Big Deal In the BCS: How Miami and Nebraska Reached the Rose Bowl

Dec 15, 2001

AP Sports Writer

A poor pass in August, a blocked kick in October, an obscure game inDecember.

For Colorado, Oregon and Nebraska, their quests to reach the Rose Bowl camedown to all the little things.

In the end, the Cornhuskers were picked to play top-ranked Miami in the BowlChampionship Series title game, based on a complicated formula mixing polls andcomputers. The choice was greeted with outrage by the teams left out.

“I liken the BCS to a bad disease, like cancer,” Oregon coach MikeBellotti said.

Colorado coach Gary Barnett demanded more “integrity” in the system. AndUSA Today, which compiles the coaches’ poll with ESPN, ran a fans survey on thedebate – at the top of page 1A above a story on the war in Afghanistan.

Hardly anyone seemed satisfied with the matchup. The howls for a new format- and possibly a playoff – were heard throughout sports.

“You probably would want it won on the field,” Seattle Mariners managerLou Piniella said. “But you would have to play into the late part of January.These are college kids who go to school to get an education as well asfootball.”

The possibility of a split title looms, too. The coaches will automaticallycrown the Rose Bowl winner, while The Associated Press poll voters are free topick their own champion.

“If you’re asking me if the perception of chaos is good, I’m not buyinginto that,” BCS chairman John Swofford said.

The BCS formula is equally weighted in four parts – the two polls, eightcomputer rankings, losses and strength of schedule. A bonus-point system wasadded this season to reward teams for wins over highly rated opponents.

A week-by-week look at how the contenders wound up where they did in the BCSshuffle:

Oct. 22

The first BCS rankings are released and defending national champion Oklahomais No. 1. The Sooners will soon be tested – they next play at No. 2 Nebraska.UCLA, Miami and Virginia Tech follow in the ratings.

Oregon, coming off a fourth-quarter meltdown in which two blocked punts ledto a 49-42 loss to Stanford, stands 13th.

Colorado is nowhere to be found following a 41-7 rout by Texas. Besides, theBuffaloes were upset by Fresno State 24-22 on Aug. 25 when a young quarterbackthrew a foolish interception near the end.

Oct. 29

Nebraska beats Oklahoma and becomes No. 1 in the BCS standings. Oklahomaslips to second and Miami, despite being ranked No. 1 in both polls, is third.They’re followed by Michigan, Texas and Stanford.

Oregon is hovering at No. 10. The Ducks are penalized in the BCS systembecause they only play the 36th-toughest schedule in America.

Colorado remains out of sight after a 22-19 win over Oklahoma State. As itturns out, had the Buffs won by 17 points instead of only three, they’d now bein the Rose Bowl.

“Squeakers hold you down,” said David Rothman, who runs one of the eightcomputers the BCS factors into its formula. Never mind that he also ranksDivision II Grand Valley State ahead of Michigan and Auburn.

Nov. 5

Nebraska stays No. 1, and Miami trades places with Oklahoma.

Oregon moves into range at No. 6. The Ducks have caught the interest of WesColley’s computer. A missile tracker for MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, he ranksthem No. 3.

Colorado still is a no-show.

Nov. 12

Nebraska (11-0) is solidly on top, having won every game by at least 10points, and seems headed for Pasadena, Calif., possibly to play Miami. Fans arefamiliar with this scene – the Huskers and Hurricanes have met before for thenational title.

Oklahoma and Oregon are next, while Florida is fifth and climbing. Thehigh-scoring Gators are a perfect match for Jeff Sagarin’s computer – it likeslopsided wins.

Colorado finally breaks into the BCS rankings at No. 14.

Nov. 19

It’s still Nebraska, Miami and Oklahoma. Florida beats up rival FloridaState and moves ahead of Oregon for the fourth spot. Texas and Tennessee are inthe mix, but will need help to go much further.

Colorado is idle and slips a slot to 15th. But the Buffaloes can cause bigproblems with an upset next weekend at home against Nebraska.

Nov. 26

Surprise! Colorado routs Nebraska 62-36, Oklahoma State stops Oklahoma 16-13and the whole BCS is shaken up.

Miami is ranked No. 1 by every poll and computer, and Florida is No. 2. TheSunshine State rivals met last season in the Sugar Bowl, and a rematch in theRose would be fierce.

“As we all know, college football is not the most fair thing without aplayoff system,” Florida coach Steve Spurrier often says.

Texas, Nebraska, Oregon and Tennessee close in. Colorado shoots up toseventh, and is in position to keep zooming.

Dec. 3

Miami escapes when a Virginia Tech receiver drops a late, 2-point conversionpass. The top-ranked ‘Canes finish undefeated and are going to the Rose Bowl,no matter what.

Tennessee pulls an upset at Florida and takes over at No. 2. The Volunteerswill go to Pasadena, too, if they beat LSU in the Southeastern Conferencechampionship game.

Nebraska, Colorado – after beating Texas 39-37 in the Big 12 championshipgame – and Oregon follow. All three are done with their regular seasons, andit’ll only get interesting if Tennessee loses.

Dec. 9

The worst-case scenario for the BCS: Tennessee blows a lead and falls to LSU31-20. Now it’s a free-for-all to decide who goes to the Rose Bowl.

Nebraska is No. 4 in both polls, but all eight BCS computers rank theHuskers higher. Plus, they’re helped by a quirk: Down in Hattiesburg, Miss., ina meeting of unranked teams, Texas Christian has beaten Southern Miss 14-12.

TCU’s win suddenly gives Nebraska the 14th-toughest schedule, rather thanthe 18th. The Huskers, having beaten the Horned Frogs back in August, get aslight benefit – just enough to finish No. 2 in the BCS ratings and put them inPasadena.

Nebraska (11-1), despite not even winning its division of the Big 12, gets a7.23 rating in the BCS ratings. Colorado (10-2) is third at 7.28, despitejumping past the Huskers in the coaches’ poll.

Oregon (10-1) finishes fourth in the BCS ratings. The Ducks rank second inboth polls – yet for the second straight year, the AP’s No. 2 is left out ofthe BCS championship game, the same thing having happened to Miami lastseason.