The B.C.S. Busters Volume Two (2001-2003)

2002

The controversial fourth down play in overtime that was called a penalty, keeping Ohio State alive for a Fiesta Bowl win over Miami.

THE RANKINGS

B.C.S. Top Ten: 1. Miami, 2. Ohio State, 3. Georgia, 4. USC, 5. Iowa, 6. Washington State, 7. Oklahoma, 8. Kansas State, 9. Notre Dame, 10. Texas

A.P. Top Ten: 1. Miami, 2. Ohio State, 3. Iowa, 4. Georgia, 5. USC, 6. Kansas State, 7. Washington State, 8. Oklahoma, 9. Texas, 10. Penn State

Andrew: Thankfully, after the spontaneous combustion from #2 downward that was 2001, we get a season that was a lot more cut and dry by season’s end. Miami was the preseason #1 as the defending national champs, and went undefeated once again in the regular season, but did show vulnerability in games against Florida State, Pitt, and Virginia Tech. The #2 team, like Stoops at Oklahoma, was a second year man at a legendary program, Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes. They were not a flashy team and had way closer wins than a top team is supposed to have (They needed an impossible 4th down catch from Michael Jenkins just to beat Purdue), but their defense was full of NFL players and Maurice Clarett had an unforgettable freshman season as their starting running back. Their 14-9 win at the Horseshoe against Michigan is still one of my favorite college games. Oklahoma was #1 at one point late in the year but wound up losing on the road to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Pac-10 title was shared between USC, whose quarterback Carson Palmer won a very close Heisman Trophy race, and Washington State, whose coach Mike Price would infamously leave for the Alabama job before indulging in strip joints and being dismissed before ever coaching a game there. The SEC Champion was the Georgia Bulldogs under second-year head coach Mark Richt at 13-1. The biggest surprise was Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa Hawkeyes, who were not even ranked until late September and were led by dynamic quarterback Brad Banks.

THE COMMITTEE SAYS…

Nick: Once again, the teams at the top are easy to pick, as both Miami and Ohio State finished the season unbeaten. Remember, this is an evaluation of the teams before they ever played bowl games, and you have to have Miami ahead of Ohio State based on their regular season performance. From there, you move on to the number 3 spot. The SEC in 2002 may not have been what the conference is today, but it’s important to remember that Alabama was a 10-win team in 2002, and Georgia went on the road and beat Alabama. They also had a win at Auburn and a win over Clemson in the season opener, with a blowout over Arkansas in the SEC title game. Their only loss was to Florida in a game that saw top receiver Terrence Edwards drop a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. From there, it becomes a debate between one-loss Iowa, whose only loss was to Iowa State early in the season, and two-loss USC. While I believe USC was the more talented team, I feel like a committee would have gone with Iowa, who had one fewer loss and shared the Big 10 title with the unbeaten Buckeyes. (1. Miami, 2. Ohio State, 3. Georgia, 4. Iowa)

Andrew: Uno and dos are easy pickings with the talented, defending national champs Miami at #1 and undefeated, defensive-minded Ohio State at #2. Then, the last two spots turn into a really good debate between three teams: Iowa, Georgia, and USC. Washington State shared the Pac-10 title and beat USC head-to-head, but lost in the Apple Cup to Washington to ruin their chances and USC had not lost since 10/5. Kansas State did beat USC early on, but lost two games in conference play and did not even appear in the Big XII title game (Oklahoma beat up Colorado in that game). Iowa was hot at the time, but they lost a rivalry game to Iowa State, who wound up having a mediocre year, and did not play against Ohio State. The SEC was down in 2002, but Nick’s Georgia Bulldogs are a shoo-in at #3 to me, with only one loss on a neutral field to Florida and a 34-3 pounding against Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game. The B.C.S. poll agrees with me on that one. We did not know yet what the USC/Iowa Orange Bowl was going to reveal, but I think that it is more fair to put a separate conference champion in the last spot instead of another Big Ten team, so USC goes to the dance. (1. Miami, 2. Ohio State, 3. Georgia, 4. USC)

Scott: Miami is Miami, but some graduations weakened the defense and led to some lapses that the offense had to bail them out on. Maurice Clarett was one of the most dynamic freshmen to come around in decades and with steady Craig Krenzel at quarterback. I was on cloud nine because after severe mediocrity with Bob Davie as head coach, Ty Willingham brought winning back to South Bend with a 10-2 record. Conceivably I could tell the committee that Notre Dame could have been a dark horse as the #4 seed here, as they would bring big ratings and a lot of revenue but losing to USC at the end hurts them. They beat USC and are 11-1, they definitely make the final four. Yes I know ND lost to Philip Rivers and NC State in the Gator Bowl, but I think that was a hangover from the USC loss. Sadly, the mediocre Carson Palmer had one stellar season and swiped the Heisman from my pick that year, Penn State’s Larry Johnson. Brad Banks was fantastic, but I don’t think Iowa could hang with the other teams in the top 5. (1. Miami, 2. Ohio State, 3. Georgia, 4. USC)

The Decision: The Hurricanes and the Buckeyes lay safely at #1 and #2, respectively. Georgia unanimously got the #3 spot from all three of us, but in the close vote between USC and Iowa, USC gets voted 2-1 for the final spot to play the Hurricanes.

THE FINAL FOUR

#1 Miami vs. #4 USC in Cotton Bowl, #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Georgia in Orange Bowl

Nick: USC-Miami in 2002 would have been an all-time classic. Those two teams represented the pinnacle of NFL football factories at the time. While USC had Carson Palmer, Miami was so loaded on both offense and defense that it’s hard to imagine anyone knocking them off. I know that Ohio State knocked them off in 2002, but I’m trying to do this without the benefit of hindsight. Miami wins 31-20.

For Ohio State, they did nothing but win close games all year long, and most would say that they would find a way to do so yet again. However, Georgia was tested that year as well, picking up wins over Clemson, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in dramatic fashion, much like Ohio State. Yes, Ohio State won the national title in 2002, but once again, without the power of hindsight, I’ll take the battle-tested SEC team over the battle-tested Big 10 team. Georgia 24, Ohio State 23.

Andrew: Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy and was untouchable at quarterback in the last couple of months, but it was obvious that the only way to beat Miami was by staying tough and keeping their electrifying offense on the field by slowly gaining first downs. USC did not have the running game to match, so I think Miami would have taken down the Trojans in a game that would stay close through three quarters. Ohio State and Georgia is fascinating because while Georgia’s offense was well-groomed with David Greene, OSU played some good passing teams of their own that year. I suspect, as Ohio State did all year long, they win again, but the game would have been very, very close.

Scott: Down in Dallas Miami would have a tougher time to hold down the explosive USC offense as Carson Palmer would attempt to prove Heisman detractors that his season and trophy wasn’t a fluke. Miami would struggle for three quarters with the USC receivers and the Trojans would lead after 3 quarters. Palmer would finish 23-45 for 311 yards and 3 TD’s. But Dorsey would lead the Canes to a late drive and Miami wins 27-24. Down in Miami Maurice Clarett would shred the Dawgs defense for 24 carries, 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ohio State wins 28-13 to head to Tempe.

THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

#1 Miami vs. #2 Ohio State

Nick: Once again, we have the same game that we got in real life, though if I’m picking a winner, I’m picking Miami. The fact remains that if those two teams had played 10 times, Miami probably would have won 7 or 8. I’ll say Miami over Ohio State 30-23.

Andrew: Nick makes a great point that I have to ponder, as well. If both teams who wound up playing each other that year in the Fiesta Bowl had to go through a semi-finals in order to play one another, who would have ideally won? The Buckeyes were a worthy opponent, but there was a dash of flukiness to their title win. I still say that Ohio State would have won because of the defense and special teams forcing mistakes by Miami’s really erratic offense. I’ll stick with history, but a case for Miami can easily be made.

Scott: Still a great game only this time we won’t get a cheesy pass interference call an hour after the play ended. FINAL SCORE: Miami 24, Ohio State 17

The 2002 B.C.S. Busters Champion is… for the third season in a row…the Miami Hurricanes!

Miami celebrates prematurely