeJim Tressel
AP Photo/Paul SakumaJim Tressel and Ohio State edged Miami in a thriller.
The game was so compelling that we forget about all the subplots. Miami, a double-digit favorite, was riding a 34-game winning streak, the sixth longest in college football history. The future NFL talent the Hurricanes put on the field that night was stunning, even by Miami standards. Miami star tailback Willis McGahee was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter after rupturing all three ligaments in his left knee. It was also Maurice Clarett's sad goodbye to football. The Ohio State tailback scored the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime to cap a spectacular freshman season, but hasn't played in a football game since and is currently serving time in prison. Miami's Todd Sievers sent the game into overtime with a 40-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. The first overtime was marred by a controversial pass interference penalty called on Miami's Glenn Sharpe. In fact, the Hurricanes rushed the field thinking they had won the game. But a late flag came flying out of the back of the end zone after Craig Krenzel's fourth-down pass to Chris Gamble fell incomplete. The Buckeyes had new life and scored to force a second overtime, and Clarett's 5-yard touchdown run gave Ohio State a 31-24 lead. The Hurricanes, despite having a first-and-goal at the Ohio State 2, couldn't answer. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey was hit as he threw by blitzing Ohio State linebacker Cie Grant, and Matt Wilhelm batted the pass to the ground. The Buckeyes celebrated their first national title in 34 years.

3. 2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT

[+] EnlargeIan Johnson
Max Simbron-US PresswireIan Johnson and the Broncos stunned the Sooners.
One of the most remarkable endings in college football history was highlighted by three Boise State trick plays, including a Statue of Liberty play on the game-winning two-point conversion to send the underdog Broncos to an improbable upset win. They proved they belonged with college football's elite that night in Glendale, Ariz., and punctuated a perfect 13-0 season. The two teams combined for 22 points in the final 1:26 of regulation. The Sooners, trailing 28-10 at one point in the third quarter, staged a frantic rally to take a 35-28 lead on Marcus Walker's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:02 left in regulation. Faced with fourth-and-18 from the 50 with 18 seconds to play, the Broncos ran the hook-and-lateral to perfection, as Jerard Rabb scooted down the left sideline for a touchdown after taking the scoop from Drisan James. That was just the start of Boise State's trickery, which gave the game a refreshing sandlot feel. The Broncos tied the game in overtime when Vinny Perretta took a direct snap on fourth down, rolled right and tossed a halfback pass to tight end Derek Schouman for a touchdown. Boise State coach Chris Peterson then decided to go for the win instead of kicking the extra point and forcing a second overtime. QB Jared Zabransky faked a quick pass right and backhanded the ball to running back Ian Johnson, who scored untouched. That wasn't the end of the drama, either. Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, Boise State cheerleader Chrissy Popadics, after scoring.

4. 2005 Rose Bowl: Texas 38, Michigan 37

[+] EnlargeDusty Mangum
AP Photo/Paul SakumaDusty Mangun's kick came up roses for Texas.
It's a game that introduced the nation to Vince Young's brilliance and also helped change the way the BCS standings were computed. Some wondered whether Texas even deserved to be playing in the Rose Bowl after the Longhorns passed California in the final BCS standings. Texas coach Mack Brown did his share of lobbying along the way. As it turns out, it's a good thing he did. The game was a classic between two storied programs meeting for the first time and wasn't decided until Texas' Dusty Mangum kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired. Young had a hand in all five Texas touchdowns and led the Longhorns down the field for the game-winning field goal. His counterpart, Michigan freshman quarterback Chad Henne, was equally spectacular and tied a Rose Bowl record with four touchdown passes, three to All-America receiver Braylon Edwards. It was back and forth the whole way, and whoever had the ball last was going to win. After two years of controversy, The Associated Press asked that its poll no longer be used as a component in the BCS standings and was replaced by the Harris poll.

5. 2000 Sugar Bowl: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29

[+] EnlargeFlorida State 2000 Sugar Bowl
Getty ImagesPeter Warrick sparked FSU in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.
Florida State secured its first perfect season under Bobby Bowden as Peter Warrick scored on a punt return and two touchdown passes from Chris Weinke. The Seminoles (12-0) were the first national championship team to go wire-to-wire in The Associated Press poll since the preseason rankings began in 1950. Virginia Tech and its free-wheeling freshman quarterback, Michael Vick, didn't make it easy on them. Florida State jumped out to a 28-7 lead, but Vick was electrifying in bringing Virginia Tech back and taking a 29-28 lead with 2:13 to play in the third quarter. Ultimately, the Weinke-to-Warrick combination was too much for the Hokies. Weinke, who missed the national championship game the year before against Tennessee with a neck injury, passed for 329 yards and four touchdowns. The final one was a spectacular 43-yard catch by Warrick with the defender draped around him to cap an 18-point burst by the Seminoles, ending any hope of another Virginia Tech comeback. Warrick had been a bust in three previous bowl games, but not this one. He scored 20 points, and all three of his touchdowns were from long distance.

6. 2006 Sugar Bowl: West Virginia 38, Georgia 35

[+] EnlargeDarius Reynaud
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesDarius Reynaud and WVU bit the Dawgs in 2006.
This was no ordinary Sugar Bowl. The game was moved to Atlanta because of the destruction done to New Orleans and the Superdome by Hurricane Katrina. And while Georgia might have been the home team, West Virginia was the hungrier team. The Mountaineers played with a chip on their shoulders from the outset, and nobody really took the champions from the Big East seriously until Pat White, Steve Slaton and crew sliced through the Georgia defense for 382 rushing yards. West Virginia (11-1) led 28-0 by the opening minute of the second quarter, but Georgia pulled within 31-21 at the half. The 62 points by halftime set a BCS record for one half. Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley rallied the Bulldogs with his third touchdown pass of the game, a 43-yarder to Bryan McClendon with 5:13 remaining. But the SEC champion Bulldogs would never get the ball back. The Mountaineers dropped back to punt on fourth-and-6 at the Georgia 48, but punter Phil Brady took off and ran for 10 yards and the clinching first down, icing the game. Slaton, only a freshman, broke Tony Dorsett's Sugar Bowl record with 204 rushing yards -- including a pair of 52-yard touchdowns.

7. 2000 Orange Bowl: Michigan 35, Alabama 34, OT

[+] EnlargeDavid Terrell
AP PhotoDavid Terrell and Michigan stretched past Alabama.
It's a game that provided a glimpse of the NFL greatness that would follow for Michigan QB Tom Brady, who passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns. Alabama, led by SEC Player of the Year Shaun Alexander, jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But Michigan kept hanging around and kept clawing back, usually thanks to a big play from receiver David Terrell, who had 10 catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Michigan had a couple of chances to win the game in the fourth quarter, but regulation ended in a 28-28 tie. Tailback Anthony Thomas lost a fumble at the goal line early in the fourth quarter that was recovered in the end zone by Alabama. Then at the end of regulation, Hayden Epstein's 36-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Phillip Weeks as time expired. In overtime, Brady hit tight end Shawn Thompson on the first play with a 25-yard touchdown pass. Alabama came right back with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Zow to Antonio Carter, but the extra point attempt by Ryan Pflugner was pushed wide right in a stunning end to the thriller.

8. 2006 Orange Bowl: Penn State 26, Florida State 23, 3 OT

[+] EnlargeBobby Bowden, Joe Paterno
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe classic Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno encounter needed three overtimes.
When it was finally over, Penn State coach Joe Paterno joked that it was past his bedtime. The three-overtime marathon matched college football's two winningest coaches, and while it wasn't always pretty, the drama was hard to beat. Paterno, 79, and his legendary Florida State counterpart, 76-year-old Bobby Bowden, met at midfield afterward, and the two old friends chatted warmly. After a flurry of missed kicks on both sides, freshman Kevin Kelly's 29-yard field goal won it for Penn State in the third overtime. Earlier, Kelly missed field goals of 29 and 38 yards that would have won the game (the 29-yard miss came with 35 seconds left in regulation). Florida State kicker Gary Cismesia missed an extra point in the first half and field-goal attempts of 44 and 38 yards in the overtime periods, but his 48-yard field goal with 4:08 left in regulation tied the game at 16 after quarterback Drew Weatherford drove the Seminoles 65 yards. The Nittany Lions (11-1) finished No. 3 in the polls, and it was Paterno's best season in 11 years after he went 7-16 in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The Seminoles (8-5) ended their worst season under Bowden since 1981.

9. 1999 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31

[+] EnlargeRon Dayne
Vincent Laforet/Getty ImagesRon Dayne powered Wisconsin in the '99 Rose Bowl
In the first year the Rose Bowl was a part of the BCS, Wisconsin jumped on the broad shoulders of bruising running back Ron Dayne and upset the high-scoring Bruins. The Badgers (11-1) were a 10-point underdog and reveled in saying, "We told you so" as they celebrated with the sun setting behind the San Gabriel Mountains. Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said too many people undersold his Badgers all season long. Dayne romped for 246 rushing yards and tied a modern-day Rose Bowl record with four touchdowns. All told, eight Rose Bowl records were set or tied in the game. UCLA, which looked to be in line to play for the national championship until being upset by Miami on Dec. 5, pulled within 31-28 in the third quarter on Jermaine Lewis' 10-yard touchdown run. But Wisconsin stretched it back out to 38-28 with 14:08 to play in the fourth quarter on Jamar Fletcher's 46-yard interception return for a touchdown. UCLA quarterback Cade McNown was trying to hit tailback DeShaun Foster deep down the sideline when Fletcher made the defensive play of the game for the Badgers. Fletcher also snuffed out a fake punt by the Bruins midway through the fourth quarter.

10. 2004 Sugar Bowl: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesThe 2004 Sugar Bowl provided sweet rewards for Nick Saban and the LSU Tigers.
Controversy swirled over who should be playing for the national championship. Oklahoma was routed in the Big 12 championship game by Kansas State, but remained in the top two spots in the BCS standings. USC finished third in the BCS standings, but was No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. In the end, LSU was oblivious to it all and delivered the kind of defensive performance national championships are made of in holding off the Sooners. The Tigers (13-1) were named the BCS national champions in the coaches' poll, while USC was voted The Associated Press national champion after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Again, LSU didn't seem to mind sharing the title. The only downer was that there wasn't one more game between LSU and USC to decide who really was the best team in the country that year. LSU's defense was brilliant, holding Oklahoma's high-powered offense to 154 yards and just one touchdown until the closing minutes of the game. LSU sacked OU Heisman Trophy quarterback Jason White five times and intercepted him twice. One of those was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by LSU defensive end Marcus Spears. The win meant big money for LSU coach Nick Saban, who had a clause in his contract saying he was guaranteed to become college football's highest-paid coach if he won the national title.

Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to him at espnclow@aol.com.